Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Praying Grandmother

This story comes out of conversation with my friend John Anderson. John remembers his grandmother, Emaline Harris Anderson, kneeling down by her bed each night, just before she went to bed.

To this young black lad, growing up in a predominately black community, that seemed a strange thing to do. Yet, she did it every night that John stayed with her. She also insisted they memorize a bible verse to recite, before eating dinner. John admits, “We would all try to get John 11:35, ‘Jesus wept.’"

John remembers his grandmother loved to sing hymns from the old Church of God hymnal. He also recalls enjoying singing those old songs with her, partly because he wanted to please her. He still remembers all the words of "I Am On The Winning Side," and "I'm Going On."

In the days when John drove an eighteen wheeler, those words would come back to him and he would sing them aloud to himself--and to grandma. Looking back, he now realizes how hard it must have been for her. Grandfather was a trapper, hunter, and dog trader. When he couldn't make money at any of these things, he worked for local farmers.

John’s granddad sometimes took his little grandson with him on his horse-drawn wagon. Granddad was about the greatest man that ever lived, although John later learned he was not always thoughtful of John’s grandma. In spite of this, she remained faithful, and always supported him in every way.

John still lives in that small village where he grew up. He says he has never heard anyone say a bad word about his grandmother--a rare thing to say about someone. After all, everyone has somebody that doesn't like them--don't they? John finally figured out the reason for this and says “I never, ever heard her say anything bad, about anyone else!”

However, as John grew older, he attended church less and less with his grandmother. John‘s parents left it up to him to decide. Meanwhile, his grandmother continued kneeling at her bedside--every night--praying for John, as well as all of her family.

John didn't realize it at the time, but as he grew older, he moved further from her influence and teaching. By the time he graduated from high school in 1969, his greatest accomplishment was “how much I could drink without passing out.” He loved his father very much, but as he told me, “it was a badge of honor in our home to be able to hold your liquor.”

Still, grandmother knelt down by her bed every night--and prayed before retiring. John never became what you would call a “criminal,” but he now realizes “God had sort-of-a leash on me all my life--grandma's prayers, I know, however, that I did some things that I am not very proud of.”

“But,” through it all,” John adds, “God surely had angels watching over me.” John suggests he could write a book about some of those events in his life, but people would consider it pure fiction. Yet, he insists, “God kept me through all of it, and my faithful grandma kept kneeling by her bed every night.”

Grandma had 10 living children, 34 grandchildren, and many great and great-great grandchildren. She loved them one and all the same, and she prayed for everyone of them. Each one of us, if asked, would say we were her favorite. Yet, she never really saw her prayers answered. Other family members have told John--what he already knew--that she always prayed for a preacher in her family

Thus it was, that John shared this story with me, to encourage all the mothers and grandmothers that kneel by their beds--every night to pray. John sadly recalls that “Grandma passed away while I was still living in sin. But one day on January 1, 2000, my grandmother's prayer was answered. I, like the prodigal son, found myself in a pig sty and I came to myself!”

Through God's great mercy and grace, John Anderson is now both my friend and the pastor of the village church, that Dr. Raymond S. Jackson started many years ago; it is also where John’s grandmother faithfully served throughout her long life.

Sometimes, when I am preaching God's word from that pulpit, John told me, “I can see her smiling face. It fills me with so much joy that I cannot explain.” Thus, he encourages others to never stop praying for their loved ones. “You may not live to see the answer,” John adds, “but it will come.”

If you were to ask today, John would tell you what he told me: “we think it a great miracle, that God caused a blind man to see again--it is. But let me tell you, the way that God turned my life around, and changed me, is the greatest miracle of all--to me. I thank you, Grandma, for never giving up, for never stopping kneeling, for never giving up praying!”

Once an over-the-road trucker, John recently completed his Bachelor’s degree and is currently pursuing a teaching certificate; he also serves as a bi-vocational pastor. My relationship with this church goes back thirty years and John exemplifies the transformation God can bring in a person’s life; I am pleased to count John among my friends.

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