29: The Power of Prayer

29: The Power of Prayer

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels Among Us

The Power of Prayer

Pray without ceasing . . .

~1 Thessalonians 5:17

“Those stairs. They worry me. I pray every day for your family on those stairs.” My husband’s “crazy Aunt Anna” was always praying for something. For her, prayer was like breathing. She never stopped until the day she died. She prayed for requests from local churches and lists from televangelists. She prayed for parking spaces, doctors’ visits and grocery orders. She prayed herself up and then down the few steps in her small apartment.

Aunt Anna was our family’s rock of faith. A widow with no children, she cared for her nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, as if they were her own. If my children had a pending test, audition, or big game, they’d ask Aunt Anna to pray for them, believing that she had the red phone direct line to heaven. Of course, they knew that they could pray too, but to them Aunt Anna’s prayers seemed more powerful.

In her younger years, she visited people in need of prayer. My husband was often sick as a child, and Aunt Anna came to his bedside and prayed for him. Years later, as she became more and more housebound, she increased her prayer time. Her kitchen table served as Prayer Headquarters, strewn with handwritten prayers, journals, Bibles, devotional books, and prayer requests — lots and lots of prayer requests.

And for some reason, Aunt Anna always reminded us that she prayed for safety on our basement staircase.

What was it about those stairs that scared her? With her one withered hand and two arthritic knees, Aunt Anna had three good reasons to fear them. But we didn’t. We climbed up and down those stairs each time we left and returned home. The handrail on the left side did seem a bit awkward when descending. Could that be it? Or was it the hard cement beneath the unpadded indoor/outdoor carpeting? Whatever it was, we didn’t give the stairs a second thought.

Maybe we should have.

My four-year-old daughter’s constant companion was her adorable talking doll Katie. Lauren carried Katie everywhere she went, which was no small feat as the doll was half Lauren’s height. Lauren was a petite, quiet little girl with a mass of brown curls. Katie was a huge blond doll that spoke.

One ordinary day, we headed toward the stairs to the garage. My toddler son AJ rested heavily on my hip. Lauren carried Katie as she opened the basement door and started down the stairs.

What happened next took only a microsecond, yet it seemed to happen in slow motion. With the Katie doll in her left arm, Lauren stepped off the landing and made it to the second step before catapulting into the air. Her sneaker’s thick rubber sole stuck on the carpet pile, propelling her headfirst down the hard flight of stairs. She rolled head over heels. Behind her, I was powerless to stop the unfolding nightmare as I envisioned my broken and bleeding little girl crumpled on the cement floor.

With teary eyes and pounding heart, I couldn’t believe what I saw next. To this day, as many times as my mind replays this event, it seems like a film that’s missing footage — as if several frames were lost on the cutting room floor. One second I saw Lauren flying. The next, I saw her twisted body at my feet lying diagonally on the stairs as if an angel had caught her in mid-air and gently laid her there. The rubber bottoms of her shoes faced up at me, her head a few steps down. The giant doll remained curled inside her left arm as her right hand somehow seized the railing on her left side.

Despite Lauren’s wide-eyed terror, she didn’t cry or even whimper. She just waited peacefully for me to gather her into my arms. As she nestled into my lap, her right hand — the one that held the banister — was balled in a fist. Prying her fingers open exposed a huge wad of contraband gummy worm candies nesting inside. Unbelievable! It was impossible for her tiny fist to have grasped the railing without dropping the candies.

I knew I had witnessed an angelic intervention.

Jesus said that children have “their angels in heaven” (Matthew 18:10) and the psalmist wrote, “He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12)

God answered Aunt Anna’s prayers that day. Surely He sent an invisible angel to hold up Lauren with his hands and stop her from tumbling further down the stairs.

That day changed our attitude towards prayer, towards the real presence of angels, and towards Aunt Anna. She was so faithful, so sure that God heard her prayers. She prayed over big things and little things, certain that her heavenly Father cared for all things.

As a young mom, I cared about every big and every little thing concerning my children. Taking our cue from Aunt Anna, my family and I now share all our concerns in prayer, not just the “major” ones. After all, the Bible says to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

He certainly did send us an angel in our time of need.

~Susan Allen Panzica

More stories from our partners