Timely Reminder...

Sometimes God speaks in a still, small voice.

Other times, though, it sure seems like he whacks us over the head with a 2 x 4. 

I've struggled at times over the past few years with the whole topic of prayer.  It's not a subject I ever expected to struggle with.  From the time I knew what prayer was, I believed in it, I practiced it, and I watched and waited for God to answer.   Until 3 1/2 years ago.  And suddenly, my prayer life hit the rocks. 

The timing actually would appear odd on the surface.  We had just been through two of the most amazing prayer journeys of my life...the first being Ammah Grace's birth 10 weeks early and subsequent six weeks in NICU, and the second being my dad's last cancer battle and death.  We had the most amazing prayer support ever, and saw God work miracle after miracle and answer prayer after prayer.  We watched Him work in amazing ways even when our prayers for Daddy's healing weren't answered the way we would have chosen.  

We'd been through the fire twice, and survived.  God had been in the fire with us throughout, and had taught us amazing things and shown us awesome things about Himself and His Word.  There had been struggles, to be sure, but overall, we felt stronger than ever. 

Then came July 2006, and the bottom fell out.  And my prayer life was the greatest casualty.

Don't get me wrong...I didn't completely stop praying.  There have been too many loved ones and friends with too many major needs to do that.  There have been times during these years that I have felt a strong burden to pray for certain people and certain needs...and I have.  But my prayer life hasn't been the same, in any respect, as it was before.  

Recently God has been stirring in that area in my life.  There have been improvements, and failures, a few small victories, and mostly ever more struggles.  

And then this morning, the 2 x 4.

The message wasn't anything new or earthshattering.  We had a guest preacher, one familiar and loved in our church.  He is known as much for his brevity as our pastor is for his...well, *not* brevity. :)  But he is solid in the Word, and the message this morning, while probably one of the shortest I've *ever* experienced, hit me squarely between the eyes...with a resounding "THWACK!"

The Scripture was Genesis 18:23ff...the story of Abraham pleading for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Very familiar stuff, since we had covered that very chapter in this week's Bible time in school  (I love it when that happens! :))  It was neat to see the realization dawn in the children's eyes..."Hey, that was our Bible lesson the other day!"  

The topic was intercessory prayer.  Here are a few snippets from my notes:

*Abraham was a friend of God...it should be our heart cry to be the friend of God and to see and be in on what God is doing.
*Abraham was an intercessor, praying for judgement to be kept from those around Him.  
*We are encouraged and admonished in Scripture to be intercessors, to intercede on behalf of others.  
*Intercession involves being consistent.
*God did deliver the righteous before the destruction of the wicked.  God's people are a restraining force against evil.  
*Sometimes selfishness gets in the way of our intercession.  Like Jonah, we don't *want* the wicked to be delivered.  
*Intercessory prayer is hard work, but God calls us to be intercessors...to pray for our country, to pray for each other, to pray for our families.  
*Jesus is interceding for us.  (Heb. 7:25)

A great message with familiar content that many of us need to be reminded of often.

The 2 x 4, though, was in the timing.  

Today was our Ammah Grace's 6th birthday.  Birthdays always bring memories, but Gracie's always brings LOTS of them.  Memories of the midnight ambulance ride to Little Rock in a snowstorm after my water broke at 30 weeks.  Memories of waking up 3 days later to the realization that I was not going to make it another 4 weeks, as they had hoped, before delivery.  Memories of the doctors' grim prognoses...wondering if we would ever get to even take her home, and if so, what kind of health problems and disabilities she would face.  Memories of wanting more than anything to hold and cuddle our baby...to rock her and feed her and do all the things we had done with our older three...and having to be content with watching her through the isolette, and occasionally being able to reach through the portholes and touch her.  Memories of missing my 2, 4, and 6 year olds *so* much as I spent 3 weeks in Little Rock with Ammah Grace before she came home.  Memories, memories, and more memories.  

But as I sat listening to the message this morning, I was overwhelmed by memories of the people who had prayed for Ammah Grace and for our family during those weeks and months.  Overwhelmed also by the memories of the prayers that God had answered in such amazing ways during those days.  Remembering the Christian ambulance crew who took me to Little Rock that night, praying all the way and assuring me they would continue to pray for our family.  Remembering the many trips we made back and forth to Little Rock that year in the snow...and God's provision of safety each and every time.  Remembering being hours away from a neurosurgery consult for her brain bleed after being told that our tiny daughter would need brain surgery, and then a last-minute scan came back showing that the bleed was clearing up on its own, and surgery wouldn't be needed.  Remembering my delight when one of the top neonatogists in the country uttered an amazed "WHAT a miracle!" when he was told that Gracie's had not had to have surgery after all, and that her last scan had come back completely clear.  

There were many people praying for Ammah Grace and for our family during that time whose names I will never know and whose faces I have never seen.  There were many who prayed who encouraged us personally during that time in many ways:

*A lady who called our church office one day and said, "How is that little baby on the sign doing?  I've prayed for her every day..."  (Our church is on a heavily trafficked corner, and our church marquee asked for prayer for Ammah Grace and posted updates for weeks.)  
*Another lady who "ran into" someone from our church and upon finding out what church they attended, asked about Ammah Grace, saying, "I drive by that sign every day, and every time I go by, I pray for her..."
*Our pastor, who called every day, sometimes multiple times, and who never hung up before praying aloud with me over the phone.
*Our homeschool group, who prayed and sent so many encouraging notes in response to my updates to our homeschool email loop. 
*A friend of my dad's who is a true prayer warrior...the first time we went to the grocery store after being released from NICU, we "ran into" him in the grocery store.  He looked at Ammah Grace, and through tears, said, "Let's pray, right now."  So we did.  Right there in the aisle at the Neighborhood Market, we bowed our heads over my grocery cart and he thanked God for the many prayers he had answered in bringing Ammah Grace home safely, and then prayed for her continued good health.  I never will forget the look on the face of the checker who walked by in the middle of our prayer meeting, and stopped to wait until we were finished.  We got to share with her about God's work in Gracie's life, and the many answered prayers we had experienced.  
*Out of town friends, who not only prayed, but visited us in the hospital, and who were such bright spots in those days.
*My parents, who prayed so hard for their tiny granddaughter, and for all of us during those hard days.  I teared up today watching Ammah Grace run up the sidewalk at my mom's house, thinking about how much I wish my dad could see how abundantly his prayers for her were answered.  
*Our other children, who prayed so hard for "Gracie in the hospital" and for Mommy while she was gone.  
*My close friends, who not only prayed, but talked and listened and encouraged and helped in a million ways...especially our friends who had walked a very similar path just a few years before, and who helped us navigate in very unfamiliar territory.  

There are many, many others.  I remember being so excited to find that "Ammah" (which was my great-grandmother's name) means "God's People".  What an incredible reminder of the ways God used His people to pray, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus to us during those days.  As I listened to the sermon this morning, I thought about the many people who prayed for Ammah Grace and for our family in those days, and reflected on the many ways God answered those prayers, and I felt not just stirred, but shaken.  The 2 x 4 brought with it a renewed desire to pray, and a renewed commitment to faithfulness in prayer.  

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of Him" 
(1 John 5:14-15)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" 
(Philippians 4:6-7)

"…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" 
(James 5:16)

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" 
(Ephesians 6:18)

For more of Ammah Grace's story...

1 comment:

Susan said...

Blessings to Ammah Grace on her birthday, and blessings to you, my dear, who minister to so many through this blog with your heartfelt posts.