Thursday, February 19, 2009

Prayer and Lent

Several years ago now, in my first youth ministry call, I had the privilege to take a group of high school students on a Mission Trip to the Appalachian mountains in West Virginia. I was fresh out of college and full of youthful enthusiasm, excitement and zest to change the world and the lives of the teens I was bringing on this trip. Once we got to West Virginia we were divided into work teams and I was sent with another leader to do home renovations for the Cook Family. My co-leader and I were both relative rookies in youth ministry, and we knew absolutely nothing about home renovations, but here we were charged with renovating the Cooks home and we had 15 high school youth looking to us for leadership. We knew we were up for the challenge. We took control and started delegating jobs. Day one was a breeze, work was progressing, conversation was flowing, and relationships were building. Devotions that night were full of great insights and observations and we were patting ourselves on that back – I was thinking – “Wow, this is going to be easy.”
Then came day two. One of the girls from my church was using a KILZ paint primer on the walls that you use when there is mold on the walls, to prepare the walls for paint. There is some pretty hefty chemicals in that paint. We had been warned to be extra careful when using this paint. As she was painting one of the higher parts of the wall, a large drop of the paint dripped into her eye. As we rushed to her, I sent one of the other kids to run and get Mrs. Cook and ask where the nearest hospital was to which Mrs. Cook calmly replied … “Oh…. That would be at least a good 2-2 ½ hours…. that won’t do you any good”. My co-leader and I start to frantically flush her eye with water and see that it is bright red and looks as if it is burnt badly. She is screaming in pain.
Meanwhile I hear Mrs. Cook say “Okay, the rest of y’all come over here… and we are going to pray.”
I remember thinking “Pray….. are you kidding me….. what the heck good is that going to do me, this kid is going to lose her eye and I’m responsible, I’m going to have to explain it to her parents”. I seriousely thought this woman had lost her mind. Then all of the sudden the crying and screaming stopped, and we looked down and her eye was fine. It wasn’t red, it wasn’t irritated, it wasn’t even a little pink. It was fine. You could have heard a pin drop in that house. The Mrs. Cook said “Now I want you all to sit down, and I’m gonna tell y’all a little bit about prayer”. I’ll never forget it, and I’m sure none of those high school kids have ever forgotten it either.
Now the cynic in you may say that I had flushed everything out of her eye and it was just coincidence, but something special happened in that room that day, where we all felt the power of that one women’s complete faith and the great power of being surrounded in prayer. It’s when I began to realize to that it is God’s job to change people and change lives, not mine, and I can only thank God when I get to be a part of that.
This fall we traveled to New Mexico to visit family, and my daughter got sick. She was very sick, and there were lots of unknowns and as we passed the word to friends and families and continued to get the messages “We are praying for you” I continued to feel some of the burden being lifted from me. Now, as I watch her play, it’s hard to believe a few months ago she was in a hospital room looking so hopeless. It is a reminder of me to be vigilant in my prayer life, and to tell people when we are praying for them, because you may never know how much those words may mean to them. It’s a reminder that prayer can not only change things, but prayer can change people.

I've been thinking about Lent coming up, and many times during Lent I've given something up - chocolate .....or sometimes (heaven forbid....Diet Coke!!!) but I know that isn't really what it is all about, and this year, I wanted to add a discipline. This year I'm going to be more diligent about my prayer life. I've been trying to think about a concrete way to do that - and I've decided, cheesy as it may be, that I'm going to "pray through" my friend list on facebook. Being that all of those people are people that have some sort of connection to me, and mean something to me in some way or another. 40 days of lent gives me about 9 people a day to pray for- very doable. So... if you get a note for me asking saying I'm praying for you don't be surprised, or offended. Maybe you to will feel the power of another person praying for you.

1 comment:

  1. I really have a strong testimony of prayer. I had an experience like the one you described when I was still so little--maybe 12--and living in Arizona. I was babysitting. It wasn't like your experience in that someone's eye was miraculously healed, but it was a miracle and I knew that it was because of my prayer. And since that time I have seen so many answers and solutions come into my life--many of them immediately--when I have prayed. I was telling a friend recently that my testimony and understanding of prayer has become even richer as I have developed my relationship with my dad. I realized that just like my dad here on earth, my Heavenly Father desires to bless me and make my life better, and I truly believe that anything he can give me, as long as it doesn't hurt my learning, progress, or development, he will give to me. So it never hurts to ask. And if I don't get what I ask for, I know it is because there are greater lessons to be learned that a father would not deny a child he loved.