Cheryl and husband, Tom, with grandchildren Lewis, Isla, Boaz, and Eisley.
Our Stories of Prayer series continues with Hallows member Cheryl who makes a convincing case that that there is more to prayer than meets the eye. “I love that The Hallows starts out every year with a 24-hour Day of Prayer, Cheryl said. “It reminds me to get back to my discipline. I am no expert on prayer but it is powerful.” Maybe that’s because Cheryl says it is not necessarily how she prays, how much she prays, or even the quality of her prayers as much as it is the Object of her prayers.
Cheryl has a long history with prayer. Coming to Christ as a little girl she remembers praying early on with her childhood family in Spokane. Now with her own extended family including four grandchildren as well as ministry work at The Hallows North Expression she has even more reason to turn to prayer. Consequently, it is not surprising to learn that Cheryl has cultivated an interesting and effective discipline in her own art of prayer.
“I do remember praying with my family as a child. It has, of course, matured over the years. I’m not an expert at all but prayer has had a profound effect on me. There have been times where I really begged God especially when praying for relatives during some scary times. In God’s timing He has given me peace and comfort—even contentment—while waiting and sometimes not knowing the outcome. As I look back I see we don’t always get immediate answers. But gradually God has resolved so many of the prayers of my past it has built my faith and allowed it to grow. It is hard when prayers go unanswered for years. But because of His faithfulness, I find I can rest knowing He knows all things and is trustworthy.”
Fifteen years ago Cheryl made another discovery. She began reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller. “The book sort-of gave me permission to relax a little about prayer. In the past I would beat myself up because I didn’t have a consistent prayer life. The book taught me that it’s okay to not always be consistent, and that prayer is always available—it is our conversing with God. But it also taught me how to be intentional about prayer as well. In the end, I learned I could be both casual and disciplined in my prayer life.”
An interesting tool Cheryl acquired from the book was incorporating Scripture verses into her prayers. It is a method of pairing Scripture to a relative, group, or concern. “For instance I will use Proverbs 28:20 in praying for my husband Tom. A faithful man will abound with blessings…. Another time my grandson confided in me that he was nervous about entering a new school when his family moved to a new city, so I used Joshua 1:9 in my prayer… Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. When I am praying for someone struggling with anxiety I may use Psalms 16:8 I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
Cheryl also keeps track of her prayers—as in years of prayers. “I don’t journal my prayers but I do use 3×5 index cards to jot down notes.” As we were talking she pulled out a deck of these cards. The cards were in groups: Family, Friends, Ministries, Children’s Spouses, etc. “Here’s one on The Hallows Church from five years ago,” she mused. The cards include notes of prayer-verses and answers to prayers. “Before my children were married I had prayer cards for them way back. Now that they are married when I look back on their cards and re-read the prayers I see there before me flesh-and-blood answers to those prayers. The Hallows 24-Hour Day of Prayer a couple weeks ago was a boost for Cheryl. “I think my New Year’s resolution this year is to go back to my cards and refresh my rhythm!”
Being a beneficiary of prayer is also something Cheryl recalls. Recently in the past five years she has dealt with auto-immune issues. “Normally, I don’t think a lot about it but a couple times I found the devil discouraging me with this sort-of emotional downward spiral. I would ask Tom to pray over me.” It’s those time which she says she recognizes her struggle is sometimes a spiritual one as evidenced by God faithfully lifting that cloud off of her through prayer.
She sees this beneficiary-reward in the life of her children as well. “Often we’ve been asked how our kids turned out so well. Each time Tom and I would acknowledge that it is absolutely God’s grace and answered prayer. We didn’t do anything. But prayer is one thing we can do for our loved ones.”
Cheryl believes prayer also creates a venue for revelation. “God doesn’t need our prayers but He certainly reveals Himself to us when we pray. Sometimes I am led to pray or asked to pray and while I’m praying He gives me the confidence it is done. I was praying for a person’s salvation once and as I was praying I just had a sense it was done. The person called the next day and confirmed it. Another time I, and many others, were praying for a young woman struggling with an eating disorder. I was able to speak to her. God opened her eyes that very day. The next day God just healed her she said. It was God’s timing and all those people praying. I remember her telling me God is real and He answers prayers!”
Group prayers have a similar blessing she explained. “Even if you are just one person in a group prayer, with so many people praying for the same thing there is so much energy—it’s edifying and powerful. I think about Mary Ann’s [Hallows Director of Operations] sister with so many people praying for her and the doctors later saying it was a miracle that her scan shows no cancer now. Being one part of that group prayer was so encouraging.”
Finally, prayer is also about listening. “I love that Pastor Andrew mentioned with the 24-hour Day of Prayer that prayer is also listening to God and having a quiet time with Him. Years ago when her father was struggling with cancer Cheryl recalls days of driving back and forth to Spokane to see him. “I was by myself and driving a lot, but I was able to spend the whole time praying in the car. I was also praying for my son who was in high school at the time. God would give me such peace. I felt Him quietly, gently answering my prayer. In my heart I felt God saying, ‘I’ve got him, don’t worry.’ All those hours of driving were a great opportunity to speak to the Lord, and to listen to Him.”
“In the end, Cheryl concluded, “it’s hard to understand prayer but it’s powerful and transforming. Our faith and trust transfer into living hope.”
To share your story of being encouraged, growing, learning or experiencing God through the discipline of prayer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Bill Bacon for interviewing and sharing Cheryl’s story.