My mother was a believer in Christ. When I was a child, I didn’t quite grasp what that meant. We never had that conversation. In retrospect, I’ve often wondered why we didn’t talk about it, but I’m sure she had her reasons. We didn’t go to church growing up, but I suspect that had more to do with my mom’s well-developed OCD and social anxieties than anything else. But even though she didn’t take me to church, or discuss her faith with me as a child, I knew my mom had faith because she was always quick to pray.
I spent more time as a child with my mother than anyone else growing up. Although she occasionally had jobs outside the house, most of her time was spent at home taking care of her family while my dad worked a complicated schedule in a factory. So most of my days were spent with my mom. She was a great companion for a little boy. We would watch TV, play games, and even spend time cleaning the house – although I suspect I really hindered that process!
But on more than one occasion, when something stressful would happen, I would watch my mom pray.
A breaking news story or bad news from family, whatever the occasion, my mom would shut her eyes and begin to pray. She would pray under her breath, sort of in a whisper, just loud enough for me to hear. Oh how those prayers impacted me! My curiosity was overwhelming. I really didn’t know who or what she was praying to, but I could make out just enough to know she was praying in the name of Jesus. Remember, I never went to church as a child, so my mom was literally the only person I ever saw praying! The only one! Of course, if we were at a relative’s house or some place special there was always a chance someone would pray over the meal, but my mom’s prayers were different. When she prayed those barely audible prayers in response to bad news, she was praying as if she believed it would make a difference! Her prayers were neither especially long or dramatic, but they powerful and effective in their succinctness.
And they prepared me to one day accept the Christ she was praying to as my Lord and Savior.
When I was 14 years old I responded to an altar call. In some small way, I did so because I wanted to know the God my mom prayed to. She had someone to turn to when the chips were down … and I wanted that same relationship with God. She was the first and only person I confided in that night … I wanted my mom to know I knew Jesus.
Years later, my mom passed away from cancer. She handled the entire experience with grace and courage. My dad told me that the night she passed away, she did so with a smile on her face. I suspect it was because she had a relationship with the God who was calling her home. According to my dad, one of her last wishes, was for him to get her boys into church. That wish inspired my dad to launch a campaign to get me to into church with him. I finally gave in – more or less just to get him to stop inviting me, but that decision changed my life.
My mom led by example, and then used my dad to reach me for Christ. My dad, by the way, faced his own battle with cancer with the same courage and grace my mother had displayed. He told his doctors he was ready to “go home” … but he wasn’t talking about this home, but rather his eternal one.
My mom’s quiet, barely-audible, whispered prayers changed the course of my dad’s life and my life. Within those whispered prayers was the power of God. Elijah learned that God sometimes speaks to us in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19). In my case, the still, small voice of God was wrapped up in the whispered prayers of my mother … and I am eternally grateful for her example.