Little did I know how close my son would come to dying that day. I often wonder what my older children that have moved out are up to. Like any parent, I worry about what messes they may get themselves into and how their lack of life experiences could allow pain to come into their lives. I know that I can’t be there for them all the time, which is why I am glad that God is, and that He urges us to pray when we need to.
It was a Sunday morning a few weeks ago. It started like any other Sunday morning. We arrived just in time for Sunday School with the breakfast snack my wife often makes for our class. After Sunday School we visited with others and caught up on some of the events of the week while waiting for the worship service to begin. My wife was in the choir so I was alone with our two daughters (the two still at home) in the pew. I was paying a bit more attention than I normally would since the pastor had asked me to help distribute the elements for the Lord’s Supper toward the end of the service.
Soon after the service began though, my mind strangely wandered to Frank Peretti’s book, This Present Darkness which was a story that dramatically portrayed the supernatural battles that take place in our world and the power of prayer to help defeat Satan’s attacks on God’s children. I was remembering one of the scenes where one of the characters was in a van driving (or being driven) along a dangerous mountain road. Demons were on one side trying to push the van over the edge while angels were on the other side trying to hold it on the road. The angels seemed to gain or lose their power as a direct result of how much believers were praying in those moments for that person in the van (if I remember the story correctly, it’s been years since I listed to an audio version!).
Anyway, this memory of the spiritual fight in Peretti’s book led me to think about my three older children who are out on their own. My heart began to sink deep in my chest as I got the very real impression that one of them was in some kind of trouble. I felt very strongly that God was urging me, no-driving me to pray for them as though my prayer in that moment would save them from some danger or worse, some evil.
I had never before felt such a strong need to pray.
We were in the middle of the service and the pastor was well into his message. I didn’t want to disrupt the service so prayed where I was in the pew. I’m not sure if others noticed the tears in my eyes as I prayed, or not, but that wasn’t what was on my mind. All that I could think of was my children and how they needed me to pray for them.
The pastor’s preaching, while usually something that I want to pay attention to, was just distracting me from my task at hand on this day. I considered slipping out to find a quiet room to pray in but remembered that the pastor was counting on my help with the Lord’s Supper. So I just continued to pray where I was.
I pleaded for my children’s safety. I begged for God to send angels to protect them. I prayed in Jesus’ name that the Holy Spirit would flood wherever they were with His presence. I asked that God would send Christians to them that could help them where they are. I really didn’t know what I was praying for so I just prayed for everything that I could think of for those three children.
I prayed hard, really hard.
Eventually, the pastor finished his message and we were called forward to assist with Communion, though my heart and mind wasn’t in it. While trying to still focus on the sacrament, I continued to pray for my kids. Once everyone had received the elements and the pastor led us in partaking of them, the spiritual presence of God in those moments surprisingly took on greater significance to me as I continued to intercede for my family.
As soon as the worship service was over, I pulled out my phone and began to text my kids and asked them simply, “R U OK?” My third child, didn’t reply for a while, but my second texted me back that she was fine, as did my oldest. The other who I hadn’t heard from finally texted me back as well with a positive reply. I was almost disappointed! I really expected one of them to confess that they were in some spiritual struggle, or had been in a church service and heard God speak to them, or something else dramatic.
Their replies made me wonder why I felt so much like I had to pray.
I know that we often don’t know the impact or results of our prayers. I know that God’s hand of safety often protects us from things that we weren’t even aware of being a danger. I know that my prayers weren’t for nothing, that there was something going on that needed my prayer, so I was satisfied that I did what I needed to do. What God told me to do.
All three of my kids eventually asked me why I had asked such a curious question. I explained to them how I had felt drawn to pray for them and the urgency that it seemed I was involved in. Then my oldest son replied, “I was riding in someone’s car earlier and they almost hit a bus. Thanks for the prayers.” So maybe there was something more!
I later got more of the story from my son who lives in Akron, Ohio. He said he and two of his friends “were on [their] way back from the grocery store. [His friend] was driving. He was easily distracted, and didn’t notice the bus stopping in front of him. At the last second, he was able to swerve into the other lane, which usually wouldn’t have been any better, because [they] were driving through a busy part of town. We slid right between two cars and didn’t die.”
When you tangle with a bus and other motor vehicles, it often doesn’t turn out well, especially downtown when there’s a lot of traffic. It seems that my son believes it was a near miss, that there really should have been an accident and that it likely would have been serious.
I don’t know if my son narrowly escaping an accident was the reason God urged me to pray or not, but I’m satisfied that whatever the reason, God was empowered to act through my prayers. I’m thankful that I heard God’s call to prayer and that I didn’t allow the distractions around me (though not bad things in and of themselves) to deter me from my mission to pray.
Since that morning, I pray more often for all of my children than I used to. My time in prayer for my children seems to carry more significance to me now. I hope though, that if they need me to pray more intensely for them again, that I will hear God’s call and will not hesitate to get right to my knees because I may never know what dangers they face.