“This story will make you believe in God.”
That is what Jeremy and I tell people who ask us how we first met. It was the summer of 2006. I was twenty-three and living in Branson, Missouri. For some reason, I had the desire to attend a conference that August in Fort Worth, Texas. I had never been and didn’t know why, but as the days went by, I had a stronger and stronger urge to go. There was just one problem. I had already taken all of my vacation time at work for that year. But the desire to go grew so big in me that I finally decided it wasn’t just something I could do but something I should do. So I gave my two-week notice and quit my job! At the time, it seemed like a huge and risky step, but now I look back and know God was setting me up for one of the greatest miracles of my life.
I went to the conference with a friend who was quite a bit younger than me, and toward the end of the meetings, she asked if I would go with her to a youth service. I reluctantly made my way through the massive crowd of teenagers and found a seat toward the back of the room. I was slightly disappointed that I had to miss hearing the speaker in the main auditorium. That is until this one REALLY GOOD-LOOKING GUY stood up to speak. I was wide-eyed and mesmerized as he began to minister on the faith of David and his triumph over Goliath. As he preached, all of my soul was stirred, and I kept wondering, “Why, oh, why is my heart beating so fast?” If there were a cartoon version of me in that moment, I would’ve had hearts for eyes. I kept thinking to myself, He has got to be my husband.
After returning home, I quickly snapped back to reality and came to terms with what had really happened: I had just seen a handsome guy teaching under the anointing. That was it. I told myself that had to have just been my flesh talking. Nevertheless, I told my brothers about this great young preacher that they had to look up online, and when Jeremy’s face came on the screen, those same feelings rushed over me again. My good friend Jenny, who is related to Jeremy, would call me to talk; and it took everything in me not to ask, “Why didn’t you tell me about your cousin?” But I knew I shouldn’t say anything to anyone about him. I had a sense from the Lord that this was supposed to be our little secret.
Four months went by, and my desire to meet Jeremy grew to the point that I couldn’t hold it in any longer. On New Year’s Eve night I prayed, “Lord, I ask You to make a way for me to meet Jeremy.”
A few weeks later, I made my first vision book where I placed pictures and scriptures for everything I was believing God for that year. I decided to make a husband page and even put a picture of Jeremy in my book. I know that sounds crazy, but I did it just to lift my vision and remind myself I was believing for a godly husband.
Just one month later, I received a call from a friend who said, “Sarah, would you ever be interested in meeting Jeremy Pearsons? He’s had you on his heart, and he doesn’t know why.”
“WHAT?!” I mouthed silently, trying to keep my cool on the outside even though I was flipping out on the inside. I nonchalantly replied, “Yeah, sure, why not? If he’s ever in town, I wouldn’t be opposed to hanging out with everybody.” Then I hung up the phone, lifted my hands to heaven, and shouted, “Lord, how did You do this?”
I knew this was all God. It had to be. No one else knew because I had kept the whole thing a secret.
When I heard Jeremy was going to be attending a meeting at my church in just a month, I was excited to say the least. But when I was given inside information that he was secretly coming to meet me, I was ecstatic. Knowing that I was about to meet my husband, I spent a whole month working out and prepping my outfits to prepare for his arrival. Hey, don’t judge me. Just think: Queen Esther spent six months soaking in oils, and then six more months at the palace beauty salon fitting herself for her king.
But seriously, it really was love at first sight. We never lacked for conversation, and we clicked on a whole other level. He had heard that I was a songwriter, and after a few days, he asked me to sing for him. I played him one of my first songs called “Faithful,” and as the last note rang out, I mustered up enough courage to look up at him. He sat silent at the end of the piano just staring at me. Finally, he said sweetly, “Tell me we have a chance.” He claims that I never answered him, just giggled and walked away.
I found out later that he had seen a picture of me back in October, just two months after I saw him for the first time, and he said to himself, “I’m going to marry that girl.” He was a youth pastor at the time, and one night before service, he knelt on the floor of his closet to pray. He inquired of the Lord on what to preach for service, but all he could think about was the girl in the picture. He couldn’t shake it, finally gave in, and said, “Lord, if you want to talk about Sarah, let’s talk about Sarah.” Even though we had never met, he stood up from his prayer time knowing that we were going to meet in March, be married in September, and go to Africa together in October. And it all happened just like that!
My God had given me the secret petitions of my heart. Psalm 37:4 amp says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.” To make a petition is to request or to ask for something desired. To petition can also mean to press. I’ve learned that if I want God’s best in my life, it won’t just fall on me; I have to press for it. I have to go after it. Pressing into God is not the same thing as putting pressure on people. I’m talking about possessing a kind of faith that presses into His presence, faith that presses into prayer, faith that presses into praise, and faith that presses into His plan. This kind of faith will press beyond its natural boundaries, lay hold of a promise with both hands, and refuse to let go. I’m not talking about a dead faith that just copies what it’s always seen and known. I’m talking about a living faith that draws a line in the sand and chooses to step over, pressing past what it’s always seen and always known, daring to believe that there’s something more.
For example, if you’ve come from a broken family, and all you’ve ever seen and all you’ve ever known is strife and divorce; if you want better, you must press into God and believe that He can and will give you a healthy home and a marriage made in heaven. If everyone in your family has been diagnosed with the same disease, you must press past your medical history and choose to trust that “the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases… which you have known” (Deut. 7:15). If you’ve only ever lived from paycheck to paycheck, you have to imagine yourself stepping out of a dry land and pressing into wide-open pastures where the Good Shepherd is leading you and feeding you and bringing you into the best shape of your life. Real Bible faith is not rational and cannot be reasoned. Don’t try to figure it out in your head. Choose to believe with your heart. You have to press for God’s best.
A petition can also be a paper soliciting a favor, right, or mercy. Can you imagine God our Father in heaven sitting down to read the pile of petitions that clutter His desk every day? Sadly, He is unable to approve so many of these prayers because they are full of doubt, worry, and unbelief; for we find in Hebrews 11:6 that “without faith it is impossible to please Him.” But as He scans the stack, there are a few petitions that force Him to stop, command His attention, and bring a smile to His face. He moves these to the top of the pile, and they become His favorites, not because He is a respecter of persons but because He is a respecter of faith. At the top of these, He stamps His signature seal of approval.
When I decided to present my vision-book petition to the Lord and ask Him for an opportunity to meet Jeremy, I didn’t just fling up a prayer and hope that He would answer it. I had spent time delighting in God and seeking His will for my life. I threw myself into my ministry and serving at my church; I spent the majority of my time in the Word, enjoying His presence. My parents look back on that time and can joke about it now, but they were concerned about me becoming an old maid because I was spending most of my evenings downstairs by myself reading my Bible and writing songs.
I believe one of the main reasons people do not receive their secret petitions is they have simply stopped enjoying the Lord and have started seeking things. Psalm 37:4 erv says, “Enjoy serving the Lord, and He will give you whatever you ask for.” In the Living Bible, it says, “Be delighted with the Lord. Then He will give you all your heart’s desires.” And my favorite is in The Message: “Keep company with God, get in on the best.”
I mentioned Esther earlier, but let’s take a closer look at her story. She gives us a great example to follow when presenting a petition to the Lord. Esther first hears of the decree to destroy the Jews from her uncle Mordecai when he pleads with her to go into the king and petition him to save her people. At first she is unsure, unsettled, and reluctant to go because she does not know the king’s heart on the matter. To enter into the king’s inner court without being called for could very likely mean death for her. But Mordecai encourages her to press past her fear of death and ASK BIG. He says, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
The first step in presenting your petition is to speak up and ask. So many people never see the desires of their hearts because they don’t stop to ask. James 4:2 esv says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.”
Esther is slow and strategic with her petition. She doesn’t freak out when she hears the bad report, and she doesn’t just run to the king and frantically beg for his help. She calls for a fast and seeks the Lord. Then she “put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace,” and when he sees her “standing in the court, she found favor in his sight” saying to her, “‘What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!’” (Esther 5:1-3).
Now, because of Jesus, we have it even better than Esther! We are to come boldly before His throne of grace wearing our royal robes of righteousness, being fully aware that He loves us, knowing His favor goes before us and that His greatest desire is to give us the riches of His kingdom.
At the sound of bad news, we’re never supposed to fly off the handle, fearfully spouting off scriptures and confessions without any power. Esther takes her time with the king, arranges several encounters with him, and creates opportunities to find and discover his will in the situation. And when she is convinced of his love for her and his willingness to bless her, then she presents her petition. “If it pleases the king, and if I have found favor in his sight and the thing seems right to the king…let it be written to revoke the letters…which [Haman] wrote to annihilate the Jews” (Esther 8:5).
She doesn’t just march in demanding that he grant her desires, but with a humble heart and with great honor, she solicits his will on the subject. Notice she says, “If it pleases the king… and the thing seems right to the king.”
We shouldn’t just want our way; we should want His will. First John 5:14-15 says, “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.”
The king gives Esther the petitions of her heart and says, “You yourselves write a decree concerning the Jews, as you please, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s signet ring; for whatever is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring no one can revoke” (Esther 8:8).
I want to encourage you today to delight BIG and dream BIG. Approach His throne with great confidence knowing that you are loved and favored by the King, and it is His delight to give you His kingdom. Begin to enjoy Him again, and He will give you the secret petitions of your heart.