Last summer I received an e-mail from a friend. "I don't know how to explain this, but I feel as though God is nudging me to pray for you every day. So I'm going to do it, if that's okay." She didn't know why or what exactly to pray, but she felt a burden, so every day for the past nine months, my friend has sent me a morning e-mail with a prayer lifting me to the Father.
What my friend had no idea of knowing was that I had been struggling with some major decisions, which had left me without joy or direction.
In an unexplainable way, I began to find joy again and gained clarity about the decisions before me. As I looked at my circumstances and how my attitude and perspective changed, I knew there could be only one reason: her daily prayers.
There is a mystery in the nudges we feel—when God encourages us to pray for or about something, to pay for a stranger's cup of coffee, to call a person we haven't spoken to for a while, or …
Although it's often impossible to understand what God is up to, it's amazing that he wants to include us in whatever it is.
My mother is a master at heeding these nudges. She gets the strangest senses about things. She shrugs and then does them—and later usually finds out it affected someone just as that person needed a miracle from the Father or a reminder of God's love. Even when she doesn't find out the basis for the nudge, she shrugs and says, "God suggested it for some reason; I don't know why. Maybe it was for that person. And maybe it was simply about me being obedient. Maybe it was about entertaining angels unaware" (Hebrews 13:2).
I look at it as sort of a secret agent adventure. God gives us the opportunity to come alongside him and work, without us fully knowing the scope or significance of our job. All he asks is that we be obedient to the nudges.
I know what it is to follow through on those whisperings. The feeling following obedience is freeing and blessed. I'm sad to say I also know what it is not to follow through.
A few weeks ago my father wanted to take my husband and me out to dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant, an elderly man, who appeared in his 80s, holding a cane and standing alone, waved us ahead of him. Something about him intrigued me, and as we moved forward in line, I kept glancing back. I saw him pull out a wallet and rifle through his few dollar bills.
Buy his meal, the whisper urged.
I casually leaned against my husband and said, "I think that man is by himself. Maybe we should buy his meal."
But the line moved quickly and soon we were headed to our seats.
Buy his meal, the whisper insisted.
Yes, I will, I answered back. I had the best intentions.
But I didn't follow through. I did absolutely nothing.
I'm not proud of that scene. Maybe you can identify. Maybe you've experienced a time when God's nudges helped you sense a need and you meant to do something about it.
In her book Looking for God, Nancy Ortberg writes, "Intentions are wonderful things. They are the starting points, the defining moments of our lives. But in and of themselves, intentions are wholly inadequate. As a Christ follower, it's easy to mistake intention for action and stirrings for solutions… . But even the strength of my intentions is not an accurate indicator of whether or not I will take the time to act, to put my faith to work, to be the difference that Christ has empowered me to be."
The nudges matter to God. Even when we don't understand the purpose, our response is to say yes and then to follow through. And the mystery becomes more meaningful.