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On the Journey
By Rick Hamlin

Mysterious Ways in Prayer

Prayer is surprise. Answered prayers, even when expected, are God’s surprises for us. You can explain a rainbow, but isn’t it always a surprise?

Here in the office, and among our readers, we’ll say, "That’s a real Mysterious Ways,” not only because we have a column in Guideposts magazine by that name and a wonderful new magazine called Mysterious Ways, but also because we delight in seeing God’s hidden hand at work.

Father’s Day I found one of those Mysterious Ways in my inbox. My dad died more than three years ago and his great passion was sailing. If he could choose to be anywhere it would be in a boat in the bay. He raced sailboats from his youngest days and encouraged others in their sailing, too.

In fact, you could bracket his sailing by a pair of Olympics held in Los Angeles. In 1932, as a kid, his little Snowbird was lent to a sailor who competed in that year’s Olympic Games. More than 50 years later he was running the yachting venue for the 1984 Olympics. I can still see him there in his straw hat.

The minister at Dad’s funeral gave a eulogy about how in sailing you have to trust the wind, just as you have to trust God in life. That’s something sailors learn early on. Dad did. His prayers were full of the faith that sustained him in a wind-tossed world. Would that I could hear one of those prayers again.

Then came this wonderful shot in my inbox. On Father’s Day. A photo of a boat in the blue waters of Southern California, with a man in a straw hat, like Dad’s. “Look at the name on the boat,” said the message. The person who had just taken the picture sent it to Mom and she was forwarding it to us, Dad’s kids. It’s a bit hard to see, but the boat says Thornton Hamlin. Dad still out in the bay.

I could eventually connect the dots, explain why there was a boat with Dad’s name on it in the bay, but like I say, even if the answer to a prayer is explainable, even if all the scientists in the world can tell you what makes a rainbow, isn’t it a perfectly wonderful surprise?

Rick Hamlin is the executive editor of Guideposts magazine and the author of 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without. To learn more about the book and explore your own prayer journey, watch this video.