The Power of Prayer: A lesson that took 4 years
It was late at night as I knelt down by my daughter’s bed. As I had done for the last several months, I cried out to God for healing. I commanded the enemy to leave her alone. I pleaded for God to protect her. I was facing the greatest challenge in any father’s life and it was quickly becoming more than I could bear.
My young daughter, Annie, was suffering from a serious life threatening illness. She had been in and out of hospitals but all the doctors could do was adjust her medication to try to control her disease. When she was home, she required lots of special care. There was no hope of a cure. I was told that 25% of children with this illness died before age 24.
Throughout her illness, I felt helpless. There seemed to be nothing I could do to make her better. I did not understand what she was going through or how to respond to her needs. I could not sleep at night. I woke at two or three in the morning and simply could not get back to sleep. I began to get angry at God. I was frustrated by my sleepless nights. I searched for something positive that I could do. Eventually, I decided to use this time to pray for Annie. I went up to her room and knelt over her bed. I put one hand on her and prayed for God to protect her. I had done this for months but this night something different happened. As I got up to leave, I heard this little voice say, "I love you daddy." It melted my heart.
Neither of us mentioned the prayer time the next morning. I had no idea that this ritual of prayer would continue for four years. Every night I would slip into her room and two or three times a week, as I left, I would once again hear “I love you daddy.”
I always felt better after prayer, so I no longer resented my inability to sleep. I even began to look forward to that quiet time with the Lord, praying for my daughter. Four years after she got sick her condition started to improve. I was able to sleep through most of the night, so I did not get up to her room to pray for her as often.
One day something happened that brought all those moments back to my mind. Annie and I had never spoken openly about those nights of prayer. It was a quiet secret that we shared but never discussed. It is almost as if talking about those times would break the spell of peace they brought to us. But all that was about to change. God was going to bless us both in a way that neither of us could ever have imagined.
On a Friday afternoon, Annie ran into the house very excited. She had a gift that she could not even wait to wrap before she gave it to me. She had found it that afternoon at our local Christian book store. She was holding it behind her back but it was too large to be completely hidden. I could tell that was a picture frame, but what it held was still a mystery to me. She sat me down and pulled out a painting. She burst into tears as she gave it to me. One look at the painting and I was in tears as well. It was a painting of a father kneeling over his daughter's bed in prayer. The caption said Spiritual Warfare. It quoted James 5:16, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
What had remained unspoken all those years: all the sleepless nights of prayer, all the whispered “I love you daddys” suddenly came out. We hugged each other as Annie told me just how much those early morning prayers meant to her. At that instant I was in such awe of God and His grace that I was speechless. In that moment, He let me know the true power of prayer. That brief moment with Annie redeemed all the sleepless nights of worry. I would not have traded that moment for four years of peace.
I learned that the real power of prayer is not in the content of the prayer but in the simple act of praying. It was my act of getting on my knees before the Lord that sustained Annie and me for those four long years. You see, God already knew how the struggle was going to work out. What really sustained me and my family was the fact that during each sleepless night through prayer I was able to take Annie by the hand, and we were able to walk beside the Lord God in the garden in the cool of day (Genesis 3:8) just as Adam and Eve had done before the fall. Therein lies the true power of prayer.
Several years later, God totally healed Annie much to the surprise of her doctors. She has given us a beautiful grandchild. Someday I will tell him the story of how I fought on my knees for his mother’s life for four long years. I hope he will come to understand the power that can be found in the simple act of prayer.