Power of prayer

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 19, 2004

For those of us fortunate enough to be raised believing in a power much greater than the sum of the world’s population, we remember the nightly ritual of dropping to our knees and offering up a prayer.

For perhaps the great majority of youngsters, those words had a hollow meaning. Sure, we innocently asked for God’s blessing on members of our immediate family, but, for the most part, that was about the extent of our wishes.

Occasionally, we would slip in a personal wish – hoping for material gifts that, now looking back, were driven by greed. But, hey, we were just kids; young minds taught to believe that all we had to do was ask and our wish may be granted.

Prayer has been called as the most powerful resource available to those who believe in God. Often, that resource goes untapped or not used to its fullest extent. In today’s hustle-bustle world, we can easily find ourselves wasting 20-plus hours a week sitting in front of the television, but we struggle to put aside five minutes per day to pray.

The latter of those two time frames was not the case on Monday of last week.

My dad has been ill for some time now. He is stricken with Lewy Body Dementia, a form of Parkinson’s Disease. His mind, once as sharp as a tack – &uot;I’ve got the mind of an elephant and a figure to prove it,&uot; is one of his favorite sayings – now lacks the attention to detail it once possessed.

Pop is completely bed ridden. A fairly good athlete in his day – a baseball player who could run like a deer – his body now lays nearly motionless on the bed. That in itself is enough to rip your heart out.

His voice, once a powerful force used to strike a cord of fear in my heart upon knowing I had broken a family rule, is now nothing more than a whisper. But yet those few words he now speaks still carry his undeniable love of family and friends.

It was family and friends that gathered in and around room 233 of Roanoke-Chowan Hospital on Monday night of last week. The doctor, in so many words, had informed us that we should plan to stay the night. His condition, now complicated by other ailments, was deteriorating. From all things apparent, it seemed that Jan. 12, 2004 would be the final day/night that Hinton R. (&uot;Ray&uot;) Bryant spent on this Earth.

Personally, I had surrendered all hope. My prayer on that night was a simple one – &uot;Lord, if you feel you must take him, please make it as painless as possible, both on him and his loved ones.&uot;

However, the power of prayer – not mine, but collective voices from up and down the eastern Seaboard (the word spread fairly quickly of his condition) – kept my father alive. From Richmond, Va. to Jacksonville, Fla. and points in-between, countless people dropped to their knees in a show of love and support.

Evidently, those collective voices made an impact. By later in the day on Tuesday, Pop was sitting up in bed, smiling and blowing kisses to any pretty girl that graced his room. Outside in the hall, a grateful family gathered and in a showing of togetherness, we offered up our thanks to those who, for just a moment on a fateful Monday, stopped and prayed for Ray Bryant.

Pop is still not out of the woods. He remains weak, but his vital signs are slowly improving. That’s not to say that the good Lord will not take him to his heavenly home before the ink can dry on this paper, but until his time arrives, I will forever be grateful to those who kept my father’s medical condition in their hearts and on their lips. Please continue to do so.