A number of years ago I was helping lead a two-day conference to train and encourage the evangelistic gift within the Newfrontiers family of churches I belong to.
I'd done my part on day one, and was sitting back to listen to the final speaker at the end of day two, it was Dave Smith from Kingsgate Church in Peterborough. He was telling the story of growing his church from nine people to 1,400. It was a story full of great insights and encouragements. Right in the middle of his session, he said a phrase which refused to leave my mind. He simply said: “I pray for four divine appointments each day.” That was it – a simple statement that he prayed, and expected God to line up people for him to bump into in the day, who would be ready for some kind of spiritual conversation.
Then I recalled that I used to do exactly that thing, but that I hadn’t done it for some years. I felt challenged. Every day I would have extraordinary meetings and find myself talking to complete strangers about Jesus. Why then, did I stop? Honest answer...I was late for tea every night and it didn’t bless my family!
So – here I was in this conference being reminded of the need to pray and ask God to bring people into your life that he was seeking, and I felt challenged. I made a decision in that moment, and I prayed, something like this: “Lord, you have brought this to mind, and I want to act on it with faith. I am about to leave this conference and drive 200 miles home. I am not planning on stopping for coffee on the way, but I give you this journey, and ask you to use it for your glory. Amen.”
That was a dangerous prayer.
I left the conference and got into the small sports car that I had borrowed from one of our church members to get to the conference so that I could leave our car with my wife for the school runs. I put some music on the radio and began the drive home. Five minutes later, as I approached the third roundabout, I noticed steam appearing from under the bonnet of the car.
“Oh no!’ I thought. ‘I’ve been loaned this car, and now I’ve managed to break it!” Thankfully the owners had roadside recovery, and before long I had the number and called the RAC. They assured me that someone would be with me within the hour, and that I should wait for a phone call from the mechanic to confirm my location. Then it occurred to me. I had prayed, and now, unexpectedly, a man was going to be coming to meet me. Maybe this was going to be my ‘divine appointment’!
The phone rang. “Hello, yes, I know exactly where you are. I will be with you in ten minutes. Please could you do something for me sir? Please could you drive your vehicle forward about 200 metres, where you will find a small lane on your left. Pull the car into the lane because I hate working on cars at the roadside, thanks.” That was the end of the telephone call. Ten minutes later he was there. He popped the bonnet, found the punctured water hose, cut off the damage and reattached it to the radiator. Job done.
Well if that was my divine appointment, it was a very short an ineffective one! Then I thought to myself, what do I know about him? All I knew was that he didn’t like working on cars by the roadside, so as he was filling in the paperwork, I asked him a question.
“You mentioned that you don’t like working on cars at the roadside – isn’t that a bit unusual for someone whose job is to work on cars at the roadside?!” Then he told me that six months earlier he had been working on a car at the roadside and needed to fetch a tool from his van. The side of his van had a sliding door which he opened and leaned in to get the tool he needed. As he was half in and half out of the van a huge lorry had veered off the main carriageway and ploughed into the back of his van. His back was broken.
From that day onwards, even though he was now physically fit again, the fear of another collision filled his mind. He told me that he now hated a job that he once loved, and couldn’t wait to find something else.
I was shocked at his story, and could now begin to see why God had broken my car. I said the first words that came into my head: “Wow, following something like that, does it ever make you wonder if there is a God?” “Absolutely!” he said. “I know I have been kept alive for a reason, but I just don’t know what that reason is.”
I tentatively spoke to him about my prayer before I had left the conference. I explained that I thought maybe God had arranged our meeting. He was intrigued and asked me to explain why God would do such a thing. I reached into the passenger seat of the car and picked up my Bible. I began to explain to him from Isaiah 53 and 59 that we are like sheep that have wandered off from God, and that our sin separates us from him.
He seemed to get that, so I took him to Romans 3 and 6 and explained how we have fallen short of God’s standards, and that we are facing the penalty of death. He understood that too. I took him to 1 Peter 2 and unpacked the mystery that Jesus died for us and took our sin into his own body. He liked that. I finally took him to the book of Acts and explained about repentance and faith, new life and hope.
“That is exactly what I need to do!” he said, so I offered to lead him in a prayer. To my surprise, on the grass verge at the side of the lane, he dropped to his knees and closed his eyes. We prayed together and he believed.
His new life began, and he was filled with tears of joy. Once we had both re-gained our English reserve, he completed the paperwork for his vehicle rescue. On the ‘comments’ box of the form he simply wrote: “This is the best call-out I have ever had.” I drove home worshipping louder with every mile, laughing at God’s ability and willingness to answer my crazy little prayer at the end of a conference.
This article has been adapted from from Chris Kilby's book: Equipped: Gearing yourself up for the plans of God