On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. (Luke 13.10-11 NIV)
I remember the first time I prayed and God answered. I was nine years old at the time, and a relatively new Christian. It was a hot Brisbane day and my Dad had stopped at a petrol station to refuel the car. While he was inside, I said a very simple prayer, “God please let Dad buy me an ice-cream.” If only I had left it there, but not satisfied that my simple request would grab God’s attention, I felt compelled to add an additional sweetener on the end – “and I will serve you the rest of my life.”
If only I could go back in time. I would travel back to this day and grab that chubby nine year, look him straight in the eyes and scream, “ARE YOU CRAZY!”
But sure enough, when Dad came back to the car, he wasn’t empty handed!
As a teenager, I remember looking out my bedroom window one night, my head full of questions on whether God was real, so I asked Him to show me. Actually if I remember correctly, it was more like a dare. The words had barely left my lips when the night sky lit up by a huge streak of lightning, followed within milliseconds by an almighty clap of thunder which shook the whole house. I hid under my bed
I remember pastoring my first church in Warrnambool, desperately pleading with God to cover the church’s debt of $10,000. Within minutes of praying, I got up, walked out to the letterbox to find a bank cheque for $10,000 in the letterbox!
But there were other times I prayed and heard nothing.
Like the time I prayed for God to heal my Mum of lung cancer, but she died. Or the times I cried out to God to deliver me from certain addictions, but He didn’t. I’ve prayed for certain family members to come to Christ, and they haven’t. There have been times when I have tithed and honoured God with my money and nothing happened. The bills kept coming in, the bank balance never changed and the cupboards stayed empty.
The woman in this story was suffering with some form of spinal arthritis for 18 years. She spent 18 years of her life bent over, looking at the ground and not able to straighten up. Yet when Jesus finds her, she is not at home feeling sorry for herself, watching “Oprah”. Instead He finds her in the synagogue!
According to the custom of the day, she would have gone there at least once a week. So each week she goes to a place of worship, where prayers are offered, scripture is read and offerings made. And each week she walked home exactly the same! Bent over.
She did this for 18 years!
As Christians we will all go through times of trouble or pressure. What I have found after 30 years in ministry is that often when faced with difficulty and God seems silent, we tend to stop praying, stop reading the Bible, stop tithing, stop serving and eventually stop attending.
Yet this woman after 18 years still remained consistent even though her situation never changed. She kept doing those things she knew to do, every though her circumstances screamed out at her, “GIVE IT UP!”
And it was her consistency which made sure she was in the right place at the right time to receive her miracle from Jesus.
When Jesus turned up at her synagogue that particular day, she didn’t come to listen to guest ministry, or to receive a prophetic word. She didn’t try to touch the hem of his garment, climb a tree to catch his attention or cry out in a loud voice, “Jesus Son of David have mercy on me!” She just stood there, probably towards the back. Bent over. Looking at the ground. Silent. Because that’s what she did every week for the past 18 years.
And Jesus noticed her out of everyone.
Maybe there is lesson we can all learn from this old woman.