I was three month’s old as I lay on the floor on a home made baby pallet. My grandmother, Mary Alice, was ironing clothes and watching over me and my older brother and sister. It was a delight for her to keep three of her grandchildren as my mother got away for some shopping. However, this was not an ordinary day…not for Mary Alice, and certainly not for me.
As my brother and sister played in the room, I simply kicked my legs, and pumped my arms the way infants do, slobbering and spitting. Then suddenly, the Holy Spirit spoke to my grandmother. He said, “I have called him to preach.” It startled her, but as a deep believer in Christ, she was familiar with God’s voice. She looked at all three of us kids and asked, “Which one Lord?” As her eyes scanned from my brother, to my sister and finally settling on me, the Holy Spirit said, “I have called him.”
Mary Alice NEVER told me this. In fact, it was many years after her death that my mother’s older sister related this story to me. My grandmother had shared the story with her years after I responded to the Lord’s call into ministry. When my aunt shared this with me many things in my interactions with my grandmother added up. I always felt Mary Alice doted on me. I can still see the sparkle in her eyes whenever we talked, and I can still feel the special pinch she gave me on my cheeks whenever I got close to her. However, she kept the words spoken to her by the Holy Spirit hidden in her heart and only breathed them back to God in prayer.
As a young believer I really struggled with the call into ministry. I knew the sin of my heart and my various struggles with the flesh and I did not want to bring shame or disappointment to the Lord’s name or His work. One particular day I was standing alone by a large pine tree (it is still very vivid in my memory), and Mary Alice walked over to check on me. I can still see her coming toward me, as she waddled like a duck when she walked. Her eyes were filled with understanding and her heart with promises. She had held God’s message concerning me for 20 years…and she knew God was faithful.
“What aileth thee?” she asked with tender care. Then I, not wanting to admit my fear of preaching and my concern over being faithful, just shrugged my shoulders and weakly said, “nothing.” She was having none of it. With words which carried the very breath of the Holy Spirit to me at that time, she said, “You are struggling with preaching aren’t you?”
Startled, I looked at her and said, “Yes, I am Mamaw.” I wondered, how did she know? I had said nothing to her about how I felt the Lord calling me, but the Lord knew the concerns and fears of my heart, and so did my grandmother. And after all…she had been praying for me ever since she heard God speak to her twenty years earlier.
Then, like a trained archer from biblical times, her words hit the mark. She said, “There is no greater privilege for a man than to be called to preach the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and to be trusted to proclaim His Word. When God calls us, He will fulfill it. He is faithful.” In that moment, her words were like bars of steel which stabilized my fearful heart. My focus had been on my fears instead of God’s faithfulness. In that simple moment my stumbling feet and weak spirit had been strengthened by the Holy Spirit through a praying grandmother. Because of twenty years of prayers, she had the perfect words to say to me…and it was priceless.
I’m so thankful Mary Alice had the wisdom to never tell me about that day as an infant in her living room. She did not put that expectation upon me. She knew that if it was God speaking to her that He could fulfill the promise without her help. The Lord had trusted her as an instrument of prayer. Without my knowledge of it, my grandmother became an intercessor on my behalf, standing for truth and against all that Satan cast toward me to trip me up with. She took the burden God had given her, and like the Mary of old, hid it within her own heart. (Luke 2:19)
Never underestimate the prayers of a mother or a grandmother. They are able to move heaven and earth with their childlike faith and humility. Timothy was influenced by his grandmother and mother (2Tim. 1:5), and so have I. Only time will reveal the results of those prayers. However, I know one thing with certainty—when a simple grandmother prays, God hears!
The photo above is my grandmother, Mary Alice Dearman, when she was young. She went home to be with the Lord in 1994. I sure look forward to that ‘pinch on the cheek’ again, and seeing that twinkle in her eye. In that day I will say, “Thanks Mamaw for your prayers. You were right. God is faithful.“