WANT CHANGE? PRAY
David C. Hughes
I admit it: sometimes I can be pretty grumpy. Usually these bouts of impatience originate from my inability to deal well with expectation versus reality. Other times my selfishness noses into family moments, including one-on-one time with my six-year-old daughter, Hannah. I guard my time greedily, the result of decades of perfectionism and inflexibility; my to-do list and my schedule constantly lock horns with down-time and relaxation. Then sometimes I’m just plain grumpy. Can’t help it: I’m staring at 50 across the transom of the upcoming calendar.
One evening I picked Hannah up from gymnastics and drove home to start dinner. Since Hannah’s a competitive gymnast, she spends four hours a day in the gym, another hour or two in homeschool, and ends her day in the gym’s after-school program. So when we arrived home that evening, all Hannah wanted to do was watch TV. I don’t blame her, but being a daddy of high expectations, I asked her to do her online note-reading homework first.
“Aw, do I have to, Dad?” she whined.
“Yes, you have to,” I retorted. “Three rounds. Pro level.”
Reluctantly she climbed into the stool in front of the Mac, brought up the website, and did what I asked. “Now can I watch a show?” she queried after finishing round three.
“Yes, just one while I fix dinner.”
Unsettledness crept in as I prepared dinner. I don’t know if it was the lack of writing time during the day, my preoccupation with limiting Hannah’s TV viewing, or my growing frustration over the rash our border collie was suffering from, but anger soon picked a fight with me. I called Hannah to dinner and wordlessly set her plate in front of her, but soon my mental turbulence spilled onto the dinner table in the form of practiced passive-aggressiveness.
“Dad, do I have to eat this?” Hannah asked, pinching a tiny broccoli spear.
“Yes, if you want dessert tonight.” She dropped the broccoli and picked up her grape juice. I rapped the table. When she set the cup back down, I moved it out of reach.
“Why do you always move my drink where I can’t reach it?” she cried.
“Because you suck down your grape juice then complain about your stomach hurting, then you don’t eat.” I glared at her. “You need to eat, Hannah.” She picked up the broccoli again with her fingers. “Use your fork!” I griped. She dropped the broccoli. I grabbed her fork, stabbed the spear. “This is a fork,” I said, handing it back to her. “We use these to eat with.” Suddenly Hannah jumped up. “Where are you going?” I barked.
“I have to go potty!”
She ran to the bathroom and I just sat for a moment wondering what the heck was wrong with me. “Jesus,” I prayed. “Please calm me down and take away this ridiculousness. She doesn’t deserve this.” An inkling of peace settled over me, along with a resolve to remain calm for the rest of the dinner. After a round of negotiation, Hannah finished eating, and I gave her a bit of ice cream for dessert.
I’d cleared the table and started washing dishes when Hannah suddenly stopped eating her dessert and looked at me: “Daddy,” she said. “How did you change?”
“How did you change? You were a little mean to me earlier, but now you’re not.”
Whoa! I thought. She noticed! “I prayed,” I answered. “I prayed for calmness and Jesus answered my prayer. See how powerful prayer is?”
“Yeah, Dad!” she said. She finished her ice cream and got ready for bed without a fuss. A simple prayer had trounced anger and unsettledness; peace and joy prevailed.
I’m a staunch believer in both the power and the practicality of prayer, ordinary folks wielding the unlimited power promised to us. As Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these. . . .” (John 14:12). It’s true. I know folks whose damaged body, mind, and spirit have been healed, or are being healed, by faith and large doses of prayer. One powerful example comes to mind: Mary Jackson, one of the most Spirit-filled people I know, related the following story.
Several years ago Mary, a high school special ed teacher, sat in a faculty meeting while her daughter, Bethany, then 12, attended cheerleader/mascot try-outs. “She was goofing around with another girl,” Mary said, “and the other girl fell down and her knee landed on the heel of Bethany’s hand, at the base of the thumb. It immediately began swelling.” Mary received a text message telling her get to the gym. “When I got there, Bethany was clearly upset and holding her hand. I got the short version of what happened and looked at her thumb. The base was swollen to at least twice the normal size, and it had already turned a blue-bruise color less than ten minutes after it happened. She couldn’t move her thumb at all and she began to cry.”
“At that moment, I had a decision to make,” Mary continued, “and I spoke it out loud. ‘Do you want to believe that your hand is broken? Or do you want to believe that your hand will be healed?’ Because that’s always the first choice in healing: making a decision to believe for the healing. Bethany said she wanted to believe for it to be healed, but asked if we could step out of the gym.” At the time, Mary didn’t recognize how important that request was, but after reflecting on it, she realized the Holy Spirit was speaking through Bethany. “One of the chief reasons we don’t see healing is because unbelief stops it,” said Mary. “Remember, Jesus talked about how he couldn’t do anything in his own home town because of the unbelief.”
Mary, Bethany, Mary’s younger daughter, Genevieve, and the school secretary and friend, Heather, stepped outside the gym as Bethany had requested. “I asked all of us standing outside that gym door if we all believed Bethany’s hand could be healed.” She received their affirmations. “I then encouraged everyone to pray like they believed it, and I encouraged everyone to pray in any prayer language the Lord put in them at the time. So I put my hands around Bethany’s — one hand holding hers from underneath, and the other hand covering the top. And we prayed. We prayed like we meant it, like we needed the Holy Spirit to get there that very second and do a miracle, like we expected to see something amazing happen to this swollen, badly bruised hand. I prayed this would be just a part of Bethany’s testimony because no one could ever tell her it didn’t happen when it happened to her. We prayed out loud for about five minutes. Her hand was so hot in mine, and my faith grew and grew during the prayer time. Then I sensed it was finished. I removed my hand from underneath hers and looked my sweet girl right in her precious blue eyes. ‘We are so thankful, Lord,’ I said, and clapped my hands together just above her hand. ‘Wanna look?’ I know I said that with a huge grin because I was highly expectant of something miraculous.”
When Mary moved her hands away from Bethany’s, what they saw was a perfect, totally normal hand. A thin blue streak ran from the base of her thumb almost to her wrist. That was all. Then Bethany began to move her thumb. Five minutes earlier, she couldn’t move it at all; now she moved and bent it without any problems.
“We still talk about that story when the Lord’s healing power became very real to my girls,” declared Mary. “Even my younger daughter, who witnessed and participated in the prayers that ushered in the healing, owns this as part of her testimony about what the Lord has done in her life. They learned at the young ages of 12 and 9 . . . . God hears me.”
The day after my dinner with Hannah, as she sat in homeschool class at the gym, the teacher asked if anyone would like to pray. The lesson had been on Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord . . . .” Hannah raised her hand and began: “Daddy God, help us to obey our parents . . . .” She prayed simply and directly, and when she ended, two other girls in class spoke up and prayed as well. When they finished, my wife praised and encouraged them for stepping out and praying these most beautiful and powerful prayers. These children are prayer warriors with an uncorrupted line to God. As Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Want change? Pray. He hears you.
Copyright © 2013 David C Hughes