Carrying a Prayer

Post by Kathleen Schwab

When my daughter was born my church was having a small baby boom: three births within six weeks or so. Every Sunday after service people were available to pray for anyone who wanted it, and when my daughter was a few months old, I was in the prayer line next to one of the other new moms. Both our babies were sick, and we were bringing them up for prayers, blessings, maybe some moral support. The prayer team prayed for the other baby first, and one of the women laid her hand on the little girl and said, “Faith. That’s what I sense for her: she will be a person of strong faith.” When it was my daughter’s turn, the same woman said, “Strength. That’s what I hear God saying for her.”

Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 (NIV)

That resonated for me for some reason, although my daughter was much too small for me to claim I knew her character qualities yet. But the word came to mind over and over again as she grew up. She was the most sensitive child I have ever known, the most easily upset. I stopped taking her to any movies at all after she collapsed sobbing in my lap during March of the Penguins, a G-rated documentary about Antarctica. Strength I prayed silently as I hugged her. You said Strength, my Lord. You said it.

She was highly attuned to relationship dynamics, and when the school years started she developed intense friendships. How much she cared about her friends sometimes worried me. Strength I would repeat to myself when I saw how much a friend’s rejection pained her. In middle school the mean girl culture and the bullying kicked in. Strength I whispered to God, as I watched my sweet girl targeted. You promised.

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In high school, I watched her build new friendships. She was still the same pensive and sensitive soul, but her study of social dynamics resulted in some interesting decisions. I saw her quietly draw lines with other teenagers, and walk away when they crossed her boundaries. She was never unkind, but I saw her make decisions and then stick with them, whatever her peers thought. I saw her stand up for herself, and accept the consequences with grace. I was amazed. I hadn’t developed that much fortitude nor wisdom until I was in my 30s. Her strength was quiet, and I think mostly unnoticed, as virtues can be. When a person makes a mistake, especially a messy one, she has everyone’s attention. When she successfully pilots through the rapids, she may find herself paddling on unremarked. Except in this case, I saw what was happening, and I also knew that God was there through the whole journey.

A few days ago she mentioned that she was thinking about getting a tattoo. “What do you want it to be,” I asked. We were in my room, sitting on my bed.

“I want it to be a symbol of strength,” she said. “Maybe one of these.” She showed me some possible tattoos on her phone, Celtic spirals and patterns.

“You know, that was spoken over you when you were a baby,” I said. “Strength.”

“Really?” she said, looking intrigued.

I had never said it aloud before. I carried it with me for eighteen years, but I didn’t want to be the one to speak it: I wanted her to say it first. And she did.

Have you ever carried a promise from God?