Suddenly God Answers Prayer with a Miracle Baby

I’ve absolutely experienced it, God answers prayer

Isn’t that encouraging? God answers prayer but the thing is, He doesn’t always answer prayer the way we ask or expect, does He?

Sixteen years ago, when I went to Bethlehem for the first time, I had four friends who desperately wanted children but it wasn’t happening for them.

What is the Milk Grotto?

In a thick accent, the girl at the tourist information center explained that it’s where Mary and Joseph “took their son after he was born.” 

A few minutes away from Manger Square, I sat in that grotto with my friend, Gina, and listened to a monk explain how he believed Jesus was born in a manger but wouldn’t have stayed there.  The monk thought the Milk Grotto was the house Jesus lived in until He was forty days old when the holy family would have gone to the Temple to dedicate Him.  Then, they’d have returned.  

So the Milk Grotto could have been the place where the Magi visited, where the wise men came to pay homage to the newborn king. When Herod, the king at the time, heard what these wise men were doing, he asked them to stop by on their way home to tell him what they found so he, too, could worship. 

Yeah, right! Jealous of the possibility of anyone uprising against him, Herod did not have worship in mind. Good thing the wise men (or astrologers or whatever they were) got that. They took a different route home.  

Then Joseph, Jesus’ dad, was warned in a dream to take his family to Egypt to protect them. Thank God, because when Herod found out the wise men duped him, he had all the little boys under two years of age murdered.  

The Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

I know this picture is gruesome. But up until I saw it, I’d skim over that part of the story without reflecting on its grisly reality.

Here’s where the story diverges from the Bible

All of the above information is in the Bible, but this isn’t: “As the holy family lived here, Mary nursed Jesus and a drop of milk fell on this ground. Ever since families struggling with infertility have come and given birth to babies of their own.” 

I looked at the pictures of couples from around the world hanging on the wall, with their stories shared in letters, and glanced sideways at my ex-Catholic friend, trying not to smirk.

Picture used with Laly’s permission of “Souvenir from Holy Land”

The monks sell a prayer that comes with a packet of white chalky substance. Both Christians and Muslims believe that scrapings from the wall of the grotto improve the chances of fertility. Click here to see rare footage of people gathering the powder.

Couples wanting a child are instructed to mix the powder with milk or water and drink it every day as they pray until their baby is born.  

By now, I’d heard enough.

But that’s when I felt the nudge from God I wanted to ignore

After hanging out with God for sixteen years, I recognized His familiar prods, the next lines of our internal and on-going conversation. This time I understood Him to say, “Buy a packet and send it to Liz.”

“Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding,” I said in my head. “Tell her to put a piece of this dirty old cave in her tea and drink it? Gross!”

But the internal pressure continued so I did, too. “As if my friends don’t already think I’m nuts because of the way I follow You. That’ll convince Liz I’ve lost it.”

The priest finished his spiel and I turned to Gina, “God wants me to buy the prayer and send it to a friend.”

“You’re not going to, are you?” She looked at me like I had three heads.

“I wasn’t, but what would you do, disobey?”

I love the way that in the middle of duking something out with God, He brings someone across my path, like Gina, who thinks like me. As I put His words in my mouth, to explain the situation to her, I talked myself into doing what He asked. It made more sense when I clarified it to her. 

So I stopped arguing. I bought the novena. I sent it to Liz and realized that if she thinks I’m doing something weird, well, it probably wouldn’t be the first time. At least I wouldn’t have that I-didn’t-do-what-God-asked-me-to-do angst. And maybe, just maybe, God had a plan.

Gina understood and didn’t give me crap as I made my way to the gift store.

God Answers Prayer, specifically and uniquely, I know it!

Like I said, I had four Catholic friends trying to conceive. But because I didn’t believe in what I was doing, it never occurred to me to buy one of the packets for each of them. 

Do I think we missed out, that if I’d bought four, they’d all have kids now? The short answer is no. I think God has a special answer for each and every one of our prayers. He didn’t urge me to send a packet to all of them, only to Liz.  

What did God do for the others? I’ll tell you those stories in the next post. First, let’s finish this one. “Seriously,” I emailed Liz, “I have to obey, but you can put the packet straight in the trash.”

In a totally different tone than I’d expected, she said, “If that’s is how you feel, I’ll take it!”

She’d had a tough year. She and her husband found out they couldn’t conceive. Her father died. Then her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, had major surgery.  Her business folded and one of her good friends was losing her battle with cancer on top of all the day-to-day challenges that always feel heavier when stuff like this going on.

“Lord,” I said, “the last thing I want to do is give her false hope.”

I packaged the powder and the prayer and stood at the post office in the Old City of Jerusalem with a bunch of Palestinian women. They don’t stand in line. They push their way forward. I didn’t think I’d ever get a turn, but once I’d let go of that package, I felt a sense of peace knowing I’d done what God asked.

Then I got curious. What was He up to?

You’re not going to believe what happened

That’s what Liz said when I called her two months later at Christmas. “We got chosen by a birth mother to raise her child due in January! You know how long adoption usually takes and how few babies are available?  I don’t even get nine months.”  

Even now, I get goosebumps when I remember. 

God knew what He was doing. Why had I doubted? He doesn’t always do things the way I ask. If I’d answered Liz’s prayer, I’d have fixed it so she and her husband could have conceived. Why didn’t God do that?

That’s when I remembered conversations Liz and I had had long before she met her husband. She didn’t want to bring more kids into a world filled with so many who were already unwanted. God knew that. Probably gave her the desire so He could give her this beautiful little girl who’s not the same race as she is. 

In February, I got an on-line photo album from Liz of the baby’s birth mother in the hospital, her first diaper, her mommy and her daddy and her poppa and her nana.  Today Liz’s daughter is fifteen. And the last time I visited, I got to tell her this story. 

See, God Answers prayer even when it’s not the way we hoped

If it looks like I’m encouraging you to buy this novena for friends who want kids so they can drink scrapings from the side of a cave, I just want to be clear, I’m not. What I’m endorsing is a relationship with God. 

One thing I’ve learned is that God answers prayer the way He wants. Even though He does a lot of weird things, He works behind the scenes in a way only He can. He knows the hearts of everyone involved in each situation and loving us as no human being can, He does what it takes to teach us what we need to know in the best way possible.

Like a dog with a bone, I get His promise in Romans 2:28. You can’t take it from me. I “know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him” (Contemporary English Version).

More answers to prayer for miracle babies

There’s another part to this story. Really, it’s not just part two, but three, four, and five. I’m going to squish them all into the next post. So if you haven’t already signed up for my occasional newsletter and blog post alerts, and you don’t want to miss the end of this story, you can click here to subscribe then you’ll be reminded when part two is published. 

But before you go, I have a question. What do you do when God doesn’t answer prayer the way you ask?

Related Post: Without God, It’s Hopeless, but with God, Look at What Happened!

And How Can I Pray for You?

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13 Comments

  1. I just read your post during a “why is life such a misery, Lord?” kind of day? Possessing a mercy gift, I feel the pain of the huge, unceasing struggles of too many close friends. This mingles with my own long term longings & waiting to see how God will work. I grieve and feel depleted, but always with the knowledge that light and dark are alike to Him and that He is always present and at work. So, I bounce around – deep sadness and glorious joy, intermixed with days of mostly peaceful trust.

    I love that you are willing to trust and obey God–even when the act of faith is “strange.” I love that; God loves that. More people need to walk in this kind of faith.

    1. Ugh, Carol, on a spiritual gifts test, I rate high on mercy, too, so I know what you mean. Yes! It’s an emotional rollercoaster, isn’t it?

      Yesterday, I went into Nablus and Jenin. Like Gaza, the refugee camp in Jenin is one you year about in the news. It’s not a tourist destination. And yet, God is there, too. Loves those people, too. Lots of food for thought and future posts.

      🙂 I don’t know why, but God made me so that I love the weirdness of life. I can’t take any credit for that. And I think the ways He made us predisposes us, makes some things easier for us than others and some things more challenging. Does that make sense?

      It’s easy for me to follow God in the “strange” because I LOVE His mysterious ways!

      1. I concur with your thought that the way people are predisposed makes some things easier and other things more challenging. You are bringing rays of light into each place God leads you. I love that.

  2. TBH, I am rarely specific these days. I don’t believe that praying for a specific outcome causes God to answer that prayer differently than a prayer of “you’ve got this God. Be present to these people and help them to know your presence.” This is one of my very favorite non-specific prayers. All is well, and all things shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Teresa of Avila

    1. This makes me think of so many things.

      First yes! I don’t have to tell Him how to do everything. 🙂

      And I love that God knows everything and that’s all I need to do. Just say, “God . . . ” and point at something in my head. Like my friend having a procedure today, as I hold her in my heart and keep thinking about her, that is prayer.

      1. The current thing my heart keeps crying out is, “God, I love you!” It catches me by surprise but makes me smile.

        The other day I read that our comments reach God in his throne room. I’m not sure how someone knows that, but I pictured God on this throne with angels all around. A lot going on, and every now and then, my one-liner prayer comes in over a loudspeaker and everyone stops for a second to listen. (Yikes, where is the emoticon on here with the big, wide eyeballs?)

  3. Beautiful story Liz! My husband and I have also had several miracles during our adoption journey (with both our sons). Thanks for sharing! xo

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