After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
She had not been a member of the congregation for long. In their retirement, she had moved there with her husband a year or two before I showed up in that hospital waiting room. This was the “before time” when hospitals were far more open to visitors. The strange pain her abdomen had turned out to be serious. Now she was getting ready for surgery. We did not know exactly what they would find, but all three of us, the woman, her husband, and I, were afraid of what was to come.
I read a Psalm; I am not sure which one anymore. Perhaps it was the 23rd or the 121st. I often pray those with people who going into surgery. We also spoke our own prayers together that day. When we were done, a young woman came out and called her name. It was time, time for the medical professionals to take over, prepare her, anesthetize her, and operate upon her. It was also time for her husband and I to pray together and then to pray some more.
So much of what I do as a pastor must appear to the unbelieving person to be a foolish and ineffectual thing. I cannot tell you that those for whom I pray have demonstrably better health outcomes. I have stood at many graves, in funeral services and memorial services, proclaiming resurrection. Yet, the people whom we have grieved remain stubbornly dead. Yet, I continue to preach the resurrection and pray for God’s care for people.
Abraham believed what the Lord said, and the Lord counted it to him as righteousness. The news after the surgery was not good. Within a year, the woman for whom I prayed was dead. But Jesus heard that prayer and kept his promises to me and her. He walked with her in the valley of the shadow of death. Her foot did not slip because he who watched over her did not slumber or sleep. She dwells in the house of the Lord forever. I believe that.