The day that I failed to pray

I had never witnessed death knocking at the door of someone’s life before. I was also very clueless as to how ugly and cruel death could be.

It all happened rather quickly. In a matter of a few months, we went from receiving the news of cancer, to gathering as a family to say goodbye. The trajectory of events was a bizarre one for me. To start, I was in complete denial of the gravity of the matter from the get-go. I reasoned that he was a strong man that would beat this monster in no time. I knew many people who had fought the same battle, and with the help of chemotherapy, they fought and killed off the alien-life-form in no time. If they could do it, so could he. This was a no brainer for me. Nevertheless, the announcement of this was still like a slap across my face, and “boy did it hurt.”….. So, I did what I knew to do best when faced with pain. I kept my distance. Yes, I know that it was a selfish of me, but at the time, I had the coping skills of a pet rock. Basically, they did not yet exist.

I remember getting the call from my mother telling me that I should probably go see him and pray for him. I had been ordained into the ministry just a few years earlier. For that point on, I was my father’s pride and joy. Perhaps I failed to live up to his expectations of taking over the family farm, but this was equally worthy of his praise. He was so proud that one of his kids was serving the Lord in ministry, and he told everyone about it. Hearing my mother’s request, I reluctantly took in deep breath of air, mustered up some energy, and drove to the hospital.

As I walked up to the room, I heard the sound of someone moaning from pain. Stepping into the room, I saw his sister-in-law walking around the room, and praying. “Be with him Jesus. There’s power in the blood. Hold him Lord,” she prayed with fervency. Despite being an ordained minister, I was scared to look at him. However, not even my deepest fears prepared me for what I would see. The strong man, that I grew up admiring as one of my personal heroes, lay confined to his bed and shriveled up in pain. My nephew lay there too, holding him, and trying to comfort him. But there’s no consoling anyone who is in that amount of pain and discomfort.

I don’t think he was ever aware of my presence. His condition was so far advanced that I’m not sure he even knew what was taking place. It was too much for me to take in all at once. I wanted to run far away, but I was frozen in horror and heartache. I wanted to rescue him from his suffering, but I knew better. I knew that I was powerless against this battle. As I stood there assessing what my eyes were seeing, his sister-in-law asked me if I would like to pray for him.

I don’t remember much after that. All I knew is that I placed my hand on his and nervously said a two-sentence prayer that didn’t have much significance. That very moment my sadness skyrocketed above any ounce of faith that I had in me. As soon as I was done praying, I excused myself, I ran home, packed my car, and drove 2 hours to the nearest campground that I knew of. I spent the night alone in my tent crying. I had failed my brother, I had failed my family, I had failed God. At a time that they needed me, I ran.

That night my brother’s suffering ended. However, my shame remained for years after.

My story from shame towards grace is one that I share quite often on this blog, and I encourage you to take some time to browse through this website to read about it. However, I’d like to use the next few moments to share with you 3 things that I have learned since that moment.

  • It’s Ok to freak out.

The tradition that I was brought up in taught me that it was improper for a man to show any sign of weakness. When I saw my brother’s condition, I was unable to emotionally handle what I saw. I initially interpreted this as complete failure. Since then I’ve learned that my inability to handle a situation is the perfect place for God to demonstrate his grace and power. The moment that I feel like running away is an opportune time to run to the arms of God.

  • God is bigger than my reaction

I’ve learned that God is not fazed by my over-dramatic response to pain, heartache, and stress. In fact, he meets me where I am and ushers in hope, healing, and encouragement. When I feel like I can’t go on, He carries me. When I feel small and powerless, he always manages to lift me up to safety.

  • No prayer is ever wasted.

I am amazed at how Jesus never instructed his followers to pray perfect prayers. Instead he encouraged them to have mustard-seed-faith. As time has passed, I’ve discovered that some of my most powerful prayers have been prayed when I had no idea how to start praying. I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit helps me weak moments when I don’t even know how to start praying. In fact, the Holy Spirit prays for me in groanings that can’t be expressed through words. In other words, regardless of how inarticulate my prayer may sound… it is always heard… and God always answers.

Surprisingly enough, since losing my brother, I have had the privilege of being with many people while they are transitioning to eternal life. God, in His grace, has redeemed the fear I have and has blessed me with the ability to be present with others during a very significant part of their lives. I’m happy to report that I no longer feel the need to run. Instead, I feel the desire to be present. Present for God and present for others.

Unapologetically yours,

John Eli Garay

John Eli is a transformational life coach who has spent over 15 years mentoring individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. His resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher-education advising. From an early age, John recognized that God created him to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. He is currently walking out his purpose by helping others confront, and work through, any negative self-talk that keeps them from living life to the fullest. His ministry includes blogging, speaking, and personal development coaching. He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”

To schedule a coaching session with John Eli click here.

Published by John Eli

I am a self-awareness coach (coach for humans), life strategist, blogger and speaker. I’ve spent over 21 years mentoring individuals in life skills, career transitions, relationships, and life recovery. My resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher education. From an early age, I realized that God created me to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. I am currently living out my purpose by creating a space where people can rediscover and become all that they were created to be. I currently live in the beautiful state of Arizona with my wife, two dogs, and an antique piano whom I call, “Betty.”

29 thoughts on “The day that I failed to pray

  1. It is okay to freak out! So true. We have a tendency in churches to pretend like we having all together – Casting Crown’s “plastic people” who don’t show the messy inside on the outside. But so many people just want authenticity today – a reason many churches look irrelevant to the outside world. People don’t want a country club church anymore. They want a place where everyone is real and honest, authentic and true – which, looking back… is what we should have remained all along! It’s okay to freak out!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love this, John. It’s so vulnerable and transparent. That’s where God wants us so he can tell us, it’s OK to mess up. I’ve got you. But, learn from it and you’ll know what to do next time. Great stuff! Can I use this as a guest post on my site?

    “Since then I’ve learned that my inability to handle a situation is the perfect place for God to demonstrate his grace and power. The moment that I feel like running away is an opportune time to run to the arms of God.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a real life story right here. Seeing someone in your immediate family shrivel up in pain like that is really frightening. My father also died with cancer. I was there the whole 9 yards to see him in pain. I just wished I knew what to say or how to say it, and I often froze up and held it in as well. I’d say something just to make him feel better, but I’ve learned that there’s not much to say in situations like that. You just do it. You do what you need to do with little to say. Pray? You just do it. Even like you said, a little prayer can do it. Those prayers that are hard to start are usually the ones that are the most heart felt when you let God pour the words into your mouth.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Simply excellent, John! Shared with the Shepherding All God’s Creatures group, on the Facebook page, in the prayer group, and on my personal page – thank you, I enjoy your work! And thank you for following Shepherding All God’s Creatures and our work, too; I am not following yours as well and look forward to reading more. God’s many blessings upon you and yours, Kathy

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Uh, this is embarrassing! It is supposed to say “I am *now* following yours as well”, instead of “not” – oops, can you please edit!? 🙂 Thank you! (Kathy the embarrassed one!)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When I sat and held my Mother-in-Law’s hand as she died, I came to know for a believer there is no fear in death. It doesn’t mean we don’t grieve and especially for the pain so many deal with on the journey there. But I know one minute I held her hand and the next Jesus took her hand from me. His peace filled the room. After the pain she had been in I couldn’t even grieve for my loss for she gained so much. Also I want to thank your for choosing to follow my blog. I pray it can be an encouragement to you and those you minister to.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a great post! It is amazing how God is so much bigger than our failures and fears. It is also amazing how God works with the simplest of prayers, when they are offered in faith. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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