“I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit and sing with my mind. If you give a blessing using your private prayer language, which no one else understands, how can some outsider who has just shown up and has no idea what’s going on know when to say ‘Amen’? Your blessing might be beautiful, but you have very effectively cut that person out of it.”
- 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 (MSG)
I used to not be a pray-out-loud kind of girl. Saying those intimate words so loud that others can hear them seemed awkward at best, and pushy at worst. The exception of course is grace around the dinner table with family, when it’s understood to be more of a cultural experience at least for my family of Southern roots, but when I am really talking to God I’ve always felt privacy was the best method for me.
Just over two years ago, my husband and I welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world, and he was more amazing than I could have ever prayed for. But things took a turn for the worst when he was around three months old that left every one of Charlottesville’s pediatric providers scratching their heads. He refused to breastfeed or bottle feed, he had intense startle reflexes preventing him from sleeping more than 43 minutes in a row, he randomly stopped breathing, and most of all, he was “failure to thrive.” That term, to all of you folks out there who haven’t encountered it intimately, is a terrifying one to hear with regard to your own child. He was hospitalized when he was four months old with an EEG on his sweet baby scalp and specialists checking in around the hour. No one seemed to understand why he was experiencing those symptoms, and watching the scales slide backwards hurt me in the pit of my stomach more than anything I’ve experienced before or after.
It was during this very public hospitalization that my husband and I had to put down our veil of privacy over prayer. With a constant stream of doctors and nurses and other providers visiting our son’s bedside, there just wasn’t an opportunity to pray over our son alone and in solitude. We had no other option than to pray, and pray out loud, and pray out loud in front of whomever happened to be in the room at that time. It was far outside of my comfort zone, but it was the only thing that relieved that pit in my stomach.
I hoped I could say that with our public prayers, a miracle happened, and he was immediately healed. But God doesn’t always work like that, and I sure am grateful He doesn’t! Over the course of a few more months our son got better, and we received apologetic phone calls from the providers who misdiagnosed him. With time he grew into a healthy, strong baby and at two and a half years old now, you’d never know he struggled so much in his infancy.
Fast forward the story, though, to last fall. We were expecting another baby and had just crossed the threshold to the second trimester. On the morning of a previously scheduled ultrasound, the bleeding started… and it didn’t stop. I ended up hemorrhaging so much blood that I lost consciousness numerous times until I finally coded on the hospital bed. The emotional and physical pain was more than I wanted to bear. The last words I spoke to my husband before I coded were, “I just don’t want to be in this body anymore.”
A near-death experience is not something that could ever fit into the confines of a one-time story, let alone a blog post. I’m sharing this with you to show how God’s plan is so much better than we can ever conceive. Because in that moment when my heart wasn’t able to pump the blood it needed to, when the nurses raised the foot of my bed high in the air so blood could flow to the upper half of my body, with alarms beeping loudly and rapidly, when dozens of people suddenly flooded my hospital room… I couldn’t see a thing. I couldn’t feel a thing. But I could hear.
And what I heard was my husband praying out loud. Not quietly, privately, reservedly, or timidly; no, he was all-in-praying-out-loud. We hadn’t really prayed out loud together since the fear of losing our son, but my husband prayed as freely and as energetically as if he’d been doing it every moment of his life. I heard every word. I remember making a conscious choice to go back into my body even though I knew the alternative was painless and I desperately wanted a relief from the pain. His prayers saved me.
I had spent months and months confused by God that our prayers for our son in the hospital didn’t instantly heal him, and angry at the trauma God put me through as a result of that experience. Little did I know that God had a much bigger plan. Now our family of four doesn’t just pray at the dinner table, we pray out loud together… all the time. Our daughter has learned the power of prayer at the age of four and our son is memorizing the Bible verses we pray out loud over him.
If that’s not the biggest reason to say “Amen,” what is?
Thank you, Lord, for always knowing our needs even before we do