The Power of Prayer

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”

― C.S. Lewis

“Prayer doesn’t change things,” I’ve heard. If that’s true, prayer won’t change the results of my cancer surgery. It won’t affect my marriage. Prayer wouldn’t change me. I beg to differ. I don’t need to look any further than the husband at my side to know God answered my prayers of lament from years of loneliness. Our beautiful marriage relationship is a testament to the power of a husband and wife praying together.

I believe God answers prayers. Sometimes the answer is NO. Sometimes it is not now. Occasionally, we don’t want to hear the answer because it isn’t what we want or doesn’t make sense to us at the time.

Patience is not my strong suit. Once I had a diagnosis, I just wanted this cancer removed. Immediately. Waiting for surgery is difficult. But God can use this waiting time, to work in me or my husband. I’m determined to get something out of this experience. Through prayer and discernment, I seek whatever that is.

When friends share Bible verses with me in cards and notes, some go next to my journal. Others find a home between pages of my bible. During those inevitable dark nights of the soul, I have helpful verses handy. One thing I’ve noticed in recent days is how lifted I feel, knowing others are praying for me. There is a power in their prayers. The power to lift, to encourage. Maybe, to change outcomes. Surely to change me.

Bible Study, Bible verses, faith, prayer

A Bible Study Re-Do

Readers of my book, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace, will already know this: When my husband David died four years ago, I instinctively knew I needed two things; prayer and God’s word. Having grown up Catholic, I was used to praying rote prayers. While those seemed to be sufficient for handling my mother’s death in 2010, it was not what I needed when I lost my spouse. Instead, I needed the kind of praying I’d been exposed to at Christian Writer’s conferences; Out loud, and from the heart. Two weeks after David’s death, God led me to a church down the street where a youth pastor took my hands in hers and prayed out loud for me.

As for God’s word, while I owned several Bibles, I wasn’t sure how to study a Bible to find the answers I needed. Once again, He intervened. I read books by Godly people who had gone down this road before me; C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and H. Norman Wright. I found devotionals everywhere I went, and had some given to me. A Max Lucado devotional became a lifeline for me. I greedily devoured it in a few days before beginning another one. A mentor of mine asked me to write some devotionals for an upcoming Grief Bible, so I had to learn how to look for answers in the Bible. Embarrassing as it is to admit now, (though I admitted as much then) having a Bible and devotional on my end table was new to me.

In April 2013, a year after my husband died, I began a Bible study at my church, using the Walking Toward Eternity series.

walkign toward eternity

Three years later, our Bible group still meets, though it has dwindled down from 50 at the church to eight of us in my home. This month we are repeating that initial study, delving into the topics of love, humility, forgiveness, prayerfulness, sacrifice, and thankfulness. In re-using my old journal from the study, I can see how much I have grown as a Christian. There were two things that struck me during this morning’s study.

#1 was that in April 2013, I struggled with hospitality, hesitating to invite people into my home because of a mess or the possibility they might judge me and find me lacking as a hostess. I smiled as I read my words from three years ago. The last time my Bible study group met here, I’d had a busy week at work and hadn’t had much time to clean. Yet I just shrugged my shoulders, knowing they  weren’t coming to see my house. Half of them just walked in the door without knocking because they’d gotten comfortable here. Mission accomplished: I’ve learned the meaning of hospitality.

The other thing that really hit home for me this morning was that when I opened my Bible to 1 Corinthians, I discovered a small yellowed piece of paper with my mother’s handwriting on between the pages. I’d forgotten that my daughter Elizabeth had given me the pieces of paper she’d discovered in one of my mother’s Bibles. My mother, a devout Catholic in an era when Catholics weren’t encouraged to read the Bible, was familiar with the Old and New Testament in a way her church allowed at the time. I can’t remember ever seeing her read it, but she must have, at least pieces of it. Something about 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 spoke to her so that she’d jotted those verses down, slipping the pieces of paper into her Bible. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15~ the very verses I’d just highlighted in my Bible, verses that meant something to me this morning as I attempt to discern God’s will for me.

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.”

bible verse.jpg

What did those words mean to my mother, I wondered, as I blinked back tears.

I won’t know, in this world.

But I do have faith that someday, I can ask her.




Bible verses, grief

Why Speak of Grief?

I’ve been speaking on grief since March 2013, when I stood in front of three different church congregations to explain why I was beginning a Bible Study. Since then, I’ve spoken to as few as five and as many as 150 grieving people in a single room. The numbers don’t matter, because sometimes I am well aware that I might be called there for a single suffering soul.

Why did I begin speaking on grief and loss on that March weekend that heralded the one-year anniversary of the loss that cut me to the bone, my husband David’s death? At the time, the impetus was a certainty that if I was looking for something my church didn’t offer, there surely would be others looking for the same thing, and I was right. Fifty people signed up for that initial Bible study.

I began speaking because it helped me. I continued because it helped others.

2 Corinthians 1:4 “Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (NIV)

In the last three years, I discovered something truly amazing, considering I’d spent much of my adult life raising babies and hiding from the outside world. God can use me. Not only that, he would give me the tools to reach the hearts of his people; my writing and speaking. I don’t kid myself; when someone compliments an article I’ve been inspired to write, or approaches me after a speech I was led to change just ten minutes before hitting the podium, to tell me I’d said exactly what they needed to hear, I know, without a doubt~ it isn’t me.

Which is why I believe ten of my devotions were accepted for a 2013 Zondervan Hope in the Mourning Grief Bible, when I’d never written a devotion before in my life.

Hope in the Mourning

Or why my present job as a newspaper reporter might mean I uncover stories behind the stories; an elderly gentleman whose voice catches and tears spring to his eyes when I ask about his family, because he lost his wife six years ago. Or the hesitation and pained look I instantly recognize with the simple question “How many children do you have?” There are hurting people everywhere. Grief is universal, and it doesn’t end at ten months, or one year, or in the case of elderly women who hugged my daughter tightly to them at her son’s wake, with a haunted look I would come to recognize~ not even 40 years after a loss of a child.

I cannot tell you how often one speaker, one inspiring passage from a book, a single Bible verse or devotion, or a friend who remained when others moved on, made a difference in my own journey of grief. It is up to each of us to do whatever we can to lift each other; to help each other HOME. I will continue to speak on grief for as long as I can make a difference.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” (NIV)

Finding Hope and Healing in Grief Presentation

Thursday, January 28, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at United Methodist Church, 413 East Butler St., Manchester

A new year brings the promise of possibility, but when we are grieving a loved one, it can feel like just another year “without.” Without that face across the dining room table, or that hand to hold. Mary Potter Kenyon intimately understands grief; in the space of three years she lost a mother, husband, and grandson. Mary will be speaking on finding hope and healing in the midst of loss. Through journaling, Bible study, prayer, studying the science of grief, and reaching out to others through a “random act of kindness” project, Mary forged a path of healing that can encourage and inspire those who are grieving. Mary is the author of the award-winning “Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace” and has done grief presentations at Shalom, Dubuque and Monticello Hospice, Compassionate Friends National conference, and churches throughout Iowa. She is a reporter with the Manchester Press. City of Manchester “random acts of kindness” cards will be available at the presentation for those who wish to carry out their own project of reaching out to others.