The Key

I was locked out of the house at midnight in my nightclothes.

Joyce Mulligan is director of Prayer and Women’s Ministries at the Central California Conference in Fresno, California, where she leads seminars, preaches, and teaches people about prayer.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7, 8

MY HUSBAND, KEITH, AND I enjoyed a lovely evening visiting our son, his wife, and our granddaughter in Trabuco Canyon, California. As it grew late, Keith and I retired to an upstairs bedroom. Because I often get thirsty in the middle of the night, I put a glass of water on the stand at the end of our bed and settled down to sleep.

Around midnight, I got up to go to the bathroom. As my feet hit the floor, I heard a splitting crash. To my horror, I realized I had accidentally hit the water glass and sent it flying, crashing into many bits and pieces on the floor, along with all the water. In the dark, with Keith sleeping and the household all in bed, I contemplated how to clean up this mess. I knew if Keith woke and got up, he would most likely cut himself on the sharp glass blades and slip in the watery mess.

Sometimes I am such a klutz! “Oh, God, help me!” I prayed.

Then I remembered seeing a broom and dustpan in the garage. Not wanting to wake anyone, most of all my dear husband, I tiptoed down the stairs in the dark, felt the solid mass of the door leading into the garage, and silently opened it. As my feet touched the cold concrete garage floor and my eyes adjusted to the dark, I spotted the broom and dustpan. I took a few steps to my goal, grabbed hold of the broom and dustpan, and turned back to the door. I pulled at the barrier. Locked!

Shocked, I swallowed in the cold air and prayed, “God, please help me. I need to get back upstairs before Keith gets up in the night and slips in that water and glass. I’m serious. Please help me find a key to this door. Help! Help! Help!”

My nightclothes seemed thinner than I remembered; I pulled them about me closer and shivered in the dark space. For a moment, I contemplated opening the large electric garage door, going outside, and ringing the front doorbell. Yet with ominous noises outside, plus knowing my son owns a gun, I wasn’t sure that was a safe plan.

With a pang of fear, I looked about and spotted my son’s large, red Craftsman tool chest. The many drawers were stacked row upon row. I opened each drawer and felt for keys with my fingers, beginning to grow stiff with cold.

Keys! There were keys. But which one? I tried frantically inserting one after another in the doorknob, pushing, prodding, attempting to make them fit. None fit the door. “What do I do now, God?”

I began pushing on the solid entry. At once I sensed that small, silent voice saying, “Joyce, what do you tell other people to do when they are in trouble?”

“God, I tell them to praise You in every situation and trust in You and thank You for answering, even when it’s a negative situation.”

I continued searching for a key, but my focus changed. Instead of panicking, I began praising God and thanking Him in advance for answering, even though I could not see an answer. I prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24).

My self-centeredness came to mind, and I said, “God, forgive me for getting defensive with my husband today. Forgive me also for being critical and judgmental.” I was reminded that God asks us to be specific in our prayers for forgiveness, so I prayed Ezekiel 36:26, 27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes.”

I was in that garage a long time. It felt like a jail, especially when I still had to go to the bathroom. Then I made a final plea and total surrender. I knelt on the hard cement. “This is a 9-1-1 prayer. I am desperate! There is no way to get out without Your intervention. I have searched every drawer for a key and have explored every corner. I surrender this situation to You. You know that if I don’t get up there in time to clean up that watery mess, my husband may slip and be cut; but You may have another plan. Please help me. This battle is now Yours.”

Then I claimed 1 John 5:14, 15: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Finally, I got up from my knees in great expectation. I said, “Lord, I choose to believe Your promises, even though I don’t feel them. Yet I trust in Your Word.” Then I went to the door and tried that stubborn doorknob. Yes, it was still locked. I knocked, and yes, there was no answer. But I could sense God’s presence in the silence.

I prayed again. This time a quiet voice (impression) came to me: “Joyce, go look in the tool chest.” I had already looked there, but I went to the box again. I saw an opening between the drawers I had not noticed before. I sensed that quiet voice saying, “Put your hand in the opening.”

Although a little fearful of spiders, I put my hand in the opening. My fingers touched a cold, lone key! My hands quivered, this time not from cold but from pure excitement. My heart pounded; I walked to the door again. The key fit the door! Hallelujah!

Placing the key farther into the crevice, I heard a click, and that stubborn door opened! It opened!

Racing upstairs, I silently sponged up the water and swept up the shards of glass. By some miracle Keith was still asleep. I put the dustpan down and brushed my shaking hands off. After using the bathroom, I quietly lay down beside him and slept—slept.

Days after, I wondered why it took me so long to find that key and why I hadn’t noticed an opening in the tool chest earlier. Later, I went back to the tool chest. There was no opening between the drawers! There was no space, no place for this key!

Once I had surrendered, God performed a miracle for me. Now every time I go to my son’s home, I visit the garage and look at the tool chest for the opening—or lack of opening. Each time, I am reminded that the key to God’s heart is prayer, unlocking His power into our lives when we ask. It is no longer a cliché to me that there’s no lock He can’t undo, no barrier He can’t get through.

Joyce Mulligan is director of Prayer and Women’s Ministries at the Central California Conference in Fresno, California, where she leads seminars, preaches, and teaches people about prayer.