My father was a graduate of the Naval Academy, class of 1950. After doing his stint in the Korean War, he eventually resigned his commission to go into Christian literature work with Officers’ Christian Union (now Officers’ Christian Fellowship). After he left the Navy, we wound up in Tacoma Park, Maryland for a short time before we moved to Annapolis, where I grew up. But one of the things that happened to us in Tacoma Park had a profound influence on the developing culture of my parents’ household.
The military, for all its faults, was good at delivering the paycheck on time, and my parents had suddenly moved to a system of living on faith, working for a faith ministry which would periodically run out of money. My parents therefore felt a little wobbly in the faith department, although they had been greatly influenced by the great faith ministry of George Muller in the 19th century in England. Still, there it was, and one time in Tacoma Park they ran out of milk and bread. My sister, three years younger than I, was still in the baby category, so I was still pretty little.
Because my parents were new at this faith adventure, they were not sure they could pray believing. But we still needed to ask the Lord for deliverance, so my folks assembled their small family (me, my brother Evan, and my sister Heather), and they asked us kids to pray for milk and for bread. I think the theory was that we wouldn’t know enough to know that what we were asking for was “unreasonable.” So we prayed, and I thanked the Lord for the milk and the bread.
When we were done praying, there was a knock at the door, and my mom went to answer it. There was a milkman standing there, and he said, “Congratulations, lady, you have won a year’s supply of milk.” It was around Christmas, and they had drawn our family’s name out of the phone book for some kind of contest. We had milk delivered to our door for as long as we lived in Tacoma Park.
But that still left the bread. The evening before my parents had been ministering to a fellow who had a burden to give my parents some money. But though we were both milkless and breadless, the rest of the house looked fine — it did not appear as though we were living in grinding poverty, and so this man felt embarrassed about offering any money. So he picked up a lamp, and put the money under it on the end table. The next day, after we had prayed, my mother was dusting, picked up the lamp, and there was the bread money. That was a wonderful example of how God always knows what we will need before we ask Him. While we were praying, the answer to the prayer was just sitting there from the night before.
At any rate, many examples of God’s faithful provision could be multiplied over the years. But the lessons my parents learned in that early encounter were truly formative. God graciously requires us to pray for our daily bread, and we serve a living God who loves to answer prayer. I grew up in a household where the biblical truth that the living God answers prayer was a truth that was refined seven-fold. This was 1957, or thereabouts.