In the Christmas classic, It's A Wonderful Life, the movie starts out with the hero in dire straits and almost an entire town praying for him. The opening scene shows stars in the sky while we hear the prayers of the townspeople rising up to heaven. God answers those prayers by sending an angel down to Earth to help the hero. From there a touching story unfolds about the many ways that a good person influences the lives of those around him. Although it isn't the main point of the movie – we all get to see God taking an active role in our lives by answering the prayers of the townspeople.
But It's A Wonderful Life is only a movie. In real life we rarely see how God answers prayers. Prayers are so personal that we rarely ever discuss them. By keeping silent though we lose the opportunity to share some of the real wonders of our lives – the answers to our prayers. Some of the greatest moments in my life have been when I've believed that one of my prayers was answered in a very direct manner.
I had an experience 20 years ago that changed the course of my life. It happened in the space of a heartbeat but changed my life completely.
Although I felt at home in the church I had been attending for 7 years I did not feel close to God. I could feel God's presence – but I felt apart from Him. It was very frustrating. I could see God at work in other peoples' lives but not in my own. I began to feel jealous of others and angry with God. Then something happened.
I was walking on the beach one day when I saw a man about my own age playing in the water with another man who was obviously mentally handicapped. As the day wore on I kept looking at them playing together and I grew angry that the one man could be such a good person. I couldn't fathom how someone could be so good as to genuinely enjoy playing all day with a mentally handicapped man. Finally, in my utter frustration, I wished that both men would drown and I cursed God for allowing me to see the good in others but not the good within myself. I decided then and there that religion was either a form of self delusion and that God did not exist or, if He did exist, that He did not listen to our prayers or care about us as individuals.
A few weeks went by. I stopped praying and I stopped going to church. Then, one afternoon I got an answer (I hadn't really thought that I had asked a question). In the space of a heartbeat the answer was just there. "I do not allow you to see the good in others to frustrate you. I allow you to see me at work in others lives to inspire you. I do not keep myself apart from you. I am always with you. It is you who keeps yourself apart from me. Open your heart. There are as many ways to draw close to me as there are people on the Earth. Be patient – you will find your way."
The perspective of my life shifted back then and my life has been immeasurable better ever since. , I can honestly say that I have lived a life almost entirely free of envy or jealousy. What's more, I am constantly inspired by the good that I see in almost everyone I meet.
If we are to be ambassadors of our faith we must get past any awkwardness we feel in discussing our own personal experiences. If we can do that we can work effectively by drawing on our own inspiring stories to bring others closer to God.