The Power of Prayer (In the Frozen Food Aisle)
(Sumner, Illinois, circa 1994)
In my five years as pastor of the Sumner/Beulah Charge, I seldom had time to visit our shut-ins with any regularity. Sumner ran about 225 a Sunday and Beulah ran about 110; either congregation should have been a full time job. When you factored in that the nearest real hospital was an hour and a half away, there was seldom time to do anything but sermon preparation, attend church meetings and visit the sick. It really wasn’t as bad as you might think on the shut-in front because I often ran into them at Wal-Mart, the restaurant at Red Hill State Park or the Key Market Grocery Store. One day I was picking something up for Melissa at the Key Market and saw one of our Sumner shut-ins in the canned goods aisle. She had spotted me first and was hoping to avoid me by looping around the frozen food section and making a getaway while I was in the back of the store. This was unbelievably ambitious for an 88 year old woman with limited mobility in a 1,800 square foot grocery store but she gave it a try. Sensing her dubious intentions, I sprinted back to the front of the store, looped around and when she arrived at the frozen foods aisle, I was standing face to face with her. I smiled and asked, “How are you doing today?” She was now in an old fashioned conundrum. She has stated on many occasions that she was too ill to attend church but here she was standing under her own power (and moving with surprising speed) at the Key Market. I couldn’t wait for her response. She looked down, gathered her wits, took a long breath and started outlining her maladies for me from the top of her psoriasis afflicted scalp to the bottom of her hammer toes.
When she had talked herself out, I said, “Sister, can I pray for you?” She responded, “Right here in the frozen food aisle?” I said, “Yes mam” and jumped right in. I did not use the “inside voice” mom had taught me as a kid and launched into a ten minute, high volume prayer in which I asked God to heal each of her various illnesses and discomforts by name. I prayed that her mysterious “Sunday Sickness” that prohibited her from worshipping with God’s people but allowed her to shop in grocery stores would be healed and hit on various and sundry other petitions for her as I felt led. When I finished, she thanked me and was moving toward the door so quickly that she almost forgot to pay.
If you are wondering about the after-effects of our holy encounter, I am pleased to report that a miracle occurred! I ran into the same shut-in a few weeks later at the Wal-Mart in Lawrenceville, caught her eye and yelled across the store, “Great to see you, how are you feeling today?” She replied a resounding, “FANTASTIC!” The Lord works in mysterious ways.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois and the author of “Exactly As I Remember It” and “Re:member.”