Scared and Prayer
Those who don’t know my family may find it odd that my 32 year old brother spends the night at my house a few times a month or that I read to him from a Bible story picture book. But Berkeley has Down Syndrome, and his mind is still that of a child.
How much of the story he understands? I’ve never been sure, but I want him to know God. I don’t want to risk that his mind has grown to an age of accountability and I haven’t done everything I could to introduce him to God; so I keep on reading the Bible stories to him.
You would think, then, that I’d have been filled with joy on Saturday night during Bible time, when he pointed to a picture of Jesus and said, “Grandpa and Grandmom with Jesus?”
“Yes,” I said, “Grandpa and Grandmom are with Jesus.”
Then he pointed to himself and said, “Berky and Jesus.”
Fear, not elation, squeezed my heart. A bitter taste came into my mouth, and my pulse began to pound in my eardrums.
A few days earlier, Berkeley had gone through a series of tests including an endoscopy of his esophagus and a barium swallow test. “This esophagus is very abnormal,” the doctor said as he took samples for biopsy.
Now, in less than two days, my parents were scheduled to meet with his doctor to review the results of those tests. I work with doctors; I know what esophageal cancer is, and I know Berkeley’s risk factors. I also know the survival rates of this devastating disease – very poor.
God, I screamed in my head, please not that. Please don’t take Berkeley away from us.
But we are Christians; we trust that God is in control. So the next morning, I put on my Sunday, smiling face and went to church; and our pastor preached a sermon on I Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.” Daniel’s consistent, faithful prayer life was used as an example of what this verse means.
No way around it – the message was convicting to me. God doesn’t want our prayer lives to blossom when we’re in dire straits and our only resource is Him. He wants our prayers, our communication with Him to exist at all times. But even right then, when I was feeling the enormity of what could be, I was struggling. When I prayed, it reminded me that there was a problem. I didn’t want to acknowledge the thoughts rolling around in my head; and secondly, I didn’t know what to pray. Do I pray that he doesn’t have cancer? Do I pray that if he does, God will heal him? Or do I pray that God will just give us the strength to get through whatever lies ahead? I wanted my prayers to be meaningful and rational – not just vain repetitions like the ones mentioned in Matthew 6.
As I left church, friends squeezed my hand and assured me that they were praying for our family. I thought back to when Berkeley was born and people all over the world prayed for a baby they’d never met. I was reminded of the power of prayer and of the peace that comes when we turn the outcome over to God.
The morning sermon, and those prayers, the ones of my friends, gave me strength to really pray that evening – to have a real conversation with God about my fear and inability to know what to say. Amazingly, I went to bed and slept through the night.
When I received a phone call the next day saying that his esophagus, although problematic, was free of cancer, I broke down and cried from relief and thankfulness.
We know the basic truths that God answers prayer and gives us peace; but for me I needed to be reminded of the following:
- Prayer is a means to communicate with God so that we draw close to Him. He hears, honors, and answers our prayers; but prayer is NOT a magic incantation that we sprinkle over things when we need them to turn out ok. At the same time, we are told to bring our requests to God; so it is ridiculous not to ask God for what we need. Philippians 4:6 “…let your requests be made known unto God.”
- Pray for others with needs. Sometimes the burden is so great, that those closest to the trial need your prayers if for no other reason than to help them keep praying. In Ephesians 3:14 Paul says that he bowed his knees in prayer for the believers.
- The Holy Spirit will aid and intercede for us when we don’t know what to say. Romans 8:26
I needed closeness to God so that I could accept whatever the results of those tests were going to be. I was oh so thankful for the way things turned out, but what if the diagnosis had been different? More than ever, I would have needed the strength that God gives when we are so close to Him that prayer is more like breathing than speaking.