At least twice a year for the last 11 years, I could be found worshiping at the Christ Evangelical Church with my non-LDS students and their families. I looked forward to Educator Sunday and the Christmas Dessert each year when I could hear sermons about Jesus, and sing hymns of worship that are so different from the typical Mormon meetings. As each school year began, I secretly hoped to have a student from this church in my class so I could continue to build relationships with members of their congregation. I truly enjoyed attending their services and spending time with their delightful children outside of the classroom.
The parents of the adorable little students who spend the school year with me have become some of my dearest friends. In fact, when challenges arise in the classroom, I call on them with requests for prayers. Knowing these faith-filled friends are praying brings a sense of peace to our classroom, and increased confidence that we’ll be able to meet the challenges that are ever-present in school. I’ve filled out prayer request cards at their Sunday services as well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as too many prayers!
One such event I attended stands out more than any of the others over the last several years. It was a year of uncertainty regarding the stability of my marriage. Should I stay, or should I go? My husband and I had attended numerous counseling sessions and had separated for a time. We were currently living under the same roof again, but our relationship continued to deteriorate. After more than 28 years of struggling to keep the marriage together, I was finally reconciling myself to the fact that it was over.
I hadn’t shared the decision to divorce with any of my friends or family, and was barely holding it together the night I walked into the building for the annual Christmas Dessert. I really wasn’t up to celebrating the holiday or socializing in any way. And yet, almost against my will, I found myself standing in this huge room filled with exuberant church members and guests who were eager for the evening’s events and to worship with one another. A parent of one of my former students greeted me with “It’s so good to see you!” And then asked the fateful question, “How are you doing?” To my great surprise and even greater distress, the words I’d yet to utter out loud sprang forth and hung in the air as my eyes filled with tears. “I think I’m leaving my husband.”
Without a second’s hesitation, she wrapped both her arms around me, pulled me close, and started praying. Spontaneous prayer was such a foreign experience to me that I was a bit uncomfortable. After all, we were in a public place and she was praying out loud just for me! I thought to myself, “Who are these people that pray at the drop of a hat? Who are these people who talk to God as if they’re friends, and without using the ‘proper’ formal language required when speaking to Deity?” When I got over the initial surprise of such a response (for none of my Mormon friends would ever do such a thing), I let the warmth of her embrace and heartfelt words seep into the ache of my soul. Tears flowed as I listened to her plead to Jesus to comfort my heart and give me strength for whatever lay ahead. It didn’t take long for the startled response to her affection and prayer to be replaced with a desire for this moment to last as long as possible. For in those few moments, I was no longer alone in my grief. My Christian friend was praying for me.
It only stood to reason that when my life fell apart again at the discovery that Mormonism wasn’t everything I’d believed it to be, I contacted my most trusted Bible-believing friend. As I was struggling to navigate my way through the confusion, grief, and deep feelings of betrayal associated with a crisis of faith, again the hand of fellowship was extended and prayers offered on my behalf.
As I wept and raged, she held my hand and softly repeated over and over again, “I’m so sorry.” Months later, I still text her nearly every day and often report I don’t think I can manage the emotions and demands that threaten to overwhelm me at any moment. She reminds me, “It’s a process. People are praying for you.” The knowledge that my Christian friends are praying settles on my heart, and I manage to make it through another difficult day.
These Christian people are amazing! In the last few months, I’ve made friends across the state and across the country. I’ve learned there are no geographical boundaries for Christians. They take the time to text, answer emails and make phone calls without being “assigned” to do so. They pray with people over the phone, over meals at restaurants, in the homes of neighbors, sitting in cars, standing in hallways, and of course, at church.
Me? I still pray every day, but they are the formal procedural prayers of a Mormon. Sometimes I ask God’s forgiveness for breaking with the proper protocol I’ve been conditioned to follow, and just talk to Him. I love to walk and talk with God! To speak to Him as if He is right there next to me! And then when I return home, I kneel by my bed and pray the way I was taught. It’s hard to break a 50-year-old habit.
It’s no secret that prayer brings about miracles. I’m constantly on the lookout for those miracles, for they are happening every day. How do I know this to be true? Because people are praying. Who are these people? They’re friends of Jesus…and of mine!