(Guest Post by: Gerald Steele)
Yesterday my Uncle Frank was laid to rest. He was my mother’s youngest brother and he lived to be 99 years old. He was a retired pastor who lived not only a long, but a very productive life. As I reflect on Uncle Frank’s life, I think of the words of Psalm 92:14, “They will still bear fruit in old age, they shall stay fresh and green…”
Uncle Frank was a hero and mentor to me. He was a World War II veteran who was an Army medic in the historic Battle of the Bulge. He was a very gifted and successful pastor. However, Uncle Frank excelled in prayer. His day typically began at 4:30 a.m. He would pray in a disciplined way for a myriad of requests that included family, missionaries, and the lost.
He confessed to me, just several years ago, that sometimes he would awaken at 2:30 a.m. and could not get back to sleep so he would get up and start his prayer journey for the day. His entire bedroom wall was plastered with photos, missionary prayer cards, and written requests. Uncle Frank did not hastily offer “a word of prayer.” He was old school, and he knew the reality of a “sweet hour(s) of prayer.” Like the great Apostle Paul, he knew the agony and reality of suffering “labor pains” (see Galatians 4:19) on behalf of those who were not in right alignment with God.
He was an intercessor.
Fortunately, our family was the object of Uncle Frank’s prayers. He had our missionary prayer card on his wall as a reminder. When my Aunt Betty, Uncle Frank’s wife, died in 2012, he told me he just wanted to get to heaven as quickly as he could. I told him that I was not going to allow that to happen because I depended on his prayers. He enjoyed a quick little chuckle, and he knew that the Father still had work on this earth for him to do.
His prayer ministry continued on for nearly another decade. Through the years, Uncle Frank partnered with Miriam and me in praying for the conversion of our son Joel. When Miriam (my wife) and I went to Brazil as missionaries, we had two small girls. Prior to embarking on our missionary journey, we had discussed the idea of adopting a baby boy. So, after six months of language school, the Lord opened up an opportunity to adopt our Joel David. He was only eight days old when he came to us. A few days later, at our annual missionary conference in Curitiba, Parana, Brazil we dedicated him to the Lord and his service. Joel’s boyhood and early years could be described as normal. He was an obedient and compliant child.
Joel was eleven years old when we returned to the States. During his middle school years, we began to notice some behavioral changes. However, we were not overly alarmed. But following his high school years there were some significant changes, and none were for the better. This even included some gang activity in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
By then, Miriam and I were living and working in Portugal as missionaries. Finally, when Joel was nineteen, he had an altercation with a fellow gang member and was severely beaten up. This too, was an answer to prayer. Not long after this experience he got a job and established some new friendships. But Joel still had other issues to be dealt with.
He had multiple live-in girlfriends. He fathered a child with a young lady who was not even a girlfriend, but rather just a sex partner for a few nights. Finally, in his thirties he moved into a long term, live-in relationship with a young lady. They lived together for fourteen years. Life seemed to be treating him, and her, well. However, after fourteen years the relationship ended rather abruptly. Joel was devastated. He began to experience depression and anxiety. This culminated in a phone call to me around 10:00 p.m. on a cold January night two and a half years ago.
Miriam and I had driven up to Fort Wayne from Florida for my cousin’s funeral. In the phone conversation that I had with him that night, I sensed that he was in crisis mode, so I got up from bed and put on my clothes and drove through the freshly fallen snow to his place. He talked that night. He talked like he had never talked before. He expressed his fear and anxiety. He told me about a friend that he had reconnected with in recent weeks who had been texting Bible verses to him. He wanted me to hear some of those verses, that basically dealt with the issues of sin and salvation. Actually, this friend was a man who was nearly 80 years old by the name of Pete. My response was, “Son, Pete is an answer to my prayers.” He responded, “I know that’s true dad.”
At that juncture, I asked Joel if he wanted me to pray for him and he indicated that yes, he did. I went over to couch and put my hand on his shoulder and began to pray. The tears were beginning to stream down my son’s face as I prayed. When I finished, I said, “Son, it’s your turn to pray.” He said, “Dad, I don’t know how.” I asked him, “Do you want me to coach you?” He said, “Yes.” At that point in time, I basically helped him pray a prayer of repentance. And repent he did! He put his face down on the coffee table in front of him and sobbed, totally broken. After it was over, I returned to my daughter’s home where Miriam and I were staying. I told Miriam that it was one of the most “ugly/beautiful” experiences of my life. Ugly, because tears and snot were dripping everywhere. Beautiful, because I watched a gorgeous butterfly emerge from a cocoon, a life redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
A week ago, Miriam and I had lunch with Joel and his new girlfriend. Before we ate, I called Joel’s new girlfriend by name and told her that we had a practice in our home of saying a prayer of thanksgiving for the food before we ate our meal. She said, “I know, because Joel prays with me all the time.” Wow! What an affirmation! Joel continues to climb. Recently he’s landed a real good job with Pepsi Cola. I have had the joy of discipling him from a distance. We text each other almost daily.
The moral of this story, in the words of Jesus is, “Pray and never give up.” We need praying fathers like never before. Uncle Frank, who had to prevail in prayer for some of his children, taught me this lesson.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! If you by chance have children who are not following Jesus, make prayer for them a priority.
SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?
= What valuable lesson has your father/man in your life taught you?
= Have you experienced the power of prayer in your own life?
= What are you going to do differently?