A Prayer in the Storm: The Reality of the Power of Prayer – Part 1
To this day I’m still not quite sure what to make of the events that transpired almost 4 years ago. Perhaps that I’m committing it to words is simply my way of trying to make sense of it all. There is nothing dogmatic in what I am about to tell you. I can only share with you what my own experience was. But I think there is a lesson to be learned in it all.
It was late spring of 2013. My wife and children were spending the week in Pennsylvania visiting family. This had been an annual occurrence for us since our oldest had been a toddler. The church in which my wife grew up held vacation Bible school each year at this time, and the kids looked forward to it every year. I, however, had to stay home alone for the week since I had a business to run. For the self-employed there are no such luxuries like vacations and “sick days”.
Of course this was also before we had made the decision to leave the institutional church once and for all. Having left a church in Columbus that had been taken over by New Calvinists, we were currently attending a small country church about 20 minutes from our house. Granted, it was half-pregnant with authentic Protestantism (yes, I borrowed that expression from Paul), but it seemed to us to be a reasonable alternative at the time.
Like most loyal church-goers, we tried to be there any time the doors were open, and that included the mid-week prayer meeting. On this particular Wednesday evening in June the forecast called for unstable weather. When you live in the mid-west that translates to severe thunderstorms and the risk of tornadoes. It’s a reality you learn to live with, and so you just go about your life without giving much thought to it. Skipping prayer meeting that night never crossed my mind as an option.
The “service” started out pretty uneventful, but around 7:30 when we broke up into groups for prayer it began storming heavily outside. By the time we were dismissed around 8, the storminess and heavy rain had passed, and it looked like it was starting to clear up. But that was just the beginning.
I am an avid listener of talk radio, and consequently the radio in my car is permanently tuned to the local Columbus conservative radio station. I started my car, and as the radio came to life, since I usually just leave it on all the time, I immediately heard the repeating beeping tone every 5 seconds over the broadcast. That meant only one thing: a serious weather warning was in effect.
When the national weather service issues a “tornado warning” that means an actual tornado has been spotted. So when I heard the radio announcer say that a tornado was spotted near Ashley, Ohio, my heart must have stopped twice. Not only was Ashley about ten minutes from my house, but Ashley was where I operated my business, and my concession trailer was currently parked there. All in one instance both my home and my livelihood were at risk of destruction! It was the most helpless feeling in the world. What can you do in a situation like that where everything is completely out of your control?
I did the only thing anyone can do in that situation: I prayed…HARD!
That twenty-minute drive home was probably the longest twenty minutes ever. As I listened intently to the radio report, I kept one eye on the road and one eye to the sky straining to see through breaks in the trees for any signs of a funnel cloud in the general direction of home. Unfortunately, the skies in that direction did not look promising. But I remembered a promise that Jesus gave to His disciples during His ministry on earth.
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” ~ John 14:13-14
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” ~ Matthew 7:7-11
The reality of those words had a powerful impact on me. As a little child I would never have hesitated to ask my dad for something I wanted, and unless my dad decided that it was not something that was good for me, he would not have hesitated to give me what I asked so long as it was in his power to provide it.
As a child of the Heavenly Father, why would it be any different?
So I claimed those promises right then and there. As the radio blared, I prayed out loud:
“Father, you have promised us in your word that you would give us anything that we asked for in Jesus’ name. I claim that promise right now. I ask in Jesus’ name that you would please help to spare my house and spare my business from damage. With your mighty hand right now, please reach down and move this tornado away to a safe area where it won’t bring any destruction to anyone.”
I emphasized that last sentence because it will become important later.
As I got closer to home I could tell that my house was not in the path of the ominous clouds I had seen on the horizon. As my home came into view I gave thanks to God that everything there was safe. I still wasn’t sure about my business in Ashley. I turned my gaze in that direction and saw those same ominous clouds on the horizon. At right is a picture I took from my front porch. Watching that cloud move on, I thought about people I knew who lived in that direction or who might be in the path of that storm. I prayed for them as well, claiming the same promises as before and asking in Jesus’ name that our Father please protect them and their property from harm.
Yet I still had unanswered questions. What had happened in Ashley? Was there any damage there? Do I still have a business left? The nagging uncertainty prompted me to get back into my car and drive to Ashley to survey the aftermath.
As I headed to Ashley I remember asking God to help me to be at peace with whatever damage there might be. I asked Him to help me trust Him to provide for us as He always had, to help us get through picking up the pieces and finding a way to start over. I remember noticing on the way how little damage there actually was, not so much as a tree limb fallen. Driving through the village I saw that all looked the same as it had. The power was even on still. And there was my trailer safe and sound, not a scratch on it.
I praised God right then and there for His answer to my prayer! But that is not yet the end of my story, for HOW God answered my prayer is even more incredible.