Don’t underestimate the power of prayer
It was 5:00 a.m. as I reached for the stack of mail that my assistant had placed on my desk the previous afternoon. Exhausted by a pressure-filled day, I had left the pile untouched and gone home instead. After a short and almost-sleepless night, I had now returned to my office at Fresno Pacific University.
My assistant always opens and sorts my mail, laying the most important letters on top. The first was a card from a woman in Reedley, Calif., whose name I didn’t recognize. In a handwritten note, Nancy Kusch said that she would be praying for me January 21. She indicated that although she had no idea what I would be facing, she would be praying for me. Nancy explained that she hadn’t selected the date; it was a “God-appointed day.” She wanted me to know that whatever came up, she would be praying for me throughout “my day.”
A printed note inside the card gave additional details. Nancy takes all the Christmas cards she receives each year and numbers them. Every morning, she takes the next card in the sequence and prays throughout the day for the person who sent it.
Although we had never met, her family supports Fresno Pacific, so I had sent them a Christmas card, and that’s how I made her prayer list. Nancy underscored the fact that she doesn’t select the day she will pray for a particular person. She asks God to do that because he understands what she couldn’t possibly know—the specific needs of each person on her list.
After double-checking the date on which Nancy said she would be praying for me, I glanced at the calendar and realized that I had opened her letter on “my day.” Tears started running down my face because I understood why God had selected it. I thought that Nancy should know too, so I wrote a note explaining that my mother had died several hours earlier, a few minutes before the start of “my day.”
Throughout that day as I made travel arrangements, connected with my scattered siblings, took care of urgent business on my desk and delivered the banquet speech for a gathering of educational leaders in the community, I felt an enormous sense of peace—working efficiently and effectively—remembering that someone was praying for me in Reedley.
Several days later, our family gathered in Minnesota to celebrate my mother’s full and rich life. At 88, her death was a blessed release from pain, so we did what families do at moments like these: we laughed, cried, told stories and cleaned up her house before returning to our respective homes across the continent.
Back in my office in Fresno, I found another card from Nancy. She thanked me for sharing my story, told me that she had been praying for my family, and then asked: “Have you looked at your ‘Ewert book?’” This was a family history some relatives had assembled and distributed. She had—and discovered that her grandmother was my grandfather’s twin sister. I checked my copy of the book; she was right. God had sent a cousin I didn’t know existed to pray for me on the most difficult day of the year!
Obviously every Christian ministry could use additional money, but we need something else even more—prayer. We underestimate the power of prayer and God’s ability to encourage others through us. When we invite God to use us, the Holy Spirit will prompt us to reach out to those who need our comforting touch. It can make a difference to us as well as to them. Who knows, you might even meet a cousin you didn’t know!
D. Merrill Ewert is president of Fresno Pacific University, the Mennonite Brethren school located in Fresno, Calif.