My wife and I are the parents to three incredible girls. Who am I kidding? They are very much women now all living independently and leading their own lives. One is in Georgia, one in Northern Virginia and the eldest lives in Roanoke with her husband and our granddaughter.
In spite of the challenges I faced in the years they lived at home, we diligently made the effort to eat dinner every evening together. A focal point of the meal was the blessing that would be spoken before we would eat. And I was OK with someone speaking a prayer, but it wasn’t going to be me.
My wife and three daughters would take turns each night speaking the blessing. But, dad would not. Out of respect, I would bow my head during this time. In fact, I may even utter an ‘amen’ at the end of the prayer, but I would not speak a prayer.
This aversion to praying was not limited to meal times. I did not pray with my wife. I did not speak bedtime prayers over my children. I did not spend time as part of a morning devotional. I simply did not pray. I do recall speaking a prayer on Sunday afternoons hoping that God would give my football team the victory. “Just let them win this Sunday and I will even show up to church next Sunday.” And, in the midst of the darkest times in my life I would cry out to a God that I doubted would have any concern for me. In fact, on some level, I probably did this several times a day, but I did not speak a prayer to God that had any faith or belief backing it.
But, I had a praying wife.
My wife lived out her faith in front of me. She was what I have come to know as a fervent prayer warrior. I would often see her sitting next to me with her head bowed expecting that she had dozed off and would nudge her.
She’d say, “Stop it. I am praying.” I would wake up in the middle of the night and witness my wife kneeling beside our bed while praying. I would mock her for her behavior. I would chastise her and tell her to knock off that nonsense and get back in bed.
Frankly, I would be disgusted. How could she believe in such?
Oh sure, when I would find our backs against the wall with a financial concern or some health crisis, I would tell her to say one those prayers. But, I wouldn’t speak it.
In 1993, as I laid in a bed in the intensive care unit of our local hospital suffering from liver failure relating to an overdose, my wife came into the room. She had just received the dire news from our doctor about his prognosis. With as stern a voice as she could muster, she grabbed my hand and said, “You’re going to pray with me right now!”
What is prayer? Prayer is simply communication with God. It is speaking words of thanksgiving and praise to our heavenly Father. It is speaking words interceding on behalf of the needs of another. It is speaking words of supplication for our own needs. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV), the apostle Paul instructs the church to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
And that is just what my wife was doing. She would tell me that God doesn’t always say yes in response to her prayers. And he doesn’t always say no. “Sometimes,” she would say, “God says not right now.”
I have come to believe in the power of prayer. In fact, I will stop and pray with people wherever I am when the opportunity arises or a request for prayer is made. I will speak a blessing at meal time. I will pray facedown at the altar of whatever church I am attending.
I am so very thankful for the example my wife lived out in front of me, even while I persecuted her for it.