I’ve heard Christians I love and respect say that prayer doesn’t change anything. “We pray in order for God to change us,” they say. I get the sentiment. I, too, believe that as I pray and ask God’s will to override my own, my heart changes. Slowly, softly, sometimes painfully, I feel my desires transform. But I don’t think that’s all prayer does. I know prayer can also change our circumstances. I’ve experienced it.

Several years ago, I was teaching a communication course at a college campus in Michigan. One particular student, Shatina, would always make her way to the back of the classroom. Most days, she’d put her head down on the desk and practice not making eye contact with me for the full 90-minute class. I generally have positive relationships with my students, but Shatina never seemed interested in that. She didn’t laugh at my jokes. She didn’t raise her hand. She sat in the back of class and, when class was done, she left.

One day, as Shatina walked into class, a thought popped into my head: Give Shatina the money that is in your wallet.

I wondered if this thought was from the Holy Spirit. But I didn’t grow up in a church culture with a strong focus on the Holy Spirit, so over time, I think I’d taught myself to ignore such promptings.

I can’t just hand students cash from my wallet, I thought to myself. In fact, it would be inappropriate. So I dismissed the thought as my own and taught my class as usual. When class ended, the students left, including Shatina. The second she was gone, a thought emerged in my mind again: You keep asking me to give you big opportunities, and you haven’t been faithful in this small one.

I still wasn’t ...

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