One thing that gave my dad hope, especially on the days when he wasn’t feeling well enough and had little to no energy, is that he could still make a difference in people’s lives by praying for them.I think it’s only now that he’s left this earth that he’s finally seeing the power of prayer. It was very difficult and at times discouraging for my dad when his illness kept him from the active life he used to lead.
He missed being able to go to Mass with the family, take Communion to the sick, and volunteer with the Special Olympics once his condition worsened. It encouraged him immensely that he could offer prayer coverage for family, friends, and the world from the comfort of his favorite recliner. Long after his years of being able to play sports, do rigorous work-outs and weight-lifting, he was training as a warrior, a prayer warrior that is.
So often we don’t know how or if our prayers are making a difference. Sometimes, especially when in a period of spiritual dryness when it’s hard to see or feel God’s presence, we can begin to wonder if God’s really listening. And if He’s listening, why isn’t He answering us right away?
In August, my aunt Carol reminded me of a book I read years ago called A Lamp unto My Feet by Elisabeth Elliot. In this book of very powerful meditations and reflections, she talks about how prayer works, trusting in God, and discerning His will among many other things.
She begins the book by talking about something used a long time ago that was literally a little light that you’d attach to your toe. It would allow you to see only that which was directly in front of you. Many times this is how God leads us. He may put a desire in our heart to reach a certain destination, but we are only given enough light to take the next step of the journey, as it says in the “Our Father,” we ask for and are supplied with just enough bread for one day.
If we do our best to remain on the right path and accept the light He offers, then we’re doing His will. He knows we’ll stumble sometimes or decide to back along a path He’s already let us know won’t lead us to Him, but through His mercy, He will always lead us back to the path He knows is best for us, if we let Him.
Another section in A Lamp unto My Feet that has stuck with me ever since is one that my mom has reminded me of during difficult times: as soon as we say a prayer, it reaches God and the answer to it comes out from His throne room. We may not know the answer right away. It may even take years to reach us because God’s perfect timing isn’t often ours, but it’s reassuring the minute we pray or even when we’re too weak to pray and the Holy Spirit must intercede for us, then an answer is sent out. Our questions aren’t ignored. Sometimes the lag time in getting the answer is time He uses to prepare us in the ways He knows we need for the answer He plans to give. Again, back to one of the reminders I often return to from a Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir song: “though we often don’t know just how, God is working even now.”
Last spring, when my mom led the 40 Days for Life campaign in Richmond, VA, my dad and grandma joined their prayers from home with those of ours who were able to take part in the peaceful, prayerful vigil at the abortion clinic.
My dad made hundreds of phone calls inviting people to be involved in the prayer vigil. He spent hours praying from home and talked with his friends about the true colors of Planned Parenthood, the abortion mills of America. Since he didn’t have a computer or e-mail, I would call and tell him about the children saved, the abortion center workers who quit, the healing that took place, and numerous people who got involved.
God has given us a powerful gift, the ability to pray. We can do this anywhere for anyone, regardless of our physical condition, income, education, class in society, and we will be heard by our Lord.