Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Value of Prayer Shawl Ministries

Around 2002, I first heard about prayer shawl ministries. I immediately understood the value for the people who made the prayer shawls, but I couldn't quite fathom what the recipient was supposed to do with a prayer shawl. I imagined the recipient getting the shawl in the middle of summer and wondering what to do with it.

A few years later, I was a member of a church that lost the roof of its education building during hurricane Wilma. The damage to the sanctuary was astonishing, even though it hadn't lost its roof. I was church council president, so I needed to provide some leadership. But I was dealing with my own home repairs, after hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. New Orleans sustained much, much more Katrina damage, but Katrina crossed over the peninsula of Florida as a category 1 storm and reminded us of how much damage a "weak" hurricane can inflict. And then, two months later, Hurricane Wilma came along to finish the job.

I spent the autumn of 2005 shuttling between damaged church, damaged home, and damaged (slightly) workplace. I couldn't imagine how we would ever put it all back together again.

In the midst of my autumn of despair, a prayer shawl arrived from Oklahoma. The pastor of my damaged church looked at it, puzzled. "What are we supposed to do with this?"

I read the enclosed note: "We know about your damaged church, and we are holding you in prayer."

I went to the bathroom so that I could weep in private. Back in my pre-hurricane-damage days, I would never have thought that such a simple gesture would means so much to me.

Did that prayer shawl magically heal the roof? Of course not. But it reminded me that I am not alone, and that gave me some strength to face the tasks that had to be done. Did we need the warmth of a prayer shawl wrapped around ourselves? No, quite the contrary. With no electricity for 2-6 weeks, as the weather returned to muggy heat, we needed just the opposite.

Did we need prayers? Yes. Did we need to be reminded that others were praying? More than you can imagine.

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