He had always come across as cheerful and confident, but we watched his confidence erode as the years passed. Although he was a practicing Catholic, his church attendance seemed to offer him no real consolation. He knew none of the joy and peace that I and others had come to know in a personal relationship with Jesus.
I wanted him to know what I knew and would encourage him to pray and read his Bible. So would Mum. Poor Dad! These encouragements would generally be met with, Yes, I know I should, but then nothing would happen. Hed continue to be burdened and weighed downand wed be exasperated!
Keeping Vigil. One night I resolved to pray for my dad throughout the night. I only made it to about 2:00 a.m., but by that time I had received an answer and some direction.
I had been asking the Lord why Dad seemed unable to move on in his walk with him. The Lord gave me a sense that Dad had spiritual enemies who were working against him. He also gave me Psalm 13 as a Scripture to pray every day. I adapted it a bit, praying it for Dad like this:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget him forever? How long will you hide your face from him? How long must he bear pain in his soul, and have sorrow in his heart all day long? How long shall his enemy be exalted over him?
Consider and answer him, O Lord my God! Give light to his eyes, or he will sleep the sleep of death, and his enemy will say, I have prevailed; his foes will rejoice because he is shaken.
But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Five Minutes a Day. I prayed this every night for over a year. Then in Easter of 1989, I was home from college and went out for a beer with Dad. Before we went out, I prayed for him, and the Lord put on my heart to pass along a message: Tell him I just want him to pray to me five minutes a day. That was it. No pressure tactics. No urging and cajoling. No cost-benefit analysis. Just a simple message.
So there we were in the pub, and we had the best father-son time I can remember. I shared with Dad about the Lords work in my own life. He was smiling and seemed to enjoy listening to me. Then I passed on the message to him and told him that God wanted him to know that he was his son.
After that, Dad did begin to pray and read his Bible. In a letter he sent me when I was back at college, he passed on a bit of financial advice and then wrote, By the way, I am praying for five minutes every day at least! Also, at long last, he got a job that he enjoyed. We began to see some of his old confidence return.
One night around this time, as I began to pray my usual Psalm 13 for Dad, I sensed the Lord saying, You dont need to pray it any more. Ive answered it. So I began to thank God every night instead.
On May 20, 1989, a couple of months after that chat with Dad over a beer, I was awakened by a phone call. It was Mum, calling with the news that Dad had passed away the previous night. The day before he died, she said, he had attended a prayer meeting. Someone commented to Mum afterward: He looked so happy!
After I got off the phone with Mum, although grieved, I was utterly awestruck at what God had done. He had directed me to pray a specific piece of his ancient word, and in response, he had delivered my dad from his enemies. I had an assurance about Dads place in eternity that I would not have had otherwise.
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Paul Harvey lives in Urbana, Maryland.