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The Jairus Prayer

 

 

 

The Jairus Prayer
By Bass Mitchell


(Read Mark 5:21-43)



Pastor Jack Carter was the new minister at Cove Point Church. Hardly
before he was unpacked, there was a knock on his study door at church.
He opened it and there stood Mrs. Alyce, one of the church members. He
invited her inside. "Sorry for the mess," he apologized. He wasn't
really ready for "business" but had learned over the years that he
seldom was ready. Seminary was great and he enjoyed it. But it hardly
prepared him for the myriad circumstances and needs that constantly
arose in the real world of the parish.

Without saying a word, Mrs. Alyce came in and sat down. Pastor Carter
took a box of books off the seat of a chair and sat across from her.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.

The elderly lady sat there for a moment, her clear blue eyes searching
the pastor's face as if trying to decide if she was doing the right
thing or if she had found someone at long last who might be of some
help.

Pastor Carter reached over and gently patted her hand. "What's on your
mind, Mrs. Alyce? I am here for you," he said softly.

Taking that as a sign, the woman began to speak. "I am sorry for
coming to you when you haven't even unpacked your things," she began,
looking around at the boxes.

"No apology necessary," he reassured her.

She nodded her head and looked out the window for a moment. He looked
also and saw that she was gazing at a small white house just across
the street.

"Bill lives there," she said.

"Bill?"

"Yes, he's my son and a member of the church. But he hasn't attended in
years."

Pastor Carter knew where this was going. It had happened in every one
of his pastorates. It was a kind-of rite of passage for new ministers
- members asking if there might be something he or she could do to
bring usually long lost sheep back into the fold. But he wasn't
prepared for what she was about to tell him.

"Bill is a good man," she continued at last. "But he needs help." And
tears came into her eyes.

The pastor let her compose herself and then asked, "What kind of help
does he need?"

The woman looked at him again. There was such pain in her eyes. Bill
obviously wasn't the only one in need.

"It's a long story," she began. "Twelve years ago something happened.
Bill hasn't been the same. It's as if he is dying. or already dead,"
and then she began to sob.

Pastor Carter looked around and found a box of tissues that he always
kept in his office, which he had learned over the years to be
essential pastoral supplies. He took one and gave it to her. She wiped
her eyes and looked again out the window. The pastor sat patiently
letting her continue when she was ready.

"Like I said," she finally continued, "it was twelve years ago when he
started to die. No. It was longer than that. You see, fifteen years

ago his wife, Mary, died. She had cancer. It was terrible." She wiped
her eyes again. "Bill never really got over that. Mary was a wonderful
woman. She was a bright light in this church and the whole community.
But at least he still had Sara, his daughter, my granddaughter. The
two of them grew closer than ever. Then, three years later, this very
month, she was walking to school. It's just down the street," she
pointed out the window. "You see, Bill always drove her to school. He
was, how shall I say, overly protective of her after Mary's death. But
that morning he had to go to the office early for an important
meeting, and Sara, eleven years old then, insisted that she was
practically grown and could walk to school." The woman began to cry
again and the minister handed her another tissue.

"I'll never forget that day," Mrs. Alyce continued. "The sirens. the
flashing lights... Sara had been struck and killed by a car." and the
tears ran down her face again.

The pastor leaned over and took her hand in his. "I'm so sorry to hear
that," he said. "It must have been devastating for all of you."

The elderly woman nodded her head and continued. "But especially for
her father. Bill wasn't the same. I mean, who would be? But he blamed
himself. In his mind it was his fault. If only he had taken her to
school like he always did. If only he had done this or that, maybe
even Mary would still be alive, too. Bill began to die that day,
Pastor. He's been slowing dying ever since. And he doesn't just blame
himself."

The pastor leaned back in his chair. "He blames God, too, right?" he
guessed.

"Yes," she replied. "He hates God. He can't understand why God would
do such things first to his wife and then to his little girl. He
hasn't stepped foot in this church since then. I've tried, you don't
know how I've tried, to reach out to him, to help him. But he's dying,
Pastor, as surely as if he had a deadly disease. He's wasting away in
grief and anger. I fear for him. My husband, Robert, died well before
all of this happened. If he was here, maybe he could do something. He
and Bill were close. Now Bill's all I got left, him and our church
family, of course. This church has meant so much to me. I can tell you
that had it not been for the Lord and my family here, I would be where
Bill is now. I would be dying too. And I hope you don't think badly of
me, but, like him, I get angry with God, too. I can't understand why
God would let all this happen to such a good man, to us. It has shaken
my faith. But over the years, God and these wonderful people here have
helped healing come to me. It hasn't for Bill. I fear it may never
come. But I keep hoping and praying. In fact, there is a prayer I have
prayed everyday for these last twelve years."

"What's the prayer?" the pastor asked.

The woman replied, "I call it, 'The Jairus Prayer.'"

Pastor Carter searched his memory and couldn't remember any prayer by
that name, though he knew the name from one of the miracle stories in
the Gospels.

"Got a Bible?" she asked, smiling for the first time as she looked
around at the cluttered study.

The pastor said, "Standard equipment. somewhere," and began looking
through a box of books. He found the Bible his father had given him as
an ordination gift. He handed it to her. She quickly turned to the
passage and read these words: "My little daughter is at the point of
death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well,
and live" (Mark 5:23). "That is my daily prayer for Bill," she
explained: 'Jesus, come lay hands on Bill, so that he might be well
and live. Amen.' "It's the Jairus Prayer, at least that's what I call
it."

Pastor Carter was deeply moved by her words and the prayer, which he
mentally filed away as he knew it would preach. "How can I be of help
to you and Bill?" he asked.

"Pray that prayer with me," she replied, "and, when you get settled,
would you drop by? Don't tell him I sent you. Just, maybe, call on him
to introduce yourself."

"I would be happy to do both," he replied. "Let's pray now." Together
they went into the sanctuary and sat on the front pew, lifting their
voices: "Jesus, come lay hands on Bill, so that he might be well and
live. Amen."

Even though he had a lot of unpacking still to do, Pastor Carter felt
he could not wait to visit Bill. So that very afternoon he walked over

and up onto the porch, knocking on the door. He could hear footsteps
approaching. A tall, sickly, thin man appeared and peered out through
the screened door. The minister could see some resemblance to Mrs.
Alyce.

"What you want?" the man asked. And before the pastor could speak,
continued, "If you're selling something, you're wasting my time and
yours."

"Not selling anything. My name's Jack Carter. I'm the new pastor and
just was going around introducing myself. You're name's Bill, right?"

The man looked suspiciously at him. "Mom been to see you," he said,
more a statement than question.

"Well, I." "Yeah, I been expecting you. Mom pays a visit on my behalf to every
new minister. She means well, I know, but you can't help me. I don't
need no help. I don't want no help." The man was holding onto the door
handle as if he expected the minister to try to force his way inside.
"Yes, she came by this morning. She's worried about you."
The man stood there. It was tiresome and embarrassing to have every
new minister, a complete stranger, know so much about him. He really
would have to try one more time to convince his mother to stop
meddling in his life, such as it was.

The silence was awkward. Pastor Carter decided not to push it.
"Anyway, I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know that if
you ever need me, I'm just across the street. I hope we'll see you in
church sometime."

With a grunt, the man shut the inside door. The minister could hear
him walking away. It was not the first time he had had a door shut in
his face. Pastor Carter over the years had learned to pretty
accurately read people. He didn't know how to explain it. It was a
kind-of sensitivity or empathy that allowed him to see a little
beneath the surface. He knew from just this one encounter that Bill's
mother was right to be worried about him.

Each day Mrs. Alyce would come to church and pray the Jairus Prayer
for her son. When Pastor Carter was there, he would often join her.
He, too, found himself praying it throughout the day for Bill and
others as well.

Pastor Carter made other visits to Bill's house with much the same
results. When he would see Bill out in the yard or at the grocery
store, he'd wave at him but got little response.

One day, months later, the pastor had an idea. He sat down at his desk
and wrote a note to Bill. It read:

"Bill, perhaps we did not get off to the best start. Let's begin
again. Maybe we could have lunch or something, or just a cup of
coffee. Please know that I care about you. You know that your mother
does, too. Perhaps you don't know that each day she prays a prayer for
you - The Jairus Prayer. In fact, that's the title of my sermon for
Sunday. We'd love to have you come and worship with us. The church
family misses you. We are all here for you."

He signed and sealed it by praying the Jairus Prayer once again. He
knew he was pushing it with Bill. The last thing he wanted to do was
make things worse by making Bill even more distant. But he had decided
that it was worth the risk. He walked over and placed the note in
Bill's door. And waited.

Sunday came. Pastor Carter was in the study, reading over his sermon.
He had asked Mrs. Alyce for permission to use the Jairus Prayer for
his topic, promising her not to mention that he had received it from
her or sharing the circumstances surrounding it.

During the opening hymn, he was, he admitted, shocked to see Bill slip
through the door and sit alone in the corner in the back. Few others
noticed it. He found himself praying more earnestly than ever, "Jesus,
come lay hands on Bill, so that he might be well and live. Amen."

During the sermon, he shared the story of Jairus and how the Jairus
Prayer had become so powerful and important to him. He invited
everyone at the end to bow their heads and say that pray on behalf of
someone else. He also had small, square pieces of cloth on the
Communion table for each person to take home as symbols of the hem of
Jesus' garment that the widow who had been sick for twelve years had
touched and found healing. He encouraged each one to keep it and use
it, explaining that often we do not need to just pray that Jesus come
and touch others, so that they might become well and live, but that we
needed to touch Jesus, too, for our own healing. As the service
concluded, he looked up and saw that Bill had left. He didn't know if
Mrs. Alyce had seen her son or if he should tell her. He would have to
pray about that.

That Sunday night there was a knock on the parsonage door. Pastor
Carter came to answer it and was surprised to see Bill standing there.

"Pastor, may I come in?"
The minister was lost for words for a moment. "Uh, sure, Bill. Come in."

Pastor Carter led Bill to the kitchen and pulled out a chair for him
at the table. "Just made some coffee," he said, wondering the reason
for this visit, fearing that he was about to be told to mind his own
business or worse. But it was then that he took a good look at Bill.
He couldn't exactly identify it but there was something different
about the man. He wasn't sure at the moment if that was a good thing
or not.

Bill refused the coffee but sat down. The minister refreshed his own
cup and sat across from him. Before he could say anything, Bill pulled

out one of the cloths that had been given out in the service that
morning. He must have gone back over later, thought the pastor, who
was suddenly glad that he had decided to leave some cloths there.

"I was in the service this morning," Bill started. Pastor Carter nodded.

"So that was the Jairus Prayer, huh, the one my mom has prayed each
day for me?"

"Yes."

It was clear that Bill was trying to control his emotions, but he was
failing. Tears began to run down his cheeks.

"I can't explain it," he finally said. "Something has happened to me.
I went back and took one of those cloths. I really didn't want to. I
didn't even want to go to church. But something. something called to
me. I know you are going to think I'm crazy or losing my mind. Lots of
folks think I have already. But I got back home and laid down on the
couch, that cloth resting on my chest. I fell asleep, I suppose, or
maybe I was awake. Maybe it was even a vision or something."
He stopped to look at the pastor, to gage whether or not the minister
was about to call the guys in white coats. "Go on, Bill," the pastor encouraged him.

"In the dream or vision or whatever it was, I saw my little girl
again." and the tears came again. The pastor looked around for tissues
but alas never had found them needed in the kitchen. He'd have to
remember that and be prepared. But they were not needed. Bill gently
wiped the tears away with the cloth.

"In the vision, Sara was with Jesus," he finally managed to continue.
"And I heard as plain as day Jesus say to her what he said to that
child in the scriptures today - 'Little girl, arise.' I can't explain
it, Pastor, but somehow I knew, I know that my little girl is with him
now. That she forever lives in his presence and that one day I will
see her again. and Mary too." He wiped his eyes again.

Pastor Carter was really missing the tissues now because he needed
them for himself.
"But that's not all," Bill continued. "I woke, I guess, or the vision
just faded. I laid my hand on this cloth," which he held up, "and I
felt this warmth flow into my hand and up my arm and into my chest and
all over me. It was as if I had awoken, not from a dream, but from a
long, dark night. I felt as if Jesus had said to me too, 'Little
child, arise.' And I did! For a great weight had been lifted from me."
He clutched the cloth more tightly than ever. He then reached out
across the table, the cloth still in his hands, and grasped the
pastor's hands.

"I want you to do something for me," Bill said.

"Sure," came the reply, the pastor wondering if it might have
something to do with Bill's mother. But once again he was surprised.

"Would you pray that Jairus Prayer with me?"

"Of course," Pastor Carter replied, a little confused. "For whom?"

Bill continued. "I ain't proud of it, Pastor. But there's someone who
needs that prayer even more than me. Her name's Molly, Molly Johnson.
She's the one who hit Sara with her car. I know, I've known all along
it was an accident that Molly could not have avoided. It wasn't her
fault. But I was too lost in my own pain and anger to care about what
she must have been feeling all these years. Would you pray with me for
her?"

Together Bill and Pastor Carter bowed their heads in the kitchen and
prayed: "Jesus, come lay hands on Molly, so that she might be well and
live. Amen."

"One other thing," Bill said. "I want to go and see Molly tomorrow.
Will you go with me?"

"I would be glad too," the pastor replied. "But there may be someone
else you wish to visit before her."

Bill grinned. "Already thought of mom," he said. "Going right after I
leave here."

"Good," the minister replied.

"Oh, and one other thing," Bill added, still grinning. "I think I'll
take that cup of coffee now. And I wouldn't refuse a piece of that
pie over there either."


The minister got up and prepared the coffee and pie, which Bill drank
and ate as if he had not eaten anything in a very long time.  The End.

 

 

 

 

 

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