It’s been just over two months to the day since we started this blog. And the blog itself was started almost one month after we first got the news that Annie’s cancer had returned. In some ways it feels like a long time ago. One of my earliest memories ‘back then’ was of the way God had moved many of the women at Manor Park (and some women from other churches) to pray for us.
As I write this blog entry, these women are currently filling our lounge and praying with and for Annie. They have met every single Monday morning since they first resolved to pray together. Since that day, they have continued to take one-hour prayer shifts throughout the evening (from around midnight until 6am), pretty much every night of the seven-day week. They are not simply just ‘women of prayer’; let’s leave gender out of this: these women demonstrate to me what a prayer warrior looks like – and I think us men, ought to watch and learn.
It’s interesting that when Jesus wanted to teach people about the importance of persistent prayer, He told a parable and in that parable, the example of the persistent prayer warrior was a woman; a woman who was a widow.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” – Luke 18:1-5
I actually think the ESV is a better translation of verse 1
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. – Luke 18:1
Three months might not seem a great deal of time, but it has afforded plenty of opportunity to distract, discourage and disband these women from their commitment to pray together. The lead up to Christmas itself was enough to leave these women – many mothers and wives among them – to decide that it was right, proper and sensible to take a break from prayer so that they could give time to the natural demands of the season; and who could have blamed them if they would have taken that opportunity for a festive hiatus? I couldn’t. But like the persistent widow in the parable whose circumstances left her to realise that there was nothing else she would do each day but plead her case until she either died or received what she was asking for, these women are incessant in prayer!
In some ways, they are not exactly like the widow.
A widow in Jesus‘ day was among the most unfortunate human beings in society. This particular widow that Jesus described in the parable had the added burden of an adversary. She was poor, needy and oppressed and there was nothing better she could do each day than make that journey to the judge in order to seek justice. To my knowledge, none of the women that gather to pray for Annie are widows (although I know there are many widows in the church praying for Annie). They have many daily and hourly family responsibilities to occupy their time. But just like the widow, they desperately desire to raise Annie and I before the Lord.
And when they come here to pray with Annie and I hear them singing together, and I hear not only of what they have been praying for Annie but also what the Lord has been doing in their lives as a result of their time together, I am reminded that there is another dissimilarity with the widow in the parable. Each day that poor widow would make the same old journey to seek justice from a judge who was unjust and couldn’t care less about her case or how she felt. It seems to me that these women don’t just meet to pray out of duty, but rather out of joyful desire. That’s because they don’t pray to an unjust judge but a just, almighty and loving Father and their meetings are as much praise as they are prayer.
I am not only thankful to God for these sisters raising us up in prayer, but I am really encouraged, blessed, inspired…even challenged…by their demonstration of faithful commitment. They are a picture to me of what persistent prayer looks like.
Over the last few days Annie has been in relatively good heath. We had a quiet Christmas with Philippa. Annie was able to make it to the Christmas morning service too which was a really joyful occasion. Throughout the day, nausea was threatening to overtake Annie again but the Lord kept it at arm’s length. The following day Annie was very tired again and during the early morning she did have a small spell of sickness which resulted in spending the remainder of the day just resting at home – interspersed with more ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’!
Over here, Boxing Day is a great time for going outside and being with friends – and this year was a beautiful day for it. We had hoped to enjoy the invitation to spend part of the afternoon with friends from our home church but Annie was not fit for that. I was able to take Milo out to our annual inter-church Boxing Day football match (for the record, we won, 5-1!) but the rest of the day we spent at home.
Boxing Day wasn’t a day that Annie particularly enjoyed and so the following day (the morning of which the women came to pray with Annie) we prayerfully determined to get out. In the afternoon I was able to take Annie to a nice little place in the countryside for a very brief stroll and for some lunch. We’re really thankful to God that she enjoyed much better health for that. Annie hasn’t weighed herself recently but I am really thankful that she has been able to eat and keep food down and also that she has had a relatively healthy appetite.
I started this post yesterday (Tuesday) and finished it off this morning (Wednesday) and I can report that we had a really good night’s sleep. She is still trying to kick this cold that she has and each night has one or two coughing fits but at last over the last few days they seem to be getting more controllable.
So far, today looks to be a better day for Annie. We truly appreciate the prayers of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
May the Lord bless you today,
I know that there was no way that the women would allow me to film them singing yesterday, but I just wanted to record the moments – like so many moments – that bless me when I hear them singing praises to the Lord as they meet to pray. I hope they are okay with this! I am operating on the basis that the Lord’s people are a forgiving community!