The Prayer Cloth
My dad’s funeral was that morning.
4 Days Earlier:
It happened so suddenly. I was still at work when the phone rang and the words, “Dad’s had a heart attack and likely won’t make it through the night”, came from the other end of the phone. I couldn’t get there before morning, and ‘FaceTime’ in the hospital bed would be the last time I would see him here on earth. The 2nd call came the next morning before dawn. Dad had closed his eyes for the last time on earth, and opened them to a glorious sight in Heaven; Jesus!
3 Days Earlier:
Unsure of arrangements and with tickets already purchased for an early Christmas with family in Texas, I boarded a plane from Green Bay, WI a couple of hours later. As soon as I landed plans were made to get to Virginia for my dad’s funeral.
I spent all of Thanksgiving day in airports flying, sharing with different people (some who asked and some that didn’t) that I was on my way to my dad’s funeral. As they offered their condolences, I tried to offer them hope…letting them know that my dad was a Christian man and had been ready for some time to meet ‘Jesus’. My daddy’s health was failing and most of our conversations this last year were about Heaven.
I arrived on Thanksgiving night, attended my dad’s funeral early Friday morning, and headed back to visit my mom to tell her goodbye before I headed to the airport. Our visit was brief, and we’ve had many goodbyes over the years, but today was different.
Was it different because of her dementia? Was it different because she had lost her sister, a good friend, and now our dad (her 1st husband) all in the last 30 days? I don’t know, but I do know as she held me tight and tears welled up in her eyes, it was my undoing. I could no longer contain my own tears. We hugged, and cried, and hugged again. Finally, she went inside to her apartment, and I got in my car. I looked up to see she had come out again so I drove up to the entry, got out of my car and hugged her tight one more time.
Truthfully, I had so many emotions happening regarding our trip to Texas, even before I got the call about my dad. And now my mom…my strong mom who rarely cries is crying for me. I had to go. I had to make my flight, so with a final hug, I got back in my car. As I pulled out of the assisted living, there was a truck stopped to my right and a man was getting out and flagged me down. Trying to compose my tears, I rolled down my window and he asked, “Are you okay?” I wasn’t. I told him I had just buried my father a few hours ago, and I assumed he had witnessed my tearful goodbye on the front sidewalk with my mom.
He pulled his wallet out and opened it, and pulled out a white piece of cloth that was folded into a small square. As he carefully unfolded the tiny cloth, he handed it to me and told me that it had been prayed over and anointed with oil. He had saved it for the right moment. I gladly received it and told him that this gesture of kindness meant so much to me. I clenched it tight in my right hand and began the two-hour drive to the airport.
****I’m gonna say this here in the middle for all of you who may be like me, very suspicious and doubtful about prayer cloths. Are they for today? Are they a biblical picture of prayer and healing of the sick (referenced as a handkerchief in Acts 19:11-12)? I don’t know. But what I do know is that at that moment it might as well have been Jesus himself or an angel. I was hurting deep from the inside out, from the outside in. And I know God sent that man, his kind gesture, that tangible cloth, all of it, to minister to me in that moment.****
I clenched it tight in my hand for the next 1 1/2 hours (and as you can see, took a photo) while driving. I knew then it would be something I would one day write about.
The tighter I clung to the cloth, the more I cried…crying for the loss of my dad…crying for my mom. I could always handle my tears leaving her, but her crying and clinging tight was my undoing that day.
I was truly in awe as well. In awe that this man had somehow seen me and been obedient to the prompting of the Lord…that I was the one he had saved the cloth for. To think a group of people had gathered together and prayed in advance for whoever would receive it. He could have had that in his wallet for days, weeks, months. All I know is, it was a tangible reminder in my time of need that God was near.
A couple of miles before I reached the airport, I stopped to get gas and clean out the trash in my car. I was running a little behind and needed to hurry. I still had the cloth, clutched tightly in my hand. I gathered the trash in my car, threw it away, got my gas and quickly got back on the highway. As I was barely getting my speed up and a little way down the road I looked down at my hand and the prayer cloth was gone. I panicked. Where was the cloth? I checked my pockets, looked between the seat, the floorboard. It was gone! I was cutting it close to get to the airport on time, and couldn’t go back. (how silly I would have looked going through the outside trash at a gas station anyway).
No! I couldn’t have accidentally thrown it in the trash. Certainly not! My hands were full of trash, and that must have been exactly what I did.
A feeling of peace and freedom washed over me at that moment. Something I had hung (clenched) so tight to, I was able to let go of. What was I letting go of? Clearly not just a cloth. Many things. My dad for one. I had to let him go…this was the day he had longed for so long…the day he would meet Jesus. I had to leave my mom, even though I desperately wanted to stay. There were other things happening in my life that I couldn’t, can’t control. For me, at that moment God was saying, ‘You must let go’!
So, that day God used a man in a truck with a handkerchief (prayer cloth) in his wallet to minister to me.
This is not a platform about ‘prayer cloths’ and whether you believe in them or not. You are more than welcome to leave your comments…whatever they may be. However, what this is about is a God who ‘sees’, a God who ‘cares’, a God who will use us to minister to other people in their time of need if we will open our eyes and our hearts to those around us.
The takeaway is God sees you too! God cares about every part of your life. He sees your tears, your pain, your sorrow, and your joy. Today if you are hurting, turn to Jesus, He is the hurt healer. Maybe today God wants to use you to show the love of “Jesus’ to someone else. Look around you. Really open your eyes to those around you…the cashier at the store, the person next to you at church, your co-worker, your neighbor. Be sensitive and obedient to the Holy Spirits leading, whatever He may be prompting you to say or do. You never know when a simple word, a kind smile, an offer to pray or a folded napkin may be exactly what someone needs that day.