“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
– James 5:16 (New Living Translation)
I remember the day Mary’s note arrived, because I had spent most of the night before tossing and turning about a medical test I’d be taking the following day. I never considered myself much of a worrier, but this was different. I was in my thirties, busy with family and a blossoming writing career. I didn’t have time for breast cancer.
After needling it for fluid, my doctor turned to me and said it definitely wasn’t a cyst. “It’s good you found it,” he said, “and if it’s anything serious, don’t worry. We’ve caught it early.”
I suppose that was his way of saying everything would be fine, but it set my worry wheel in motion.
I tore into Mary’s letter (yes, this was in the days of real paper letters, folks), glad for such timely contact from an old friend. “I don’t know what’s going on with you,” she wrote, “but God has been pestering me to pray for you. What’s up?”
God is a nudger. When we’re willing to listen, He’ll often whisper the name of someone in our ear and urge us to pray. Sometimes the nudge comes in the middle of the night. That’s what Mary claimed she received numerous times over the course of that week. Sometimes the nudge to pray comes when we’re in the middle of doing something routine.
I love those nudges because I know that I can trust God’s timing. It’s not that He needs you or me specifically. If we’re too sidetracked, too sleepy, or too lazy to respond, He’ll quickly find someone else, but He doesn’t give up.
Sometimes the Lord nudges me to pray for a passersby, like the old woman I saw walking along the highway one afternoon, or the young mom screaming at her kids in a parking lot. Usually, though, He nudges me to pray for people I know, without a clue as to the urgency of their need. (I remember one night waking up at 3 a.m., with a friend’s name on my mind. Little did I know that she was awake in her house, too, struggling with the thought of her upcoming kidney transplant.)
Many years ago, I read an article about a woman who was awakened with a sudden need to pray for a missionary couple from her church. She’d never experienced such a panicky urge to pray, and couldn’t go back to sleep until the feeling had lifted. A few months later, that same missionary couple visited this woman’s home church while on furlough, and were speaking to a gathering of friends one Sunday evening. They described a day when they were traveling across the African plains in a Jeep.
“Suddenly the ground shook and we automatically thought, EARTHQUAKE!” he said. Seconds later, a quick glance in the rearview mirror told him everything he needed to know. “A gigantic cloud of dust rose from the earth as a herd of elephants bore down on us. I didn’t know what to do. It was obvious we couldn’t outrun them, so I just stopped the Jeep right then and there. It all happened so fast!”
Miraculously, the stampeding elephants tore past on either side of their vehicle, like the Red Sea parting to let the Israelites through. After the church meeting, they discovered that God had awakened their friend in the middle of the night in the U.S. At the very hour they were in danger of being overrun by stampeding elephants, this dear friend was answering a nudge to pray–without knowing why.
God’s nudges are never wrong. My friend Mary’s prayers strengthened and comforted me when I was facing the unknown. Thankfully, a biopsy found the lump was benign, but if it had been cancer, I know that God would have provided plenty of prayer support.
I have a feeling that someday in heaven, we’ll discover how the prayers of both friends and strangers played a vital role in our lives. In fact, answering the call of those gentle nudges from God might be the single most important thing any of us will ever do.
©2008, Bonnie Bruno
For more slice-of-life stories, visit Bonnie’s Macromoments blog: http://macromoments.blogspot.com