Growing up, I’ve always thought that prayer was for the weak and poor. It was a form of encouragement for the hopeless. Therefore, I was devastated when it seemed that the only desperate means to recover from my illness was through prayer. I felt weak and hopeless. However, at the time, I was blind to understand that prayer is truly a means to unveil God’s glory and power.
As the oldest of four children, I strived to be independent and reliable. My parents were undoubtedly—still are—the toughest on me when it came to discipline. I took it upon myself to be an example by caring for my younger siblings and maintaining consistent communication with my relatives, as well as learning every parishioner’s name at my father’s church so that I could pray for them when they were in need. If I could not help a person through my power, I prayed for him or her. Although I believed prayer was necessary to help others, I lacked faith in understanding that prayer was essential in my personal relationship with Christ. My understanding was challenged when God’s power was revealed through my parents’ prayers.
My all-time favorite sport is baseball. Ever since I was five years old, I memorized the players’ statistics and updated my father on baseball news. Once I entered grade school, it was inevitable that I would join Little League. Although I was not a skilled hitter, I was renown for my Gold Glove capabilities. One afternoon during a high school baseball game, I got into a severe collision with another outfielder while trying to catch a fly ball. I blacked out on the field. After a while, I was awakened by the sound of my coach’s raspy voice. “LEE! ARE YOU OKAY?” Though a bit disoriented, I stood back up and assured my teammates that I would be able to finish our game. However, I started to feel back pain. I ignored the discomfort. I thought nothing was serious. A week later, I was at Tae Kwon Do practice to spar with my partner. Suddenly, I felt a jolt of pain down my back—a pain I could not brush off. I went ahead and told my mom and we went to the hospital.
Through countless checkups and exams with various specialists, an orthopedic surgeon diagnosed me with a condition called Syringomyelia. Excess fluid seeped into the spinal canal because the brain stem was pushing too hard onto the vertebrae. In other words, there was a great chance that I was to be paralyzed in a matter of time. I was outraged and confused. I was only sixteen years old. How could someone become paralyzed at such a young age? I had my whole life ahead of me. I started to doubt God. Isn’t He supposed to be good? Gracious? Loving? How could such a loving father take away something that I loved so much? I felt broken. I wanted to end my life instead of living in discomfort.
Nevertheless, my parents tried to encourage me. My mom brought me to all my medical appointments and my dad spent his free time with me. They supported me in the best ways they could. Even still, I felt hopeless. I was a topic of prayer in my church, which further angered me. I despised the idea of being pitied. I did not realize that the Holy Spirit was moving through my loved ones’ prayers.
Every night, Mom knelt beside my bed and prayed over me. One night, I was awoken by the sound of crying. I heard my mom’s sobs as she petitioned for my well-being. I wanted to tell my mom to give up with the prayers. Why even bother? I did not want anybody’s pity. I was afraid. I was alone. But I did not want anybody’s help. At that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and comfort. I began to experience the Spirit of the Lord. Everything felt… strange.
This was a feeling I had never experienced before. Why was this happening? Was this a supernatural power? Did my mother pray about something that I did not know? Slowly, I began to feel better. I did not fully comprehend what was happening. This could not be real. I began to doubt. This couldn’t be God. He let me go through all of this pain for no reason.
That’s when I heard these words: “Your body is not your body, but a temple of Christ.” That’s when it hit me. I was running away from Christ, but Christ was not letting me run away from Him. The Lord gave me my calling into ministry that very moment as I began to cry and embrace my mother. My life was not my own, but was all for Christ. As tears continued to stream down my face, the emotional bricks that were on my shoulders continued to get taken off one by one. I felt like I could breathe a little better. The doubt began to disappear and an overwhelming assurance fell over my body. My anguish and anger toward my mother began to transform into gratitude and thanksgiving. That’s when I knew that my life was about to change drastically.
John Calvin once stated that, “We pray in Jesus’ name so that there may enter our hearts no desire and no wish at all of which we should be ashamed to make him a witness, while we learn to set all our desires before his eyes, and even to pour out our whole hearts.” There is indeed power in prayer. I now wholeheartedly believe that prayers change lives. As I began to heal, God spoke to me and taught me that my only comfort in life and death was in Jesus (HC Q&A 1). Not only did I physically heal, but I also became alive through the Holy Spirit. Life had meaning now. Life had purpose now. Even though I know that there will be hardships, and there will be trials and struggles, I will be able to lean on God and trust Him. Ministry is not easy. Life is not easy. But praise be to God for the grace and peace He gives unto us. Scripture says it best: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever” (Psalm 30:11-12). Soli Deo Gloria.
James is an M.Div. student at Calvin Seminary and English Ministry Pastor of Korean Grace CRC.