Let me ask you a couple questions… What do you REALLY believe about the power of prayer? Do you believe God moves mountains — not just when the “super-Christians” pray — but when YOU pray? And when you hear a story of an incredible answer to pray, do you believe it or are you quick to chalk it up to urban legend or exaggeration?
Got your answers to those questions? Read on!
Over the past month I read several books (I bet you’re not surprised! 🙂 ) and came across the exact same story in two different writings. A story by Helen Roseveare, a physician from Northern Ireland who served as a medical missionary in Zaire, Africa. It’s a story about the power of prayer. Granted, without being an eyewitness to these events myself, I have no way of knowing if things actually happened the way she said they did. But after reading about it twice in a matter of weeks, I sensed a nudge from the Holy Spirit to share it with you, with some of my reflections along the way.
Here is Helen’s story, in her own words, with a bit of editing and paraphrasing from me:
One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward. In spite of all that we could do, she died. Leaving us with a tiny, premature baby, and a crying two-year-old daughter.
The moment the mother died, we knew we would have difficulty keeping her baby alive. We had no incubator and even if we had one, we had no electricity to run it. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.
A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst.
And it was our last hot water bottle.
In the middle of the bush, I can’t drive to the local CVS to buy a replacement or go on amazon.com and get one shipped next day air.
The following noon, as I did on most days, I gathered with the children from our orphanage for prayer time. I told them about the tiny baby and her two-year-old sister. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the burst hot water bottle, and how the baby could easily die if it got chilled.
During the prayer time, a ten-year-old girl named Ruth prayed with the usual blunt manner of African children: “Please God, send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God. The baby will be dead by then. So please send it this afternoon.”
And while I was gasping inwardly at the shameless audacity of her prayer, she added,
“… and while You’re at it, would You please send a dolly for her older sister so she’ll know You really love her?”
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, “Amen”? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: the Bible says so, but there are limits, aren’t there?
The only way He could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost 4 years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from him. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Instead of writing the conclusion of the story in this blog, I want to hit the pause button. Because in this day and age, we are far too quick to read a powerful story and move on, without really thinking about or reflecting on what we read. Without allowing the story to impact us. To change us.
So I am going to force you to do that by not sharing the rest of the story for a bit! 🙂
Before you hear the ending, here are some questions for reflection:
- Put yourself in Helen’s shoes. How would you have prayed that day?
- When you pray about the needs in your life and your loved ones, do you pray with the shameless audacity of that ten-year-old girl?
- If you were in that prayer group that afternoon, could you have said “Amen” to that girl’s prayer? In other words, would you have had the faith to believe that not only God COULD answer her prayer, but that He WOULD answer it?
Think about it. And stay tuned for the conclusion.
***Hell’s Angels. That’s my sermon title for this Sunday. And no, I won’t be preaching about the motorcycle gang that goes by that name! 🙂 We just kicked off our “Angels & Demons” series and last week I focused on the first half of that title — what the Bible teaches about angels — so this week I am going to focus on the second half of the series title: demons. January 11th. 10:30am. The Eastside Vineyard Church gathers inside Shelby Jr. High School (51700 Van Dyke // 2 blocks north of 23 Mile). More info at tevchurch.org***