I remember praying for Derek and Kate (not their real names).
At the time, I was teaching prayer at our church. It’d become a passion of mine in the late 90’s. I wrote bible studies on the topic of prayer, headed up the prayer team, and spent hours in my prayer closet.
Prayer was such a part of my life that I’d be midway through a prayer in the course of housework or whatever before I even realized I was praying. It was more than a habit. It was an addiction.
Of course, I’d grappled with unanswered prayer. Can’t teach a prayer class and not address the ugly fat elephant in the room. For a time, I adopted the good ole “god always answers prayer with either ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘wait'” argument. It’s fail safe. Apply it to praying to your remote control and you’ll get the same results. But Derek and Kate … that whole thing changed all that.
Kate and Derek were newly weds. Kate was excited about her faith and devouring scripture like a ravenous dog. Derek was in a rock band and slowly inching his way deeper into the fold. Kate was hopeful … he was coming around having recently accepted Jesus as his savior.
Kate was in my prayer class. It was a 12 week course and we were about mid-way through. She requested prayer for safe travels as she and Derek were driving across country and back, taking a two week vacation in search of adventure.
We gathered around, placed our hands on her head and prayed in the name of Jesus.
Safety. Protection. Angels. God’s hand. Smooth sailing. No car trouble. Good weather. Amen and amen.
Eight days later Kate called. It was early on a Sunday morning. “I’ve been up all night waiting to call you. Derek has been killed. He was hit crossing the street. I’m in Mississippi.”
Some young punk ass kid had been partying all night and was still drunk when he woke up the next morning. He got behind the wheel at just the right time to coordinate with Derek’s walk from their hotel across the street to the store.
I couldn’t speak. Kate’s voice was excited with that terrible, upset excitement known only by tragedy. I was in shock.
God’s answer was ‘No’. I was sick to my stomach.
Kate never returned to the prayer class or to our church. She visited years later but didn’t seek me out. I saw her from across the sanctuary. I didn’t seek her out, either.
I haven’t seen her since.