How Prayer Made Me a Father Again

How Prayer Made Me a Father Again

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

How Prayer Made Me a Father Again

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

~Confucius

I can’t begin to count the number of times that prayer has played an important part in my life. As often as God has answered my prayers, I realize it’s important to pray for others, too. So when our church started a Tuesday night prayer service, I became a regular participant. The pastor sometimes would begin with a short devotion, and then we’d sing a couple of praise choruses before getting down to serious conversations with God. From the beginning we knew we were there to pray.

During the first few months, attendance was sparse. Those who came gave their prayer requests and there’d still be plenty of time to bring them to the Lord. However, as prayers were answered, more people joined and the number of requests multiplied. It took most of the service to hear all the requests.

The pastor solved the problem. Now when we arrive for the service, we write down our prayer requests on a sign-in sheet in the foyer. During our praise time, the pastor makes a copy of these requests for each person. With list in hand, we find a quiet place to pray individually.

One Tuesday evening our prayer list was short. I prayed for each need listed. I prayed for the church, our community, our state and our country. Then I prayed over the list again.

I looked at my watch thinking the hour ought to be up. I still had fifteen minutes left! There had to be something more I could pray about.

Then my son came to mind. I had not seen Teddy in twenty-seven years. When he was less than a year old, his mother and I divorced, and she moved with Teddy out of state. I smiled to myself as I thought back to those months with my firstborn son. I would get off the bus from work and could hear him crying half a block away. As soon as I walked into his room, his cries turned into laughter.

After the divorce, I made an effort to keep in touch, but my first letters were returned unopened. Later they were marked, “Addressee moved, left no forwarding address.” I had no idea where either Teddy or his mother lived.

When Teddy was about five, I learned through an attorney that my ex-wife had remarried and her new husband wanted to adopt my son. I agonized over my decision.

The attorney wouldn’t disclose Teddy’s whereabouts unless I chose to seek custodial rights. But a custody battle might forfeit any chance for Teddy to enjoy a stable life. I reasoned: Teddy doesn’t know me. Would it really be fair to deny him a father to satisfy my own need to see him? Would my selfishness cause more emotional damage?

I loved Teddy and missed him terribly, but I decided I couldn’t interfere with a chance for happiness in his life. I waived my rights, hoping it was the best thing to do for my son.

Now years later, I simply asked prayerfully, “Lord, my son is a grown man now. I love him and miss him. Please just let me know what kind of a man Teddy has turned out to be. Anything more than that I leave in your hands. In fact, Lord, I don’t even know where to start looking for him, so I am truly leaving it all up to you. Please, let me know my son. Amen.”

As I left that prayer service, the Lord gave me peace from the words of Malachi 4:6—“He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

The rest of the week I went about my normal routine and forgot about my prayer. But God hadn’t forgotten.

The Saturday after the prayer meeting, I ran into our pastor at the post office. After I collected the mail from my box, we started to chat. As I scanned through my mail, a letter caught my eye.

I couldn’t place the name or the return address. As the pastor commented on Sunday’s church activities, I started reading the mysterious letter.

“Are you okay?” he asked me. Tears were rolling down my face. I couldn’t speak; I handed him the letter I had just read—from Teddy.

Teddy explained that he had decided to search the Internet for me. This letter was one of forty-seven letters that my son had written to Richard Whetstones all over the country. Then I noticed the postmark: It was dated Wednesday, the day after my Tuesday night prayer. This wasn’t a coincidence. This was a direct answer to my prayer.

When I told my wife, Rose, she was excited because she had encouraged me to try to find Teddy. Since I hadn’t mentioned my Tuesday night prayer to her, she was even more thrilled when she learned the whole story.

I decided to call Teddy that day, but I was nervous as I dialed the phone number in Amarillo, Texas. When he answered the phone, I said I had received the letter and I was his father. We agreed to pursue the relationship further.

So I sat down and wrote him back, enclosing a photo I had of him—a color snapshot taken by a family friend at Teddy’s christening. In the photo, Teddy was in his mother’s arms while my dad and I stood proudly beside him.

In Teddy’s return letter, he enclosed the exact same photo—the only family photo he had! That was the confirmation we both needed. I had found my son—or rather, he had found me.

When I told my sister Donna about Teddy, she began corresponding with him, secretly arranging a person-to-person reunion for the two of us at her wedding in May. Teddy and I had time to slip away for breakfast, then walked on the Clearwater beach, talking the whole time.

Teddy had a lot of questions. He had had suspicions about being adopted early on, but didn’t learn the truth until he was fifteen years old. His mother hadn’t mentioned me at all; I was thankful she hadn’t painted me as a terrible person. Having heard all kinds of horror stories about reunions that turned bad, I was reminded once again that God remained faithful.

In October 1997, Teddy and his family—wife Dana, and their children Hayden and Jorden—visited Rose and me in Florida. Teddy’s wife couldn’t get over how similar Teddy and I were—in looks, mannerisms, speech and ideals—even though we lived completely separate lives.

My Tuesday night prayer wasn’t the first or the last prayer that God has answered in my life. But it is one of the most wonderful and satisfying blessings He has ever given me. All I did was simply ask, trusting for His answer.

~Richard Whetstone

Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul

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