This guest post for our Cultivating Prayer theme is by Sandy Anker…
Two weeks later, after a fretful night and a long day of trying to soothe my baby, I put her down in her butterfly seat while I started a fire to take the chill off the October afternoon. When she started fussing again, I turned and picked her up. Something about her cry, rhythmic and weak, alarmed me. I held her out and watched in terror as her face turned gray, then bruise-purple, and her odd little cries faded into silence. I screamed for my sixteen year old lifeguard son who immediately started CPR while I called 911. Tiny puffs of air into the small lungs, little compressions on the still heart.
Thus began a years’ long odyssey that started with a month in the hospital. Weeks of the most desperate prayers I’ve ever uttered. The magnitude of what we were dealing with, however, often left me without words.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
Many of my prayers during this time were desperate, heart-wrenching groans. As my precious daughter faded away in my arms, all I could pray was “No, no, no, no!” As my son worked on his unconscious sister, as the police officer burst through my front door, as my terrified three year old took in the whole scene, the only words I could utter were, “Jesus, bring my baby back!” Over and over and over.
Sometimes my prayers were simply sobbing in His arms. At other times it was simply breathing in His presence. Obviously these were not eloquent prayers. I did not consciously craft my words in meditation. These prayers were raw and messy, cried out to my Father as I flung myself into His lap.
When the first ambulance arrived at our small regional hospital, Lydia was rushed into a small ER room and surrounded by doctors, nurses, and technicians. She was intubated while a nurse continued CPR and another doctor repeatedly injected her with epinephrine to restart her heart. In the midst of this chaos, the doctors encouraged us to squeeze in and touch her. As I whispered in her ear that I loved her and needed her to come back, I felt a strong burden to pray one line from the Lord’s Prayer. Words I didn’t want to say, but knew I must: “THY will be done” (Matthew 6:10) The most painful prayer I’ve ever uttered.
Lydia was soon transported to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh where praying scripture over my baby became a vital part of my time with her. There were several verses that were meaningful to me during this time and I personalized them wherever I could.
“For I know the plans I have for Lydia,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper her and not to harm her, plans to give Lydia hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (emphasis mine)
The whole of Psalm 91 was especially significant, beginning with verse 1:
Lydia dwells in the shelter of the Most High and will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I distinctly remember one long scary night praying this psalm for her. When I reached verse 16, my pulse quickened,
I will satisfy Lydia with long life!
I felt like I had received a direct message from my Father in this verse.
Others prayed Scripture over Lydia, too. Especially precious was our friend Travis serenading Lydia in the ICU. I will never forget his passionately singing directly to my fragile, unconscious child:
You are fearfully and wonderfully made! Psalm 139:14
When we arrived at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, we were ushered into a private waiting room with one of the deacons from our church, our pastor, and one of our seminary professors. We waited for hours before the chief of the Pediatric ICU came to tell us our daughter might not make it through the night. We were numb and speechless. I am so grateful for those three godly saints who took this news in with us and interceded for Lydia and for us.
Like Aaron and Hur held the arms of the exhausted Moses (Exodus 17), so many faithful warriors held us up during this time. As Lydia’s story spread through our seminary and our home church in Texas, and was passed by each seminarian and missionary we knew to their home churches, a prayer net was cast for our tiny girl all around the globe.
We were often surprised by those who joined with us in prayer. One afternoon two of my husband’s seminary buddies came up to pray with us. At that moment Lydia was having electrodes attached to her scalp for an EEG to track her grand mal seizures. The technician said, “I want you to know that I’ll be praying along with you as I continue to work on Lydia.”
We are not meant to go it alone. Prayer is a vital part of our relationship with Him and each other. There were several people I knew I could call any time of the day or night to intercede for Lydia when a new crisis arose. Those dear people didn’t end our conversations with a promise of prayer. They immediately carried our burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
We Are Not Left Helpless
It has been nearly nine years since that horrifying night that started us on a prayer journey that continues to this day. I was rendered speechless so much of the time, but I was not left helpless. My loving Father sweetly gave me His grace to interpret my groans, His Word to speak over my child, and His body to envelop us in a blanket of prayer.
Sandy is a lover of Jesus, the wife of a pastor, the mom of five children, and the grandmother of two sweet babes. She lives, loves, and prays in Northern British Columbia. Lydia is now a spunky, long-legged nine year old rascal.