Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008
In 1978 another couple accompanied my husband and I to pick up a boat windshield. After gently placing it and fastening the trunk down with a ski rope, we happily headed home. I turned around and saw the trunk lid was up. Was the windshield gone? How could we replace it?
After using the same rope to it again (the only rope we had), we continued homeward. Sitting nervously in the passenger seat, twirling my hair, I prayed: “God, please help us. If only we had a rope. If only we had a rope.”
In 1978, there were not stores open on Sundays. Tension, along with suggestions to stop and check, made my agitated husband drive faster. All of a sudden he stopped on a dime, throwing everyone forward. After tightening the loosened rope, our friend got back in.
As I got into the car, my feet moved in a strange way, as if I was climbing upstairs. I told myself not to be silly, but I knew this was not my doing. Shocked, I yelled, “Come here, quick!” At my feet were two pieces of twine, covered with dust and dirt as if they had been there for years. I remembered my prayer –“if only we had a rope.”
God gave us twice what we needed. Some people might say it was a coincidence. No, I know it was a miracle.
Through the years, lots of things have changed, but God is still in control today.
Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2008
A Hancock County family say it’s a testament to the power of prayer.
When a twister hit the Keefe home, they had barely finished praying a second “our father.”
“You want to know how long a tornado lasts? About to the end of the lord’s prayer, that’s how long,” said Erick Keefe.
Keefe says his mood isn’t horrible, because they survived. His wife and children escaped to the basement early Saturday morning as the tornado cut an eight mile path in northwest Ohio.
A path that includes destroying his dad’s home next door.
Ann Keefe says both families are unhurt as they lookover what remains from the twisters damage.
The insurance company says both farm houses are a total loss.
The tornado threw their belongings to the surround farmlands even nearby trees, and neighbors came to try and help put it all back together, reported ONN’s Dan Weist.
“She’s from my home town,” says Cindy Brooks, who was one person helping.
Brooks like many others over the last few days just came to help. Other neighbors have arrived in droves with offers of assistance.
“I’ll try to keep my composure but they just came out of the woodwork,” said Erick Keefe.
Even after what has rained down on them, both families have hoisted flags and proclaimed their gratitude to those, divine and otherwise helping them to start anew.
Friday, May. 16, 2008
Twenty-one years ago, Tom Allen was recovering for a heart attack and spending his days at home alone.
“I was feeling sorry for myself and wasn’t really doing anything else,” said Allen, 73, of Port Clinton.
Then his neighbor and some friends invited him to the Men’s Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast at Trinity United Methodist Church. The weekly fellowship meeting was the change he needed.
“It gave me an excuse to get away from me,” said Allen, a Trinity United member. “I felt good being there. The people were not there to promote themselves. They were there because it was a religious experience.”
Since then, he has regularly attended the non-denominational gathering. He joined more than 100 locals and clergymen this morning at Magruder Hospital to celebrate the breakfast’s 50th anniversary.
Monday, May. 5, 2008
Hundreds of people surrounded Fresno and Clovis (California) Saturday offering prayers for a safe and prosperous community.
After eight months of planning, people from about 150 area congregations joined together this week for 4 days of prayer activities including Saturday’s event, where people fanned out to pray in every part of the city.
A van from Fresno’s First Baptist church was just one of the church vehicles that spread throughout Fresno and Clovis Saturday taking hundreds to various spots to pray.
Willie Nolte, First Baptist Church, says “We’re praying for our city. We want God to bless our city. We want our city to prosper, we want our city to be safe.”
The idea of “Pray Fresno/Clovis” was to surround the area with prayer. It began Thursday, the national day of prayer, with a prayer service at city hall.
Saturday, church groups split a 66 mile boundary of the area into six areas. Then they spread out along the perimeter to offer songs and prayer.
Joy Nolte, First Baptist Church, says “We’re not trying to protest anything or to say we’re unhappy with Fresno. We love Fresno and Clovis and the surrounding areas. And we’re just trying to say by our presence we pray for the community.”
Participants could pray for anything, like the needs within specific areas and the community’s needs as a whole.
Along the Herndon corridor some prayed for truck drivers who are battling rising fuel costs. Jacob Hitch, 14 years old, says “The things going on around here, the truckers and the businesses. The truckers bringing in their things and being prosperous.”
Organizers say they hope to turn “Pray Fresno/Clovis” into a movement instead of a single event. Those who participated Saturday say they’re counting on the power of prayer to change Fresno for the better.
Gabe Yanez, 14 years old, says “It makes me feel good. Because I know I’m doing my part. And as much as a can. With everyone else, it can all add up.”
The four day event wraps up Sunday, during regular services at churches throughout Fresno.
Monday, Nov. 12, 2007
ONE in three Scots still believes in the power of prayer despite a big decline in church attendance, according to a survey.
More than 1.4million adults in Scotland – 32 per cent – pray. But that figure is below the UK average of 42 per cent.
The survey, by Christian relief agency Tearfund, found just under half of those who pray do so at least once a day.
Family and friends are the most popular topic, accounting for 68 per cent of prayers.
Of the 20million adults who pray in the UK, nine million pray every day.
One in three says praying makes them feel better and happier, while one in five believes their prayers will be answered.
Peter Chirnside, head of Tearfund in Scotland, said: “These figures are very encouraging and suggest that people know there is something bigger there that can affect the world.”
However, the popularity of prayer appears to be at odds with church attendance in Scotland, which has dropped to just 11 per cent of the population.
If the current rate of decline continues, only 8.7 per cent will attend church on Sundays by 2010 and 6.8 per cent by 2020.
But experts believe the gap between the numbers of churchgoers and those who pray reflects a greater sense of spirituality outside official faiths.
Psychologist Dr Stephen Kelly, of Strathclyde University, said: “A lot of people don’t agree with those institutions but still believe there is a spirituality out there.”
Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007
NAZARETH, Israel — Dressed in his embroidered robes, the Rev. Andreas Elime steps from the altar of St. Gabriel’s Church and into the view of the Web cams on the church’s marble pillars. His voice fills the empty 250-year-old sanctuary with a Greek Orthodox hymn, while a computer on a nearby pew transmits personal blessings to three Americans thousands of miles away.
Christian pilgrims have long traveled to the boyhood town of Jesus to seek blessings. Now the Internet can save them the trip.
A service recently launched by Modefine Ltd., a Cyprus company, enables worshippers to log on to www.mirezo.com and watch as a priest utters a prayer for them.
“This takes things to a new level,” said James Martin, a Jesuit priest and associate editor of the Roman Catholic magazine America, who has watched religious trends develop on the Internet. Martin said in a telephone interview that the technology also gives believers a new way to carry out an old practice: asking others to pray for them in sacred places.
“Going to Israel is quite expensive,” said Martin. “So for people who can’t afford it but can afford their monthly (Internet) bill, this is one way to do it.”
Since opening May 1, the site has fielded hundreds of requests, some 70 percent from Americans but also from Hong Kong, India, Mexico and Australia, said Said Salem, Modefine’s Holy Land representative.
“We have something special here,” he said. “Mary lived here. Jesus grew up here. This is a holy town. This is the basis of Christianity.”
St. Gabriel’s Church stands over the spring where Greek Orthodox tradition says the archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary. Catholic tradition holds that this event took place about a mile away, under the modern Basilica of the Annunciation.
Martin’s only concern was the fee: $10 per prayer. Salem said it covers system costs, not the prayer, which is free.
“If you come from Jerusalem to get the priest to pray for you, you don’t expect the priest to pay for the taxi,” Salem said. “We are the taxi.” He said he hoped the service would eventually raise funds for the Nazareth Christian community.
After the opening hymn, Elime prays for mercy, health, peace, forgiveness and salvation. He does services in English, Greek, Arabic and Russian, he said, depending on the request. He reads the first names on that day’s list, lighting a candle for each. A benediction closes the service, which lasts about four minutes.
Sitting in the stone-walled courtyard of his nearby monastery after the service, Elime said four priests do two services a day, seven days a week, praying for five to 10 people daily.
“There are some people who can’t come to the church to take Communion, so we go to them,” he said, citing the sick and elderly. Praying for people through the Internet serves the same purpose, he said.
Elime mentioned one American man who orders prayers over the Web weekly. Another woman recently placed an order after her daughter disappeared. The daughter was found three days later, Elime said.
The Web site lets people select a theme for their prayer, but Elime says the same prayer for each person.
Metropolis Kyriakos, the Archbishop of Nazareth, said he would prefer people visit the church in person, but that he saw nothing wrong with the online ceremony. “If I even smelled that something was not right, I would cancel it all,” he said, tapping his nose.
For Robert Jeffords, a frequent user of the site, online prayer was the only way to reach the Holy Land.
“I’m 66 now and almost immobile,” Jeffords said by phone from Hollywood, Fla., citing diabetes and leg infections. “So a trip to the Holy Land would be impossible.”
After reading about the service on a Catholic Web site, Jeffords ordered two prayers for his family and was impressed with what he saw.
“I was actually part of it,” said Jeffords, who is Catholic but says he has Greek Orthodox icons on his wall. “I was there.”
Jeffords has since ordered two more prayers, one for the anniversary of his mother-in-law’s death, another for his son and his son’s fiancée.
“Thank God for my Internet service,” Jeffords said. “There’s a lot of good stuff on there. There’s trash, too, but you can find good stuff if you look around.”
Wednesday, Jun. 6, 2007
Years ago a priest friend showed me some daily schedule pads that he had made up for himself. At the top was a line for the date and the heading “To Do Today” and then 15 lines for the various things he wanted to accomplish. The basic difference from similar pads was that on lines 1, 5 and 10 it had “Pray” and on line 15 it said “Thanksgiving Prayer.”
The first time I saw the pad I commented that it would be interesting to market it, and suggested that he let me “borrow” the idea as a premium for the diocesan paper where I worked at the time. He was okay with that if I didn’t tell anyone where the idea had come from. He didn’t want credit in any way. The pads were his way of reminding himself each day of God’s primary place in his priesthood and his life. Line 15, he said, was the most important because it reminded him to thank God for the gifts of the day and – some days – for the help God had given him to make it through the day.
He said that the idea came to him soon after his ordination, following his first months assigned to a parish. Filled with the excitement and self-importance of his new work, he got so caught up in his parish ministry that at the end of too many days he realized that, other then presiding at Mass, he’d taken little time during the day for prayer and reflection as he regularly did in the more structured seminary life. The pads were his way of making sure prayer was always on his schedule and on his mind.
As one who gets caught up in my own daily “To Do” list, it was good for me to hear that a priest had to remind himself to take a few minutes during a day to put things into a prayerful perspective. I thought it was just me!
For many of us, it seems our schedules are not just filled, but jammed, with commitments, appointments and “absolutely-have-to-do” projects. I leave it to the social scientists to explain why this happens, but I know I sometimes feel overwhelmed by my schedule. Even getting a bite to eat, let alone a meal, is a challenge. Take a few minutes for prayer or meditation? I’ll get to that later or tomorrow!
I find that when it gets that way the healthiest thing I can do is take even five minutes for a “prayer break” right at my desk. I have a couple of resources I use to help me in this quiet time. Obviously and honestly, the day’s reading in our Christopher book Three Minutes a Day helps me focus on the good in the world around me.
In this computer age I can also go to Sacred Spaces, a Web site of the Irish Jesuits that has a short reflection, scriptural reading and prayer. To my surprise one of my own brothers recently told me that when he turns on his computer in the morning he listens to “Christopher Minutes” on our Web site (www.christophers.org). Even though he has to listen to me (his words!) he says that it helps him at least start the day in a positive perspective.
I’m sure the short prayer breaks I take during the day help me to slow down a bit, and that makes them mental-health breaks too. Yet I know that first and foremost the breaks help me put all the busyness into perspective – and remember to make my work a prayer.
Wednesday, May. 23, 2007
Three years ago, Cass Forkin, who is in the job of granting “twilight wishes” to frail elderly people, visited the home of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Bensalem.
About 90 nuns live there, more than half of them retired, some extremely old and frail and living in the infirmary. In their walkers and wheelchairs, they could no longer see the beautiful grounds, the flowering rhododendrons.
The nuns really wanted a golf cart, to transport their frailest around the campus, but asking for one was deemed, well, inappropriate.
“They didn’t want to seem greedy,” said Marie Bradley, activities director at the infirmary, St. Michael Hall. “They wanted to be unselfish.”
Two years went by, and a new administrator was named for the 57-acre campus founded by Mother Katharine Drexel. This was Sister Lorraine, 72, who has a bad back and doesn’t get around so well.
She thought the golf cart was a terrific idea and sent a letter to Forkin, who founded and runs the Twilight Wish Foundation in Bucks County, seeking “a four-seat golf cart for 56 retired nuns.”
Forkin tries to fulfill all sorts of requests from older people, but this one was surprisingly difficult. Most country clubs lease their carts and need to return them.
Her brother knew a man in Philadelphia who was head of the Mayfair Civic Association and known as a can-do guy. Turns out that guy, Scott Cummings, knew a guy in the Poconos who lost 400 pounds after having his stomach stapled and no longer needed his golf cart to get around.
So Cummings bought the cart for $500 out of his own pocket, rented a trailer and drove to the Poconos in February, right after the huge snowfall.
The man with the stapled stomach hadn’t shoveled or plowed his driveway, which was under 18 inches of snow.
“I looked up, and I said, ‘Well, sisters, if you want the golf cart, I’m going to need a little prayer,’ ” Cummings recalled. “I looked up the street – and here comes a giant plow.”
Cummings polished the cart, put air in the tires. He and his wife, Vicki, clipped a guardian angel to the sun visor, which all the nuns thought most appropriate because Mother Katharine Drexel’s favorite expression was “Holy Angels.”
The couple also put a picture of Pope John Paul II on the steering column – covering the operating instructions, although Sister Lorraine insisted yesterday that she had read them carefully. Cummings also taped a bumper sticker to the front: Don’t let this car fool you, my treasure is in heaven.
The sisters were all lined up Saturday when he arrived.
“I pulled up, and I never saw so many women, so many Catholic nuns, happy to see me,” said Cummings, who went to St. Matthew’s parish school and Father Judge High. “I was a Catholic boy, used to getting my knuckles rapped with a ruler. Their faces were so excited. I actually started crying. I lost it.”
The nuns have spent the weekend and every day since driving around the campus. They have a little stool to help the weakest get on board.
“The chief of maintenance is getting seat belts for the back,” Sister Lorraine said. “I want to make sure they’re safely on and can’t fall out.”
The cart can hit a top speed of 15 m.p.h., according to the manufacturer, but nuns tend to be conservative drivers.
“This is where we all started,” said Sister Loretta, vice president of the order. Many of the older nuns joined and trained here more than 60 years ago. Most were teachers and went on to poor communities and reservations all over the country. Back at their order’s home, many are too frail to see the buildings and grounds they strolled long ago.
“Now, they can go anywhere they want to go – with an approved driver,” Sister Loretta said. “It’s opening up the world to them.”
Sister Claire, for instance, went down to the cemetery on Saturday to see the grave where her natural sister was buried. She hadn’t been able to get there since her sister died.
Yesterday, Sister Lorraine was giving several nuns rides.
“You’d better hang on,” she said to Sister Therese, in the front passenger seat, her walker folded in her lap.
“Don’t worry about me,” Sister Therese replied. “Watch out for the tree.”
Sister Lorraine was driving across the grass, heading toward the cemetery, when she stopped the cart at a four-inch drainage ditch. She decided it was too perilous to cross.
“This will be my first time in reverse,” she said, switching gears. “Let’s go. . . . That-a girl.”
Sister Anne Regina, who is in her 80s, got her first ride yesterday and took great joy seeing spring in all its glory.
“To think people thought of us, to do something like this for us, especially the older sisters,” she said. “You just don’t know what that means.”
Tuesday, May. 15, 2007
With help from Houston’s religious leaders, members of the Houston Police Department bowed their heads in prayer Monday at the start of National Police Week.
“This is a very heartfelt event and very encouraging to have the community of faith coming together with us,” said officer Barry Curtis. “I hope we can spread this unity across the city.”
Today is National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day, and this week marks the 45th National Police Week since President John F. Kennedy signed the day of remembrance into law on Oct. 1, 1962.
The law designates the week containing May 15 as one meant to honor fallen police officers and their survivors.
Wednesday, May. 2, 2007
I get lots of e-mails from sick people and from the friends and families of sick people asking me to pray for them, and I always do. They are strangers to me but they are not strangers to God. Perhaps that is why praying for strangers does not seem foolish or odd or difficult to me. Really I am just praying for a friend of my friend. I just received such a request from my daughter Mara, whom I always call Moochie. Henry is a friend of Moochie’s who has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It may be treatable, but he does not know yet. This is my prayer for Henry.
I am praying for you, and I thought I might tell you what I am praying so that you could add it to your prayers—or so that, even if you stop praying for yourself, you know that I am among the many people who will not stop. I am praying for you to get well and become whole again.
I pray that your doctors might be the hands of God. They are not the only way that healing may come to you, but they are a good and proven way. I am praying that your doctors might find a treatment for your cancer—forever or for a little while. I am also praying that you might have the hope and courage to be their partner in the work of healing you. Hope mixed with medicine makes both the medicine and the hope stronger.
Henry, I am praying that you use your fear rather than submitting to your fear. Those who tell you not to be afraid are well-meaning fools. It is natural and normal for you to be afraid now. However, I pray that you might find a way to transform your fear into fuel for your fight. You are not a victim and you are not condemned. You are a living man who is deeply loved, and you can fight this thing with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Use your fear now to fight for your life.
And finally Henry, I am praying that you might smell the scent of water. Job (14:7) wrote about the hope he saw even in a felled tree. “If its roots are deep in the earth, at the first scent of water it will send forth new green shoots and grow again.” I pray that you will be like that tree, Henry. I pray that despite your prognosis, you will walk again soon on the beach with nothing on your mind except the colors of the water and the feeling of the wind on your face and the sand between your toes. Henry, you can do this. You can beat this. You can find strength of spirit and a resolute courage to fight this disease within you. What I have learned from the sick people who have been my teachers is that such strength and such courage looks more like hope than anger, more like serenity than combativeness. The secret of this fight is to know the feeling of being rooted in the love of family and friends and, for some, God. I am praying for you Henry. I am praying that beyond the smell of antiseptic and crappy hospital food that you might catch a whiff of something fine and bracing and beseeching and incantatory. I am praying that you can catch a scent of water. No matter what tomorrow might bring, Henry, I pray that today your new leaves will begin to sprout.
May God bless you and heal you,
Marc Gellman (Newsweek)
Monday, Apr. 23, 2007
Historically, science hasn’t embraced the connection between faith and health, but today an increasing number of studies show spiritual practices, including prayer influence our health.
Millions of Christians around the world are participating in religious activities during this holy week.
And an increasing amount of research shows those spiritual practices, including prayer, worship and service to others could influence our health.
“Historically, science and religion have been fairly separate, although recently, there’s been a lot of interest in the role of religion, or faith in a person’s health,” says Cherokee Health Systems Psychologist Dr. Parinda Khatri.
Today, many medical professionals and religious leaders believe it’s a blend of the scientific and the spiritual that prove to promote health and reduce disease.
“Prayer is very powerful. Prayer is very positive. We don’t know all the ins and outs about prayer, except we know that it works,” says Revered Bill Fowler from Church Street United Methodist Church.
“The exact connection is a bit of a mystery, but when we think about health today, we think about mind, body and spirit,” explains Dr. Khatri.
There are a range of theories to explain the faith-health connection, healthy behavior, social support, self esteem and coping skills, but most studies focus on the frequency of church attendance and prayer.
“There’s one pretty compelling finding that shows people who attend church regularly have mortality rates that are 25% better than people who don’t attend church regularly,” Dr. Khatri says.
The belief is religious activities may also lead to positive emotions, which have been shown to influence your immune system, health and well-being.
“A lot of life is accepting every day as a gift from God, and we’re to make the very best of what we’re given,” Reverend Fowler explains.
One study found evidence participating in a religion can promote healthy behavior.
It found nearly 75% of female church members had a mammogram in the past two years, compared with only 60% of women in the community.
Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2007
Walk through any bookstore, and you’re likely to run across one of author Stormie Omartian‘s runaway best-sellers—The Power of a Praying Wife, The Power of a Praying Parent, The Power of a Praying Husband, The Power of a Praying Nation, and her most recent, The Power of a Praying Woman (all Harvest House), as well as Praying God’s Will for Your Life (Thomas Nelson). Stormie dominates the Christian booksellers’ best-seller list; her books have ranked in the top 5 for more than 27 consecutive months. And they’re used in countless church small groups and Sunday school classes around the world.
But what’s amazing about Stormie is that she blushes when someone calls her an expert on prayer. “A lot of people think because I’ve written books on prayer that I know something special. But you know what? The truth is, I’m just desperate for God,” she insists. It’s that desperation that seems to be the theme through Stormie’s. … well, stormy. … life.
Raised by a mentally ill mother who verbally and physically abused her, Stormie, 59, spent her childhood locked in closets trying to avoid the rats that lurked there. She spent much of her teens and twenties searching for the love and acceptance she never received at home, which led to suicide attempts, heavy alcohol and drug use, and a failed marriage. Nothing helped her insecurity and pain—until a friend took her to church. There Stormie discovered the love and acceptance she’d longed for through a relationship with Jesus Christ. But calm still didn’t enter Stormie’s life. Although she met and married Michael, a fellow Christian, Michael’s tendency toward verbal abuse brought back all the pain and insecurity of her childhood. Not until 15 years into their marriage did Stormie finally discover the secret to successful living: desperate prayer and total obedience to God.
It was prayer that helped her forgive her mother, strengthen her marriage (Stormie and Michael have been married now for 28 years), heal her insecurities, and learn parenting skills to raise her three children, Chris, now 26, John David, 22, and Amanda, 21. And it brought her through a year-long recovery after she nearly died recently from a burst appendix.
While other people might have turned to bitterness and anger, Stormie turned to God, who’s shaped her into a gentle, genuinely lovely woman. “That’s the Lord,” claims Stormie. “He’s spared me so many times. I found a way out of my suffering, and I want to share that with other people, to let them know there’s hope.” Here’s what Stormie had to say about the power of prayer in this exclusive TCW interview.
When did you first realize prayer’s power?
When I brought my first child, Chris, home from the hospital 26 years ago. Because of my mother’s mental illness, I didn’t have a positive role model for parenting. When Chris would cry and I couldn’t get him to stop, I’d lose it and get angry. I realized that if someone didn’t intervene, I could abuse him as my mother had me. That realization terrified me.
I prayed, “God, help me raise this child. I have no idea how to do it. I don’t want to live with this horrible anger that makes me want to beat him to stop his crying.” I’d put Chris in his crib, go in my room, and cry to God, “Lord, you’ve got to transform me because I can’t change myself. But the Bible says you can. Heal me.”
Every time I felt anger, I went to God in prayer. The more I prayed, the more God lifted it from me. By the time my daughter, Amanda, arrived, I didn’t struggle with anger anymore.
Did prayer help you overcome your traumatic past?
Definitely. My journey from brokenness to wholeness didn’t happen overnight; in fact, it took 14 years from the time I began the process until I was able to help others with the same problems. When I was a new Christian, I thought once you received Jesus into your life, that was it—no more problems. The truth is, while I’d secured eternal life, my life here on earth still needed work!
But my best friend since high school came to Christ the same year I did, and we started attending the same church. Because we had similarly dysfunctional families, we understood each other’s prayer needs. We began praying regularly together over the phone several times a week. Through each low time of discouragement, each difficult decision, our prayers for each other were instrumental in our spiritual growth and emotional healing.
As I matured in my faith, I knew I wanted to forgive my mother. I learned, however, that unforgiveness as deeply rooted as mine must be unraveled one layer at a time. Whenever I’d feel any anger, hatred, and unforgiveness toward her, I had to learn to take charge of my will and deliberately pray, “Lord, my desire is to forgive my mother. Help me to forgive her completely.”
Over several years of doing this more often than I can count, I suddenly realized I no longer hated her; I felt sorry for her instead. Being in touch with the heart of God through prayer for my mother brought such forgiveness in me that when she died a few years later, I had absolutely no bad feelings toward her.
How did you learn to pray so effectively?
It was because I was desperate for God—for his help in overcoming the scars of my past. Every time I read something in the Bible about prayer, I did what it said. For example, the apostle James says we don’t have because we don’t ask (4:2), so I thought, I might as well go ahead and ask! But James 4:3 adds, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives. … ” I realized I have to be obedient to God if I expect him to answer.
Is praying specific prayers important?
I think it is. There’s nothing wrong with telling God what you want, but you’ve always got to pray, “God, more than anything else, I want what you want.”
I try to be honest with God about how I feel, what I need, what I long for and don’t have. But first I go to God in confession to make sure my attitude’s right. For example, if I harbor unforgiveness toward my husband, it puts up a wall between God and me. Only confession clears the channel between us and God.
What if a woman feels her prayers don’t sound “good enough”?
Oh, I feel that way, too. I’ve often thought, I’m nobody. Why would God answer my prayers? But thank God he’s not impressed by eloquence; he’s impressed by our longing for him.
How do we get that longing?
Everybody has longings—for a husband, a child, close companionship, a better job, a bigger house. However, most of the time what we’re really longing for is God’s presence in our life. We just misinterpret the longings.
For instance, nine years ago my family and I moved to Tennessee. Michael was working long hours, and my kids, who were in junior high and high school, didn’t need me as they used to. I was alone most of the time and so lonely.
Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I burst into tears and prayed, “God, this feeling in me hurts. Take away this loneliness.” Suddenly, I felt his presence so strong in my heart that the loneliness lifted. God helped me recognize my loneliness as a call to be with him. So every time I felt lonely after that, I’d pray, “Lord, I’m lonely for more of you.”
You could have fallen into self-pity.
That’s exactly what I did at first! I felt sorry for myself and thought, I’m going to be lonely all my life. But when I looked to God instead of someone else to fulfill my needs, he took my loneliness away. When I do what Jesus says to do in Mark 11:24—to ask him for something—God actually answers! I’ve been blown away by God’s answers to prayer. Once I started to receive answers like that, I thought, If I prayed about this and he answered, what else might he answer?
But what about when God doesn’t seem to answer?
I have a family member for whose salvation I pray. … a wonderful person who’s closed off to the gospel. When I think of this person’s background, I understand the reasons. But I wonder, Lord, I’ve been praying for this person to come to you for 25 years. How much longer do I have to pray for this? But I can’t stop praying even though I don’t see an answer.
Sometimes I think God allows things to go on and on so our roots grow strong in him. It requires us to lay down our desires and say, “Not my will, God, but yours be done.” When we’re burdened about something, God either will change the situation—or our heart.
I’d like to be able to quit praying about my husband’s anger, but apparently that’s a prayer I’m going to have to pray for the rest of my life. I don’t get it! I don’t know why certain prayers seem as though they never get fully answered. Michael’s gotten so much better; it’s nothing like it was before. But I don’t understand why there has to be any anger. So I’m still praying, because a wife’s prayers for her husband are more powerful than anybody else’s.
Why do you say that?
Because God’s made the husband and wife one. So when you pray for your husband, you essentially pray for yourself. What happens to my husband happens to me. If he’s had a bad day, I guarantee I’ll have a bad one, too. So it’s to my benefit if I pray for him to have a good day.
Is that why you started praying for Michael?
I started praying for my kids first. Up until 13 years ago, it never occurred to me to pray anything more than “protect Michael” kind of prayers. But Michael brought anger into our marriage. Whenever he was upset about something, he’d lash out at me and the kids. After 15 years of marriage, the verbal abuse got so bad, I couldn’t take it anymore; I wanted out. I had no option but to pray a desperate prayer: “God, this situation’s killing me. Everything in me wants to take the kids and leave.”
After one particularly rough week, Michael went on a business trip and my kids spent the weekend with some friends. The empty house only magnified how empty I felt. So I told God, “I need answers. I’m not eating until I hear something from you.” I stayed in my bed, read my Bible, prayed, journaled, and fasted.
Why did you fast?
The Bible’s filled with references to prayer and fasting as the way to receive God’s wisdom and power. I knew if I wanted to see a breakthrough, fasting was the way to do it.
So it’s going to the next level?
Yes. It’s about putting God first. Every time I felt a hunger pang, I’d pray about my marriage. I’m sure God had been speaking to me about my marriage for years, but it wasn’t until I began to fast that I really heard him.
And what did he tell you?
That instead of praying, “God, make Michael more this, less that,” I was to pray, “God, change me to become the person you want me to be—and change Michael to become the person you want him to be.”
That doesn’t seem fair!
You’re right. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It took me several hours just to come to the point of saying, “Okay, God, I’ll stay in the marriage and do things your way.” I sobbed. I felt as though I was dying inside. But I stayed—with no guarantee our life together would change. I didn’t start praying that way for Michael because I felt like it, but because I wanted to obey God.
Did you ever think, Why am I the one who has to pray?
Oh, I asked that many times. That’s when God would say, “I’ll work with whomever is willing. You’re willing—you start.”
But wasn’t it difficult to pray for Michael when he got angry?
I’d have to start by confessing I didn’t want to pray for him! I’d hold onto some hurt, some anger for the things he’d say. But the more honest I became with God, the more he showed me that while I may have forgiven an incident, I hadn’t forgiven Michael. I had to confess that and then pray for help. Once I did, I was shocked at how quickly God started answering my prayers.
What started changing?
Instead of confronting, pleading, ignoring, debating, or giving him the silent treatment, I’d withdraw from Michael and go pray for him: “God, what is this anger? Where is it coming from? How can I pray about it?” God gave me insights into the reasons for Michael’s misplaced anger, such as his being raised by an overbearing, overcritical mother. As my reactions changed, Michael softened.
I started to pray for his relationship with our kids, and was amazed when I watched it dramatically improve. For example, Michael began taking father-son golf trips with our son Chris. They’re doing all this stuff together they didn’t have a chance to do years ago because Michael spent so much time at work when the kids were young. Our family’s really tight now.
Michael has a heart for God. He really wants to do right. He’s not so strong-willed that he won’t change, that he won’t say he’s sorry. Things are so much better between us than they were before. I feel as though God’s redeemed our relationship because of my being able to pray for it. And my recent near-death experience from a burst appendix transformed Michael into a praying husband.
What do you say to the woman who no longer feels anything for her husband?
I’ve been there. At one point, I told my husband I didn’t love him any more. I didn’t say that to hurt him; I said that to let him know how badly he’d hurt me. I didn’t feel anything, not love, not tenderness. But God restored that.
Are you saying God can resurrect a marriage?
Yes, he can. I’ve seen it. I’ve gotten so many letters from women who’ve said they were separated or divorced, but when they started to pray, their marriage was restored. Some of these stories are astounding.
Only our God is a God who transforms us from the inside out. All you have to say is, “God, I’m willing to open my heart to you.”
But that’s no guarantee prayer will transform a “D” marriage into an “A” marriage.
Right. You’re still dealing with individuals who have free will. It always takes two people. If a husband’s so strong-willed he won’t change, God won’t violate a spouse’s free will.
I recently received a letter from a woman who’d been praying for her husband for a year after he left her to live with someone else. He’s had a kid with this other woman. She was tearing herself up, thinking she was supposed to keep praying for him to come back even though she didn’t feel the Holy Spirit asking her to. I wrote back, “You prayed. You’ve done everything you can do. Be released from him. He’s chosen his life. Unless God puts it in your heart to keep praying, don’t feel as though you’re doing wrong by letting that go. Just pray, ‘God, I release this relationship into your hands. If you want to restore it, restore it. If not, release me.'”
What about the married woman who suffers physical abuse?
I have zero tolerance for that. I don’t advise a woman to stay and pray; I tell her to get out and get counseling. Pray from afar. The Lord never condones physical abuse.
Were you involved in a women’s group while you struggled in your marriage?
Oh, yes. We met every Tuesday, and I shared with them what was going on. They prayed about it for me every week.
Did you tell Michael what you shared with the group?
Yes, I told him. He even wanted to share some of our struggles with the group himself! We trusted these women. And we knew they weren’t going to betray our confidence.
Where would your marriage be had you not been involved in this prayer group?
There wouldn’t be a marriage. There would have been a divorce.
Even if you’d prayed on your own?
I didn’t get to the point of being able to pray effectively on my own without the aid of what these women gave me. They helped me develop my walk with God. When you’re accountable to each other and you all share with and pray for each other, that matures you.
What other advice do you have on prayer?
I challenge women to think, What could I accomplish today if I allowed God to work through me? What would I like to see? Think of something you want to do beyond what you can do, and pray for that.
So you’re advocating praying big prayers.
Yes. Too often we underestimate prayer’s power. When you realize that power, you realize you can’t afford not to pray. The more you have to do, the more time you should spend praying. And that, in turn, blesses what you’re doing.
I also want women to know they can pray blessings into their life.
Is that why you wrote The Power of a Praying Woman?
It’s because I realized women are often so busy praying for others, they neglect to pray for themselves. I want to teach women how to pray for their life in a way probably no one else does for them.
Jesus said, “I came so that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NASB). That’s the kind of life he desires for us! But our best efforts to break out of our self-defeating cycle of bad habits or negative patterns can’t happen without God’s power. And that can’t happen without prayer. I want women to move into powerful praying for themselves.
But that almost feels. …
Selfish that we’re praying for ourselves? Exactly. But it’s really not. It’s okay to say, “Bless me, Lord.” I discovered that in my prayer group. I’d just written The Power of a Praying Wife. I knew God had worked in my marriage, and I wanted God to work in other women’s marriages, too. So I asked God to let that book be a breakthrough. I didn’t feel as though I was praying a selfish prayer; I knew this book had a powerful message, and I wanted it to go all over the world. I felt I was praying in line with what God wanted.
So when this book took off right after that, I was filled with awe. So far it’s been translated into 15 languages. Every time I get copies of a translation for another country, I break down and cry. I mean, why would that book go to places such as South America and Nigeria? Only God can do that. It certainly isn’t anything I’ve done.
The Bible’s full of passages in which someone prayed, “Bless me, Lord.” We need to know it’s okay to pray, “God, bless my life today. Bring into it what you want. I’m open to whatever blessings you want to give—and whatever correction you want, too.” You ask so you can be a channel for what God wants to do through you, no matter if you’re single, married, old, or young. Every woman can pray over her life. I think it’s essential.
How can a woman get her husband to pray for her?
It’s funny you ask that. One woman asked me, “How can I get my husband to read your book The Power of a Praying Husband?” I said, “You pray!” There’s no other way you can get your husband to pray for you other than to ask him to—and then pray yourself.
And keep at it?
Some day, when we get to heaven, I hope we’ll see all the ways God answered our prayers even when we didn’t know about it! That’s why I really want to encourage women to pray. Sometimes it feels as though our prayers aren’t heard, that we’re babbling into space or that our words hit the ceiling. But if you pray in Jesus’ name, they are powerful. Those prayers are heard, and they are doing something—even if you don’t see God’s answers this side of heaven.
Friday, Apr. 13, 2007
Are health care professionals (HCPs) spiritual? Spirituality is defined here as an ongoing relationship with God regardless of whether one is healthy, chronically stressed out, or sick. I encourage fellow HCPs to pray for, and with, their patients. Regardless of their belief system, HCPs have the ability to grow in practice depth, humility and compassion toward their patients, and model the concept of abundant wellness to those who are interested.
Research supports that prayer benefits our patients in the areas of depression management, as well as coping with serious medical illness. One study reported that 44 percent of patients surveyed experienced healing through prayer at some time in their lives. A meta-analysis of 42 studies found that the odds of survival were 29 percent higher for individuals involved in spiritual practice.
Studies regarding the medical effectiveness of intercessory prayer offered on behalf of others began to evolve in the 1960s. Results have been mixed. Yet, I have witnessed medical miracles over the past nine years as intercessory prayers were offered for my father during his chronic illnesses, including remission from multiple cancers. His healing defied logic and science.
If our perceptions of our patients’ need for prayer are not synchronized with their spiritual assertions, here are some tips to help us close the gap. First, we can create a spiritual wellness journal and write our own spiritual history through sickness and health, then share it with other interested HCPs. We can invite our patients to seek out HCPs who are equally focused on spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. We should believe that God guides HCPs in the healing process whether or not this notion is articulated in their presence. Next, we might partner with our patients, asking open-ended questions like: “Sounds like you are trying to cope with a lot of health issues right now. Would you mind if I pray with you?” or, “Do you have a spiritual support community/system (i.e., chaplain, pastor, rabbi)?” Intuitive HCPs will take their patients’ lead for next steps.
Spiritual practice demonstrates gratitude for our gifts and humility in our relationships with our patients. Imagine health systems employees praying daily, from accounting, to housekeeping, to pharmacy, to nurses and physicians. For me, these scenarios represent a whole relationship with God on Earth. I, and many other HCPs, believe that faith-based prayers to God are important instruments for healing for all of us. Spiritual HCPs may wish to consider integrating prayer into their professional practice.
Tuesday, Mar. 6, 2007
The power of prayer can be beneficial to people with psychological or mental problems, a recent study suggests.
Assistant professor David Hodge’s research, “A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature on Intercessory Prayer,” is a meta-analysis of 17 studies that question the connection between healing and God or some other magnificent being.
“This research is very controversial,” said Hodge, an assistant professor of social work at the West campus who specializes in religion and spirituality. “One study might show positive results; one study might show no results.
“Overall, they show that there is some added benefit that comes from intercessory prayer or prayer done for the benefit of another person,” he added
The studies Hodge reviewed used randomized double-blind methodology, so there were no placebo effects.
Although some positive results were seen, Hodge said that the strength of intercessory prayer is not as effective as cognitive behavior therapy. CBT is the sort of therapy that deals with the role of thinking in the way a person feels and acts.
“People suffering from an illness like depression should seek medical attention,” Hodge said. “Prayer can be used as an intervention in the healing process, but it can’t replace CBT.”
Adam Cohen, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said studies show that people are typically healthier when they use positive coping methods such as prayer, rather that using negative outlets. But seeking a connection to religion in this controversial research may be theologically inappropriate.
“If God has a plan for everyone, can you make God arbitrarily change his mind by praying for the health or life of a sick person?” Cohen said. “Religion says you’re not supposed to test God.”
Cohen did a fellowship at the Center for the Study of Religion/Spirituality and Health at Duke University Medical Center.
“Prayer is not any less meaningful, but then is God supposed to be some type of ‘cosmic butler’ when we ask him to do something?” he asked.
For criminal justice senior David Vu, an intern at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center, it is an issue of mind over matter.
“If you believe you can be spiritually healed, you feel more comfortable, more guided, more at ease,” said Vu, who has been attending religious retreats his whole life. “Then, it is beneficial to your health.”
Rev. James Thompson, associate director for the All Saints Catholic Newman Center, said he doesn’t think prayer can control things in life, but that it’s common sense that someone with a healthy religious life will be physically healthier as well.
“Essentially, prayer makes us more receptive and opens us up to whatever God’s providence or will is,” Thompson said. “Praying is an aspect of life that creates a full person.”
Monday, Mar. 5, 2007
A neighbor saved an elderly woman from her burning home Sunday morning.
Humberto Niavez braved the flames of 86-year-old Susie Llano’s home around 4 a.m. on Sunday morning.
Niavez said he was awakened by the flames and did the first thing he could do think of.
“I went straight through and I saw her sitting on her bed,” Niavez said. “I said, ‘Susie, let’s go. The house is on fire and I can’t breathe.'”
At that point, Niavez said he grabbed her and pulled her out of the smoldering home.
Llano’s relatives said Niavez coming to their loved ones rescue was an answer to prayer.
When Llano noticed the fire, she began to pray and continued to do so until her neighbor rescued her.
Rudy Orozco, Llano’s nephew, said he is grateful that Niavez came to the rescue.
“(My aunt) is always helping everybody and now I’m just glad I have neighbors to help her,” Orozco said. “I’m glad she’s okay. Thank you, Jesus.”
Relatives overwhelmed Niavez with hugs and appreciation after the rescue.
Niavez said although he’s considered a hero, he was just being a good neighbor.
“I’m just a neighbor looking out for my neighbors and I would do this for anyone around here or anywhere else,” Niavez said.
Llano was not injured by the fire.