On July 21, 2000 - exactly one year after I had given my life to Jesus - I celebrated my "birth" day home alone. Michael was at our church building for band practice, my roommates were all out for the night, so I made the wise decision to get a little extra sleep.
But shortly after I had gone to bed, I was suddenly woken up. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit distinctly telling me to go to the church building. I was confused - why would I want to sit in on band practice? - but I obeyed. When I arrived at the building, the band, along with a few other people I sort of recognized, were all in prayer together. Someone glanced up at me and said, "Something happened to Graham. He's in the hospital and might not make it."
My first thought was, "Who is Graham?"
Our little group got into cars and headed over to a hospital in St. Paul where, quite quickly, a significant number of our church body was gathering to pray together and wait for news. We soon found out that Graham had had a brain aneurysm and was given less than 1% chance of survival, much less recovery. [according to this link, 10%-15% of these patients will die before reaching the hospital and over 50% will die within the first thirty days after rupture. Of those who survive, about half suffer some permanent neurological deficit.] Graham was 30 years old, married with 3 little boys. And I didn't know him at all.
But God told me to pray for this man. He had brought me to this hospital, and he kept bringing me back, as many of us held nightly vigils there. In fact, one night very shortly after Graham arrived in the hospital, when he hadn't even come out of his coma, the Holy Spirit woke me up in the middle of the night and told me to start praying that Graham would walk. I remember saying, "Lord, this is ridiculous. The man hasn't even regained consciousness yet, we don't even know if he will wake up - shouldn't I be praying for those things?" But the Spirit persisted, and I found myself asking, begging, pleading with Jesus that Graham would take some steps - literal, with-his-feet steps.
That was Tuesday night. The following Sunday, Graham's wife was in our church service and asked to give an update on her husband. She told us that Graham had woken up over the week and on Saturday, he had gotten out of bed and, with the help of a walker, had walked across his room.
The miracles just didn't stop, as Graham regained his ability to speak, to write, to see - and was actually able to return to his job. The man who science said had no chance to survive was given his entire life back.
Now, the point of this story is not to share how great my prayers were. In fact, just the opposite should be clear. God directed me in every step of this story and invited me to witness his power in Graham's life. If I hadn't gone to the church building on July 21, if I hadn't prayed for Graham to walk in the middle of the night - Graham would still have his miraculous story to tell. God didn't need me to pray a single prayer in order to heal him.
But my story, my experience of God, would be different.
I was a very young Christian when Graham's brain bled, and I had every reason to doubt that I was actually hearing God's voice those nights. But I believe that because I obeyed - because I went to the building, and got down on my knees in prayer - I got more than I would have had I ignored his voice. The tiny mustard seed of faith that urged me to action was watered when I saw those prayers answered. It made me pray more, and listen more, and act more in faith.
It taught me that prayer is way more about me than it is about God. He knows every thought in my mind, he sees all of time spread out before him, he has power to create and take away life. He doesn't need my prayers. But I need my prayers. Prayer is a chance for me to admit that I need help. It's a time for me to crawl into my Daddy's lap, talk to him about what's on my heart, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's listening. Prayer helps me hear what he's saying back to me, to receive his strength to act on it, and to rest in peace knowing that he's taking care of it all.
Prayer is for my good, and I'M the one who misses out when I don't pray.
I truly believe that it is because God invited me to pray for Graham, and taught me so much about prayer during those weeks in the hospital, that I have a rich prayer life now. I pray for people whenever they come to my mind, whatever I am doing, whatever time it is. I pray for people whenever I feel even the slightest urge that it's needed, whether or not the person I'm with even believes in Jesus. I've never had anyone turn down prayer. :-)
Which leads me to ask - how can I be praying for you? What miracles do you want to ask God for? How would your life change if he answered those prayers?