March 1, 2003 - We might pray for years without seeing an answer, but that doesn't mean we should give up. Poet and illustrator Janet B. Smith tells what she learned during the 14 years that she prayed for her husband's salvation.
by Janet B. Smith
I lay prostrate on the floor, crying out to the Lord as tears ran down my face. Once again I was praying for the salvation of my husband, Brent, and asking God to break the bondage that alcohol had over Brent. I prayed that Brent would have a great love for Jesus, a desire to read God's word and also a great desire to obey the commands of Christ.
Brent was a hard-drinking cowboy who often found himself in fights or in trouble with the police. I had been praying for him for 14 years, and I'd seen little indication that he would ever turn to Jesus Christ. Still, I knew that I had to continue praying.
But this day as I poured out my heart in prayer, something was different. This day I realized that I needed to relinquish my own desires. Up to this point, I hadn't wanted to go through any more problems with the police or with jails. I had wanted to be spared those difficulties. But now it occurred to me that God might need to bring Brent to his lowest point, where he might be broken and turn to Christ. I prayed, "Lord, just do whatever it takes to bring Brent to You."
A couple of days later, Brent was in trouble again, arrested and jailed after a fight with several police officers. I asked a friend to bail Brent out of jail the next day, and when he arrived home, we went to see the pastor of the church that I attended.
The pastor took one look at Brent, who looked pretty rough after the fight, and said to me, "You're married to him?" But although he was taken aback, he sat down and talked with Brent about Jesus. Then he asked, "Do you want to accept Christ?"
"Yes," Brent said.
My jaw dropped; so did the pastor's. I had been praying for years, but I hadn't actually expected Brent to respond. He did, and in the years since then Brent has become a wonderful man of God. He now ministers in prisons and in jails with BGEA Associate Evangelist Ralph Bell, and he also has worked with Franklin Graham Festivals.
My years of praying for Brent—and God's marvelous answers—taught me some important principles about praying for our loved ones.
First, go to the Lord, even when you don't feel like praying. The most important thing for us is to have a relationship with Him, and we do that largely through prayer—that's how we commune with Him. This world is not our home; we are foreigners here, and our hope is to be with Him in glory. He's going to make a new heaven and a new earth, and we shall be with Him. That should be our focus. After all, there's very little that we can do for our loved ones; God is really the only one who can do anything for them. Why not go to the source of all help?
Second, go to the Word of God for encouragement, comfort and wisdom. Often I felt discouraged, but my greatest comfort was God's Word. The Bible reminds us how awesome and wonderful God is. It reminds us that He created the heavens and the earth and that He can change situations. He changed the situation for Joseph. He changed the situation for Moses. The Bible reminds me of all the wonderful things God has done and all the prayer that He has answered.
Third, find someone with whom you can pray. The Apostle Paul always asked people to pray for him, and he said that things happened because of their prayers. My sister, Joanne, was a great comfort to me as a prayer partner, and I also had other friends who prayed with me for Brent.
Fourth, wait patiently. We're a society that wants everything right now, and it is easy to become discouraged if you've been praying for quite a while. But Jesus teaches in Luke 18 that we are to pray and not to give up. What would have happened if I had given up praying for Brent? Our hope is in the Lord, and He is faithful.
Praying for our loved ones can be difficult because we yearn so strongly for them to be whole or to be close to Christ. Sometimes we don't realize how going through difficulty can draw us to the Lord. It did so for me. The things that I went through during the long years of praying for my husband brought me to my knees at the foot of the cross. I'm thankful for that. Although I didn't enjoy those trials at the time, I can look back and can say they were a blessing, because how else would I have found this close union with the Lord?
If you are praying for a loved one, don't be discouraged. Remember that Jesus Himself is interceding for us at God's right hand. God is never late. His ways are perfect, and we can trust Him.