During my seminary days, one of the classes I took was on “Loss and Grief.” For the class, we had to write a paper on loss and grief. I chose to write my paper on the “loss and grief associated with mental illness.” In my research, I came across a book that talked about how many churchs have so many board and care facilities for those who daily live and struggle with mental illness in the “shadows of their steeples.” That phrase has stuck with me over the years. What if we did a better job of caring for and even praying for these individuals?
In my own experience, I have seen the power of prayer at work. So much so, that my Lenten practice the last several years has been to pray through my Facebook friends list for Lent. Prayer is a powerful gift! I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Philippians. “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).”
Growing up, prayer was important to me but it truly wasn’t until I graduated high school and went to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp that I realized how essential and vital it was to my life. It also was this holy place where I discovered that writing poetry was, for me, a form of prayer. (I have always been a writer but it was here that it took on a new meaning and purpose for me!).
In February of 2001, Mom had a huge setback. Her lithium (a drug she takes for her illness) level got too high which caused her kidneys to shut down. (And if you remember from the last two posts, she has lived in a assisted living/nursing home since then). I was sitting in my dorm room when I received a phone call from the hospital at about 10 pm. I knew that it couldn’t be good news because it was after ten pm. They proceeded to tell me that mom was in ICU. After I hung up the phone, I went downstairs and sent a prayer request email to family and friends asking them to pray. I knew that I could count on them to pray for Mom and my family. I wasn’t in my room but a few minutes, when my dear friend BD (or as I like to affectionately call him “the little brother I always wanted”) called me. He prayed with me on the phone and even had me laughing a little by the end of the call. A holy prayer moment I will never forget.
Mom has been quite healthy for awhile, but I always find myself praying for her happiness, her wholeness, and so much more. This past August, I found myself turning to my “prayer warrior friends (a group of three dear friends plus me). I received a phone call saying Mom just wasn’t herself. They ended up bringing her to the town where I live. I met them at the ER and I asked my friends if someone could come with me. I have spent sometime in the hospital with mom over the years, but I still don’t feel the most comfortable going there by myself. My friend E was able to come with me. My friend E sat with me in the emergency room and prayed with Mom and I. Even as she was admitted, I found myself clinging to the prayer “The Lord’s Prayer” we said together that evening. It was hard to see Mom sick because she hadn’t been in the hospital for so long (at least 5 years). Now Mom is home and doing so very well. But it was those “prayer warrior friends” prayers that got us through that night and the next week. Another holy prayer moment that I won’t soon forget!
As the daughter of someone who daily struggles with a mental illness, I appreciate and acknowledge how important prayer is, but I also know how important it is to seek proper medical care. Yet prayer is a gift that can bring hope to those who daily struggle with mental health issues. As my friend and I sat in the emergency room with Mom and prayed the words to the Lord’s Prayer, I could see that those words were bringing comfort to her.
“Our Father..who art in heaven…hallowed by thy name…thy kingdom come…thy will be done….on Earth as it is in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…lead us not into temptation….but deliver us from evil….for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen!”