At first glance it’s easy to see that the bible has been well used. The corners of the brown leather cover appear old and worn, exposing the cardboard underneath. Many of the pages are crumpled or torn and others are starting to curl at the edges. The binding is almost completely separated from the cover, held together by a homemade patch job that appears to be the work of someone adept at using a hot glue gun. Open the pages and you’re immediately drawn to the handwritten notes on every page, complete with dates and often accompanied by prayers that reflect a personal intimacy with God we all long for but rarely experience.
If you continue to flip through the pages you’ll discover a picture tucked away among these passionate prayers and priceless wisdom. It too is worn, not from age but rather from being held close, like a prized possession that it’s owner refuses to put down. Through the smudged fingerprints you’ll see the picture of a skinny teenager, dressed in khaki pants and a navy blazer, smiling awkwardly and trying to pretend he’s cool. But it’s only when you turn the picture over that the real treasure is revealed. On the back of the picture written in blue ink is a prayer. And although the ink has begun to fade the prayer still echoes as clear and true as it did when it was first written. “Take his life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee.” The bible is my grandma’s, the picture is mine, and the words are the prayer she has fervently and faithfully brought before God on my behalf every day for the last 18 years.
My grandma wasn’t the only one praying for me. As a kid I remember waking up before sunrise, the house still dark and seemingly silent. I’d wander into the front room and snuggle up on the couch next to the fireplace, hoping to get in a few extra minutes of sleep before the rest of the family awakened. In the corner of the room, in an old wooden rocking chair, wrapped tightly in a handmade blanket, sat my mom. In the soft light of the fire I could see her head was lowered and her eyes were closed as she gently rocked back and forth. At first glance most would have assumed she was asleep, but I knew better. If you looked just right you could see her lips moving, slowly and methodically. My brothers and I had seen it before and we knew not to interrupt. Mom was praying, and although she never said it, somehow we knew she was praying for us. I watched with a mix of awe and curiosity somehow knowing, even as a child, that God was listening to every word she said, ready to grant her selfless requests of protection and provision for her family.
My life, like most, has had it share of ups and downs. I’ve made a few good choices and more than enough bad ones. However, as I look back at the pivotal moments when the decision I was about to make had the potential to result in lasting and painful consequences there was always something, or someone, there to steer me away from my own stupidity. Even when everything within me wanted to make the wrong choice, to give in and embrace the darkness, I couldn’t. It was as if a supernatural force was at play, protecting me and preventing me from pursuing my own selfish desires.
As I’ve grown older I’ve gained a sense of clarity as to what was happening during those pivotal moments in my life. Although I was unaware of it at the time, an unseen war was being waged all around me, a supernatural battle for my heart and soul. Each and every time I came to the place where I could no longer stand against the attacks of Satan… each and every time I was ready to give in and surrender to the darkness of my own selfish desires…each and every time…God showed up and fought for me. He refused to let Satan win. He stood in front of me and pushed backed the powers of darkness that threatened to drag me away. He took me by the hand and led me away from danger, rescuing me from myself.
It’s a powerful picture but it begs the question, why? Why would God come to my rescue in that moment? Why would he fight so passionately for one who had pushed him away and ran the other direction? Why would he care so deeply for someone who had cursed him. The only answer I can come up with is that someone else had convinced him to. Someone begged him to show mercy to this punk kid, this prodigal son. Someone who loved me more than I loved myself had pled with him day after day, year after year until he agreed to their request. They must have begged him not to give up on me, not to leave me to my own selfish desires, but rather to fight for me and to protect me from myself. This someone would have been a powerful fighter themselves, a strong soldier who attacked not with sword and shield but rather from their knees, a passionate prayer warrior who invited God into my life when I refused to do it myself.
In the Old Testament the priests had the unique privilege and responsibility of going before God on behalf of the entire nation of Israel. They pleaded with God to forgive the people when they sinned, they begged Him for protection from their enemies and they sought his blessing and provision in times of famine. They served as a mediator for a group of stubborn people who were unable and most of the time unwilling to approach God themselves. In doing so the priests not only brought the requests of the people before God, they also opened the door for God to move in the lives of a nation who time and time again turned their backs on God and refused to follow him. When the priests brought the needs of the people before God they were inviting him to be active and present in the lives of the people, even if the people didn’t want it.
Like the priests in the Old Testament, parents are blessed with the unique privilege and responsibility of going before God on behalf of their children. We plead with God to show them mercy when they sin, we beg Him to protect them from the darkness that lurks all around and we seek his blessing on everything they do. Thankfully, what we say is not nearly as important as the simple fact that we say something. By passionately pursuing God on behalf of your children you are inviting God to move in their lives in a powerful way. This is true, even in the darkest of times, when your children turn their back on God and run the other direction. Everytime you speak your child’s name in prayer you are opening the door for him to be active and present in their lives, whether they want it or not! Your humble prayer challenges God to fight for your child’s heart and soul, even though they refuse to do it for themselves. This is the power of a praying parent.
The sun is just starting to rise and there’s a slight chill in the air as I make my way down the stairs. The house is silent except for the creak of my worn out slippers on the hardwood floor. I walk into the makeshift office tucked away in the corner of our kitchen and take a seat at the old wooden desk. I flip on a small lamp that provides just enough light to read my bible without waking the rest of the family up. Once my reading is done I bow my head and begin to pray. A smile forms as I think about the fact that my grandma and my mom are somewhere hundreds of miles away praying too. It’s been a rough week and as I pray I find my silent requests are filled with an usual desperation, a longing for God to move not only in my life but in the life of my family. As I beg and plead with God to protect and provide I’m interrupted by the sound of little feet shuffling slowly down the stairs. A moment later I feel a tiny hand on my arm and hear a sweet little voice ask, “What you doing daddy?” I gently reply, “I’m praying.” Without asking she crawls into my lap and snuggles against my chest, her body warm and soft against mine. “Thank you, daddy.” A small tear forms in the corner of my eye as I pull her close. The words that come from my mouth are barely a whisper, “You’re welcome.”