Transformed by prayer

At “ONE”, Chets Talk speaker Debbi Hoeft shared about a friend who sought God in prayer, even through numerous trying times.  Meet Ann, today’s writer!  She shares how her life is transformed by prayer.  Thank you, Ann, for your beautifully written words!

As a child, I heard Bible stories and went to Sunday School. As she dropped me off at church on Sundays, my mother said she had “done her time” at the Presbyterian church in our small town.  I took confirmation classes and was confirmed in the Episcopal church because my best friend was doing that.

It was the 1950s and my mother and father and their friends gathered more than once a week, downing martinis and having parties. They weren’t terrible parents – just not religious parents.

My favorite grandmother was Catholic but didn’t go to church. As I grew older, I was told that she didn’t go because she was practicing birth control (due to difficult pregnancies) and couldn’t take the guilt of having to confess her “sin” each week in order to be granted God’s forgiveness.

As I reached my teens, I loved the pomp and circumstance of both the Episcopal and Catholic churches and attended both on and off. I thought of becoming a nun after seeing Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story. When I was 22, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and so began a 3 year struggle with chemotherapy, radiation, and metastases to her bones, brain and liver. I watched as she suffered tremendously.

I prayed a lot during those years – prayed for God to take my mother to a better place, prayed for Him not to take her a “piece at a time” as I watched her bones fracture. I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but I remember she spent a lot of time with the hospital priest during some of those terrible months. She told me she could talk to him about things she couldn’t say to my sister or me, things she feared, things she was unsure of.  At the time, I believed she was going to heaven because she was basically a good person and I didn’t really get the Jesus as savior thing… I am now so grateful for the time she spent with that priest, because I am able to believe she had the knowledge and choice to accept Jesus as her savior and that I will see her again in heaven.

For the next 35 years my life, I went through many ups and downs. I divorced, remarried, divorced again, moved to Florida, and raised my 2 wonderful children as a single mom with a full time job. I went to church occasionally – for holidays, funerals, and the like, and I prayed rarely – mostly if someone was ill or something really scared me with regard to my kids. I was happy, had a good job and was living a “normal life” on my terms.

On Good Friday in 2009 my sister and brother-in-law were in a horrific car accident. They were stopped at a red light on Philips Highway when a pickup truck slammed into the back of them, crushing their car, killing Chick, and seriously injuring my sister. I came out of the movies with my grandsons and saw a message on my phone to call Shands Hospital. The praying began again…

Over the next several weeks and months I prayed all the time. I prayed for my sister’s broken heart, healing for her physically, mentally and spiritually; I prayed for me to have strength; I prayed for Chick’s soul; I prayed for my family’s pain and sadness; and on and on.

During this time,  strong, Christian women seemed to enter my life regularly. I met one woman at a networking mixer where we became friends and had spirited and spiritual discussions. Her strength of faith inspired me to pray and learn even more. I continued to pray for my loved ones, but I also began to pray for myself and for my relationship with Jesus Christ. I began listening to a Christian rock radio station and gave up talk radio – which had been making me nuts for a long time anyway!

I began attending church at Chets and a Lifegroup was recommended to me. At my first visit to the Lifegroup I immediately felt at home. I was the only “single” in a married couple group, but they all welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me to share and be a contributing member. I immediately warmed to them all, but especially to one special woman in our group who has done nothing but support, encourage and educate me.

During the months following the accident, I lost my job, was unable to pay my mortgage (which ended in foreclosure), suffered a setback in my health, and I was generally not in a happy place. To be a 58 year old woman and looking for a job in a struggling economy – I wish it on no one! I persevered, worried, strategized, struggled and kept praying.

Gradually, God’s love and provision became more and more evident.  I say gradually, not because God was slow, but because I was.  I need a brick to hit me in the head sometimes – have you ever felt the “brick”?

The relief was immediate on the day I said, “Dear Lord, take it all” and meant it. That was the key for me – I’d had great support from my new-found women friends, I was getting comfortable at praying, searching and learning God’s Word, but I was still trying to control my life. One day, I was sick of the results of doing things my way, and so my prayer for God to “take it” was sincere for probably the first time.

Provision was provided by God in ways too numerable to list. I began to see his hand in so many areas of my life and the life of my sister. I prayed so specifically for my sister that there was no way the answered prayers could be coincidence or chance. My eyes were opened every day to the beauty in this world. I took some bible studies and met amazing women to whom I was instantly attracted because of their hearts.

I know now that God guided me to the support and friendships I needed. I still struggle with sin, making good decisions, being foolish, etc., but I am continuing to learn what God wants for me and of me. My life has been transformed. He answered my many prayers and He continues to be my answer.

{This post was written by Ann Eastwick.  Ann is the mother of two wonderful grown children and two marvelous grandsons.  Originally from New Jersey, she moved to Jacksonville 30 years ago.  She is a retired paralegal who is now a wedding officiant, helping couples create wedding ceremonies that are special and unique.}

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