I knew the person I was going to pray for was very ill. What I didn’t know was that she was comatose with a tracheostomy in her throat, a feeding tube in her stomach and had been in that condition for a year and a half. Seeing her for the first time was like expecting a prescription and receiving brain surgery. Her sister, who had asked me to visit this young lady, had not given me the whole story for fear I wouldn’t go at all. She knew if she could just get me there once, I’d probably go back. She was right!
The doctors gave Diane (not her real name) no hope for living, let alone coming out of the coma. Even if she did regain consciousness, she would basically be a vegetable because of her extensive brain damage, or so the doctors believed.
Have you ever stood beside someone in this kind of condition and asked God for a miracle? To stand beside death and ask for life can be intimidating. It can also teach us a lot-about life, about death, about ourselves and about our God. Especially when we stand beside the same person 60 to 70 times, for an hour or more each time, throughout the course of a year.
Confronted with the Unexpected
It didn’t work out as I expected. Life rarely does, does it?
I expected the Lord to heal this young lady through our prayers in a dramatic, easy, quick way. After all, that’s how it happened with Jesus.
• I didn’t expect to invest three to four hours of my life each week for a year (including the travel time).
• I didn’t expect humiliation and insults from the staff of the nursing home where she stayed.
• I didn’t expect to cry so much.
• I didn’t expect to be so bold at times.
• I didn’t expect to be so intimidated at times.
• I didn’t expect it to take so long.
• I didn’t expect to learn so much! The Miracle
Yes, God restored Diane! He healed her brain, the outer layer of which the doctors said had been totally destroyed by a virus. Every part of it was covered with infection. “No hope,” they said.
The front page of the Dayton Daily News (not the real place or newspaper) read, “Woman Awake, Alive, Healthy After Two Years in Coma.” The doctors called it a “medical miracle.” “We have no explanation,” they said, though they stopped short of giving God the glory.
It actually happened on a Saturday morning when she was all alone. Earlier that week Diane had been moved from the nursing home to a hospital for treatment of an infection. After administering more tests, the doctors determined her condition had grown worse and informed her family that she would probably die soon.
When Diane’s sister relayed this information to me, I dashed off to the hospital.
Knowing comatose people can often hear and understand everything happening around them, I spoke much to her. As we later learned, because of the damage to her brain Diane was not hearing me. But on this Wednesday afternoon, I spoke to her as usual.
“This nightmare is almost over,” I said with tears streaming down my face. “Nothing can keep us from receiving our miracle. Nothing!”
The memory is forever imprinted on my mind. As I exited the hospital weeping, I remember saying to myself again and again, “Nothing can keep us from our miracle. Nothing!”
We don’t wait well. We’re into microwaving; God, on the other hand, is usually into marinating.
It was not just a strong hope I had at this point but a great faith. I had turned to God many times throughout the course of that year asking Him if He had really sent me to this little girl. Each time I received His assurance: “I sent you. Don’t quit.”
The Power of Persistence
Now, I’ve been accused of being quite a stubborn fellow, and I suppose that’s true. In fact, I’ve “stubborned” myself into a lot of trouble, including two major concussions playing football when a couple of fellows had more size and muscle behind their “stubborn” than I did.
Stubbornness, however, can be channeled into a righteous force called persistence or endurance. I’ve found it to be one of the most important spiritual attributes of the Christian life. Charles Spurgeon said, “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.”‘
A lack of endurance is one of the greatest causes of defeat, especially in prayer. We don’t wait well. We’re into microwaving; God, on the other hand, is usually into marinating. So I persisted for a year, and as I did my faith grew until I knew deep inside we were going to win. My motto had become Galatians 6:9: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary”
My persistence was rewarded when, three days after that Wednesday in the hospital, Diane woke up with full restoration to her brain. News about the miracle spread to other nations. In fact, the nursing home where she had stayed received inquiries from Europe wanting to know about her incredible recovery. Every hour and every tear I had invested became worth the wait when I saw Diane awake and heard her speak the words, “Praise the Lord.”
What did I learn from that year-long endeavor? Much, plus a whole lot! And I’m still learning.
In “The Last Days Newsletter,” Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, “Were any great men born in this village?”
The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”‘
I’ve learned that no one is born a prayer hero. They are shaped and refined on the practice field of life.
A Hollywood talent judge said of Fred Astaire, one of the top singers, dancers and actors of all time: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Can dance a little.” I’m sure Satan has passed his judgment on me at times in my life: “Can’t preach. Can’t lead. Can pray a little.” Thank God for His grace, patience and commitment to me. I’ve stumbled forward more than backwards in life.
Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets, p.15-18. 1996, Gospel Light/Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003. Used by Permission