I barely glanced up as the pastor rose to make announcements. Absorbed in doodling along the edges of my Sunday bulletin it took a moment for me to realize that an uncomfortable silence had settled over the congregation. I laid my drawing aside. Tears streamed down Pastor Bob’s face as he struggled to regain composure.
“Maddie Parker went to be with the Lord on Friday.”
Murmurs of sadness and sympathy echoed across the sanctuary. I vaguely remembered Mrs. Parker as my first grade Sunday School teacher but could not recall having seen her since. I said a quick prayer for her family and friends then continued my bulletin embellishment.
“Maddie’s health problems left her confined to a nursing home these past ten years. Even so…she remained an integral part of this church’s ministry. And, though few of you were aware of it…the lives of each and every one of you here today have been personally impacted by her. Whether you knew it or not, Maddie Parker gave each of you a gift.”
Once again, I set pencil and bulletin aside and turned my full attention back to Pastor Bob…my curiosity piqued. How could a lady I barely remembered have such an effect on my life? And what did he mean about a gift?
“Before Maddie became ill she delighted in serving however she might be needed here at the church. She taught our young children, played the organ for services, made hospital visits and so much more.
“Maddie questioned me during my first visits with her at the home. Limited as she was--both physically and financially--Maddie wondered what she could do. How could she serve? What could she give?
“I had no answers for her, except a reminder to pray about it, and that I would do the same.
“On what must have been my third or fourth visit there with Maddie, she greeted me once again with her characteristic enthusiasm. When I inquired as to the change, she replied that the Lord had given her the answer. ‘No matter how my body fails me…I can still pray, Pastor Bob! That’s what I can give!’
“From that moment on Maddie became the embodiment of the term ‘Prayer Warrior’. Her name appeared first on our church prayer chain list. But Maddie did not limit her prayers to those submitted to the chain. Maddie poured over the local newspaper for items to add to her prayer list.
“The grand opening of Tom and Margaret’s business. The birth of Jenny Larson’s grandson. Todd Swift’s speech before the Chamber of Commerce. Frank Wilson’s lawsuit. Amanda Jones’ appearance in the high school play.”
I drew in a sharp breath. Maddie Parker had prayed for my performance? I had been nervous to the point of nausea waiting backstage. Yet an inexplicable calm had come over me as I stepped onstage, and my part went off without a hitch.
Pastor Bob continued to name many others in the congregation…detailing Maddie’s prayers for them.
“Before long Maddie became aware of prayer needs through a far greater Source than the prayer chain or newspaper. Jim…you had that terrible car accident when you were heading to work several years back. I had stopped to have coffee with Maddie that morning and she mentioned that the Lord had awakened her early--just before five--with your name on her mind, so she had prayed for you. When I arrived here, Mrs. Hanson gave me the message that you had been hospitalized as the result of an accident…and that the police considered it miraculous you had survived your 5 A.M. crash.”
“What happened with Jim was not unique. How many of us here today have experienced a sudden unexplainable change in circumstance? I have no doubt that at least some of these happened as answers to Maddie Parker‘s prayers.“
All across the congregation heads nodded in agreement.
“Prayer, my friends…deep, caring intercession about every aspect of our lives, was Maddie’s gift to each of us. And her final prayer in her last hours was that the Lord would awaken in many the desire to pass that gift along. He already has, in me.”
Again, the tears flowed. This time not only from Pastor Bob and the older members, but now also from nearly everyone in the congregation…each of us who felt the call to pass along Maddie’s gift.
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