As the sun began setting behind the trees, I was unbothered by the darkness falling on me that Friday night. I ran as fast as I could as I struggled to hold in the sobs slipping out. Over the years, running had become my escape but never before had a run been so miserable. I felt helpless, angry, and afraid. Finally, when my heart felt like it would burst, I fell to my knees in the middle of the old country road a few miles from my home. Cows stared at me curiously from a few feet away, but I paid no attention to them.
Sadly, my prayer life wasn’t what it had been or needed to be at the time, but I did what most people do in desperate situations. I called on the heavenly Father because I knew He was the only one I could turn to in that sinking moment. With my face to the pavement, I cried out to God. In anger, I asked Him “why?” In brokenness, I begged Him to heal her. Out of selfishness, I told God how much I needed her and that I expected Him to work a miracle. But deep down, I just knew…
Growing up, I spent as much time as I possibly could with my grandparents. I absolutely loved the simplicity of their life and how every day with them seemed like a special gift. They lived in a tiny, rural community made up mostly of their siblings and their families. Every Saturday night when I was young, a cookout was held in an old barn at my great uncle’s house. All the cousins would gather for hamburgers and funny stories. During the week, the older men sat under shade trees and talked about the weather when they weren’t gardening or piddling on their tractors. The ladies carpooled to the beauty shop once a week, shelled peas while watching game shows, quilted together, and took food to anybody in the community in need. It was an ideal place to grow up with remarkable people who loved the Lord, valued their families, and were content in their circumstances.
Every morning at my grandmother’s house, the smell of bacon would fill the air. She always had a full spread for breakfast, including homemade hot chocolate. But before anyone could eat, she would always take the time to read her devotion from her little Daily Bread book. It didn’t matter who came to visit, she never neglected starting the morning with a devotion and then prayer.
I always adored hearing her pray at mealtime. Her prayers were unusual to me. They were unlike anyone else’s because they sounded like “King James Prayers” as she addressed God by using “Thee,” “Thou,” and “Thine.” They were highly respectful and reverent prayers. Even when my tiny children heard her pray, they were as still as statues - mesmerized by her gentle spirit and beautiful prayers.
Her whole community and even our friends outside her community knew that she was a prayer warrior. If there was a need, people would call and ask her to pray for them specifically or they would ask us to tell Mama Bobbie to be praying. Everyone knew that when she talked to God, He listened.
Several years ago, Mama Bobbie went in for a routine procedure that went terribly wrong. We knew she had not felt her best, but she never seemed sickly or feeble. My children and I had just been to her house and had a wonderful time. She actually seemed happier and more energetic than she had in months. We planned to go back on that Friday to take care of her after her procedure, but we never got the chance.
After my mother called and told me an emergency surgery would take place that August night, I immediately felt distraught and left to run so my children couldn’t see my fear. In the back of my mind, I knew the outcome would not be life, but I pleaded with God all the more.
After her surgery, the doctors informed us she had only days to live. Her body had been consumed by ovarian cancer and there was nothing they could do. We had no idea, nor did she. We were completely caught off guard. However, once she absorbed the initial shock, she began to use her last 11 days wisely. She prayed without ceasing.
This time, however, her prayers were different. They weren’t the soft, tender “King James Prayers.” They were filled with power and emotion as she prayed prayers of redemption over the lives of those she loved.
Not once did I ever hear her ask God to save her or relieve her of her pain.
She was saddened at the thought of having to miss things in our lives, but she was far more concerned over what others would miss if they were not saved. All through the day and night, she prayed on behalf of others that they would seek repentance, ask for forgiveness, and then meet her in heaven one day. While we were grieved over losing her, she was far more grieved over the thought of others losing the only battle that actually mattered.
Seven years prior, my grandfather had passed away and we constantly worried about her being alone at home. By that time, many of their siblings had also gone to be with the Lord and others began to move into the community. Our little “Mayberry” began to fizzle as people who neither knew the Lord nor cared to, filled the area. We hated the thought of her being scared at night, but she always assured us that she wasn’t afraid. “I just talk to God,” she’d say. “He puts me back to sleep.”
During the nights at the hospital that I stayed with her, I was actually able to witness this sweet time of fellowship. It was such a blessing to hear the sincere prayers that showed her intimate relationship with her Savior. All would be quiet in the wee hours of the morning when I would awaken to her softly praying, “Dear Jesus, take care of me tonight. If I have to get up, please don’t let me fall. Let me return to the bed safely and go to sleep quickly.”
At that point, she could no longer walk, but out of habit, she knew her Abba Father would be her Protector through the night. She would also go on to tell Him about her day and what each of her children and grandchildren had going on and humbly ask Him to guide us and protect us as well. She would talk to Him until she drifted back to sleep. With intense sorrow, I listened carefully and understood the difference between her prayers and mine. During that season of my life, my prayers were only out of obligation or desperation. Listening to her, I truly learned “what a friend she had in Jesus.”
Throughout my life, she taught me the importance of faithfulness, how to cook, how to serve others, how to raise children, and so much more. From childhood, she instilled the importance of Bible study in me, and always reminded me that her favorite verse was James 5:16b (“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”). What a blessing it is that as she lay dying, she continued to teach me and transform my prayer life by passionately living this verse out loud until she found rest in her Redeemer.
Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death (Isaiah 57:2).