by Shirlee Vandegrift
This week I was blessed with an answer to a prayer I never uttered. Someone must have been praying for me recently.
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Plus about 6 years ago. It is a progressive and not curable disease. It saps my strength, sometimes gradually, often suddenly. I’m told I don’t look sick (whatever that looks like) and for most of the last six years I haven’t minded having it. Many people have prayed for me and continue to do so. Prayer matters! Have you ever been prayed for? Do you know what it’s like? If not, contact me and I will personally see to it that you are prayed for and, Lord willing, you will know it.
For the past 12 years or so I have been privileged to be a part of the Senior Adult Ministry at my church. I was 65 when I told Jesus I would go wherever he led me, and with the guidance of a very special pastor who walks with Jesus, I have grown to appreciate the power of prayer as I have followed Our Savior. It is not easy for me to pray, not having done it for most of my now 77 years, but if I have learned anything I have learned that prayer matters. It matters!
As my Parkinson progresses my losses are more apparent; teeny handwriting, stooped posture, walking difficulty, and extreme weariness. The not so apparent are things like eating and sleeping problems and weakness. It is not so bad yet. I know the tough part is probably ahead of me and although I wonder what the future will bring I am comforted by the talks I have with God. I am consoled by the prayers of others, many unknown to me.
I knew the day would come when I had to turn over my responsibilities to someone else because I just didn’t have the physical strength to get to church and to the other places the job required. It was time, and I did let go, reluctantly. Oh, how it hurt. The special pastor, my ‘boss’ and my friend, gave me a special opportunity to be a part of a prayer team. You can pray anywhere. We want our church to be known as a church that prays. Prayer matters! I know it, I’ve experienced it. But in this case the knowledge just didn’t reach my heart, and I was sad. I was disappearing.
And then, a couple of mornings ago, I picked up a daily devotional from a table at home and opened it to the day’s reading. The book is about hearing your Father’s Voice.
As I read that day’s entry I heard Him say:
“There are many people at work in my kingdom. Some work before crowds, preaching the deeds of my Son before kings. Others work behind the scenes in quiet ways. All have a voice; all are used by my Spirit to bring life…..
……….My child, no job in my kingdom is ever too small. I have special tasks for you and you alone. So do what you’ve been given to do. I will bless your willingness to complete your task with the power of my Spirit.”
I got the message. And then I picked up a wonderful magazine of support and encouragement that I subscribe to and came upon an article titled “Don’t Let Chronic Illness Hold You Back -from the life and ministry you love.” The author had some very helpful hints on how to stay involved through your illness. She also suggested you “Write down your hopes and dreams and put them in a place where you can see them daily to fuel your determination.” It was written for me. It gave me permission to have hopes and dreams. It is not too late.
My dark mood of the past couple of months lifted at once. I knew, and know, that those two messages were specifically for me as the result of a prayer. Maybe the prayer came from a friend, but maybe the prayer was passed along to the “Prayer Answerer” by Jesus because He knew my hurt and confusion. Whatever the means, prayer mattered. It always does.
Shirley, I am really happy God has shared you with me. I am learning to grow, understand
more from you. He has given you many special gifts, one of which is your sense of human! You are very much appreciated, and loved.
Shirley – I am SO glad that you shared this. Having written your book on prayer, and having people look up to you, could have resulted in your putting on a mask to keep up an image. Instead, you wrote something very REAL. There was openness about that something hurt, that you were sad, that you were disappearing. Sometimes I think Christians think they should not ever feel like “they are disappearing” or have continued sadness. I think this honest revelation is huge in helping others. I totally related with that knowledge sometimes doesn’t reach the heart – oh, that it would! I also think that by writing, you also gave permission to others to have hopes and dreams at any time in life – even when things are rough. Thanks so much for sharing.
Hi, Shirlee, I have wanted to let you know that I think about you often since I first met you while you were visiting my mom at a nursing home in Brookfield. This is an opportunity for me to do so. Mom passed on in 2004. I remember how much she looked forward to your visits and the opportunity to share her story. I am now living in northern Wisconsin and making my own visits to patients at the local hospital to hear stories and share prayers. Your leading helped inspire me to do so. Thank you for the wonderful memories I have. I continue to pray for you.