THE NIGHT I STOPPED PRAYING
Revelation 12:11 says: “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; …”. When we tell testimonies of the Lord God’s power and saving grace on our lives, the devil slinks away tail between legs. So, let us share our amazing stories of God’s love in action and shame the evil one.
We look forward to reading your own story of faith in the coming weeks. Your well-written story should be about 1000 words. Send your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org . Selected stories will be compiled into an anthology of stories of faith.
Here is today’s story of faith told by Sally-Sue Ntabeni. Enjoy! Look out for the next story of faith next week.
THE NIGHT I STOPPED PRAYING
“Sally, where do you wish to be buried when you die? Please let us have the person to contact …”
I felt sad for my son who was quite young. Who would care for him when I was gone in this cold land, far away from the warm embrace of extended family? I began to see my funeral unfolding. I remember the songs my sisters sang. I saw them sweeping the room where my body had lain in state on the night before my funeral in my home country. It was bizarre.
The year was 2008, and I was about 12,000 km from my home. I had had a headache for about a month and the doctor did all sorts of tests, gave me antibiotics and simple painkillers. Nothing eased the pain. The Doctor and nurses seemed relaxed about my condition until I collapsed. I heard the doctor say,
“It might be meningitis!”
But how could I have survived meningitis beyond the time it causes death? Only then, was I taken to hospital. I lived in West Berkshire and was transferred from hospital to hospital; North Hants Hospital in Basingstoke, John Radcliffe in Oxford then St George’s in London. I even celebrated my birthday in one of the hospitals. The team of doctors bought a huge cake and brought it to my room. They confessed they had thought I would long have been dead by then. I smiled whimsically as they had not bargained with the God I knew.
It was at the peak of my illness that I decided I was done with praying. I had done all the praying as I knew how. I had knelt and pleaded; I had cried, tears so hot there was a permanent lump of pain in my throat. Then I snapped! It just happened – a sudden realisation that I am short-changing myself. I had been trying to help God do His stuff! I had been doing it wrong. That was it. I was not doing that anymore. I was not playing ‘I-dare-you’ games with God. I was doing it my way. God had created me, and He knew my every weakness. From that split second, I said I was going to talk to God. I was going to have a Father-Daughter relationship with Him.
My biological father, the man I revered; my mentor, my confidante, and my teacher, knew me well. I was not the ‘easiest-to-please child’, but I was his girl. I knew whatever I asked he would do all it took to give me, because he was my father and I his girl. He would often say, “Ngizwile MaDawu” (I hear you MaDawu) and at that point I would know it would be done. So how had I been missing it? Why had I not been going to God like that? Unlike my earthly father, I realised I had one up on God. His promises have an audit trail, there for all to see. These are bold statements from God. Therein lies the point of departure in my talk with my God. I go before Him, offload and remind Him what He promised. He is the God who has said, “Ask and it will be given to you, … For everyone who asks receives; … If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV). Was He failing or was I standing in His way? I enjoy reminding God that I am aware of my ‘rights’ as His child. It is my right to ask and get ready to receive.
While hospitalised, I had met wonderful humans who I can only say were sent by God. A lot of little things would happen, and I would be left wondering. At that point I asked God to give my team of doctors, wisdom from above. I remember at the third hospital, lying in bed and someone coming to my room and telling me,
“Hold on to whatever you believe in, you will be given medication, but it only works in the background to give you scope to do what you believe in. Please hold on!” This was a pharmacist talking about spiritual things! Then there was the medic who broke down and cried after performing a lumber puncture she said she had never done before. That was the only lumber puncture which was painless for me as apparently my spine is ‘different.’
So, that night I told God, “I am done! I have asked, I have knocked on that door and now I am going to break it down. Make up your mind! You decide, come morning I am dead, or I am getting up from this sick bed and I am going to work like everyone else. I am sick of being sick, I am sick of seeing my son’s sad eyes. Let us finish this tonight, my death is your loss because I have told people that I believe in you, that I will bow to no other but you. I am human, I lose no face by dying in the hands of the God I believe in.” At this point the pleading woman from hospital was gone, in her place was this determined, I-will-not-let-go mother of a young boy who still needed his mom. I reminded God that He is a parent Himself surely, He must know how a parent feels about their child. I did not care at that point. I was fed up with playing games of pleading. I was not praying. I was talking, demanding my entitlement. This one-sided talking went on for a long time…then came the wrestling! My body was emaciated so I cannot say how the wrestling could have been physical. In truth, I was trying to use human logic to understand things of the spiritual realm. All I know is I have never wrestled like that in my life.
That night as I was lying on my bed, desperately unwell, far away from my loving siblings, with only my 16-year old son by my side. I had an epiphany! The night was the culmination of hospital admissions stretching for months, and finally being allowed to go home to my son. In all that time, not once had I ever forgotten to pray and plead for my life for the sake of my young son. My spirit had remained unbeaten while physically my body had taken a total battering. I had gone through phases of my physical body shielding itself from pain by retreating into a deep slumber for three days, losing my sight for a few hours to being deaf and dumb for a week. One thing God allowed me to have were my full faculties. So, in my blind, deaf-dumb states, I could still plead. Four months and three hospitals later, I was much better and back home but still incapacitated. I declined the help of Carers as I needed to be in control of this journey I was on.
Come morning I was physically spent, knackered, but I woke up, got off my bed and went to have a bath. After nearly four months of needing help to do near enough anything and everything I walked, unaided, to the bathroom and took a bath. It seemed the natural thing to do until my son knocked on the bathroom door, asking who had helped me to the bathroom and into the bath. Again, light bulb moment, the last time I had tried to do that independently I had lost my sight!
When the hospital physiotherapists came to my place to discuss my next stage of care, they were amazed when I opened the door for them. They asked how I was up? I was surprised when I heard myself telling them I did not need physio. At that point I realised just how we do not really grasp our meaning when we declare, ‘We serve a miracle working God who is a Way maker’.
My decision to stop praying and start talking brought with it a new take. I realised that less noise is what God requires of me to hear his voice. This pushing and shoving, trying to help God along is noise and the more noise there is around me the less I am likely to hear His voice. I had got it. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ Psalm 46:10 (NIV). That was it. I was going to be still and acknowledge that He is God as I talk to Him.
Do not get me wrong. I am a human, a sinner at that, but I am heaven bound. His grace is sufficient for me and thank God (no pun intended), His mercies are new every morning. I stand with no condemnation. I am unable to tell people how to pray, but I believe I can share how to talk to God, how to focus on his infinite Fatherliness.
Sally-Sue Ntabeni is from Godlwayo at Filabusi in Zimbabwe but is currently based in the United Kingdom. She is a Learning Development Consultant with special interest in workplace human resource development. Sally is a mother of one adult son, Thabo.