More Than ‘Thoughts & Prayers’

By Sara Stevens-Stehl, Member of Spirit of Grace Lutheran Church, Holdrege

Christians and our tradition of prayer have come under attack in our suffering country. Why do we persist against such skepticism and even hate?

I live in Bertrand, a town of 750. I grew up casually churched and when I fell in love with my husband, I also fell in love with the ELCA and the expansive grace offered by a forgiving God. My faith has matured through my connections with all of you.

My husband is the chief of our volunteer fire department. Over our 26 years of marriage, I have learned the best way I can serve when the pager goes off is to pray – for the victims, the wisdom of the EMTs, and for the strength of firefighters putting themselves in harm’s way. The Road 739 fire, south of Elwood, occurred on a day with 50-60 mile an hour winds; this created a fire like none my husband had encountered in 35 years of service. Two fellow first responders were in a car accident; one was killed, and the other sustained life-changing injuries. Our small-town departments frequently work together; these people are family.

For this fire, I got on Facebook and asked my social network to join me and pray for those working in dire circumstances. We knelt together to ask God and the Holy Spirit to move among the volunteers, to protect them, and we prayed over them as they recovered from the physical work, the injuries, and the grief. We prayed HARD.

When Carson’s phone was returned to his family, Philippians 4:13 was on his home screen. A local artist created this tribute in the new sidewalk leading up to the porch that was the first of many projects to make the Hansen family home move-in ready. You may follow their progress at Caring Bridge: Carson and Lilly Hansen. Please add your prayers for Carson’s full recovery.

In May, our department was called to a horrific accident; 15-year-old Carson was driving his six-year-old sister to Vacation Bible School when they were struck by a semi. Lilly is healing well from a broken femur. Carson suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, has been hospitalized for 56 days as of this writing, and recently moved from the pediatric intensive care unit at Denver Children’s Hospital onto a rehabilitation floor. His parents have allowed God to carry them when they can no longer stand. Our entire community has requested prayers for this family via social media and THEY FEEL THEM. People across the country monitor their Caring Bridge site. Carson’s mom closes each Caring Bridge post with specific prayer requests focusing on Carson’s exact need. They were remodeling a new home, doing most of the work themselves, and an amazing team has taken on the work. Donations from local businesses are helping ease the financial burden on a family in crisis. God is hard at work in this sorrow!

I disagree with the conventional complaint that prayer doesn’t work. Boy, do I disagree. I talk with God, asking that the subjects of my prayer feel the warmth of love, the strength of our gracious deity who may not grant our requests but will walk through fire with us and carry us when necessary. I mentally wrap them up in a tender hug and let them know they are not alone. God asks us to walk with those in crisis – we offer love, compassion, and actions when they are available to us. We lift people up mentally, sometimes physically, and always spiritually. Pray – really pray. It helps.