Help for today. Hope for Tomorrow.

Praying Backwards

I once had the privilege of caring for a small, aging German lump of sugar named Mae Gabriel. Mae was in her late eighties. She still knew much of her German Bible and spent the day humming the hymns of her youth, though she could barely hear.

Mae lived alone in a two-room house on her son-in-law’s farm. Her prized possessions were a velvet leaf plant that had practically taken over her kitchen, dusty photos of her family on a bedroom bureau, and a skink that wandered out of the woods at dusk to eat scraps she put out on a cracked dinner plate. In many ways you could consider Mae pitiable—even pathetic. But Mae Gabriel was a saint. She taught me as much about prayer as anyone I have ever known.

During one of my visits, Mae told me of the death of her husband. Frank had died twenty years earlier, but when she spoke of him, her eyes still brimmed with tears. She told me about the day the doctors said Frank had only a short time left. On that day Mae said she prayed over and over that God would heal Frank. “I didn’t want to be alone,” she said with a smile.

Then she told me how she prayed.

“First, I prayed that God’s will would be done,” she said with a determined nod of her head.

“Then I prayed again and again that the Lord would heal my husband. But I also prayed that if He needed to take Frank, my God would give me the strength to bear it.” Then in the midst of Mae’s tears, a beautiful smile lit up her whole face as though her heart were shining through. She simply said, “And He did. God gave me the strength to bear it.”

Adapted from Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group © 2005 by Bryan Chapell. Used with permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

Next Steps

1. Read John Yates’ article, “How a Man Learns to Pray.”

2.  Many people see the importance of praying for their family, but don’t know what to say. FamilyLife’s easy-to-use prayer cards will guide you as you pray for your spouse, your kids, and yourself. The cards include specific prayers to God and Bible verses that show how each prayer is rooted in Scripture and help teach you how to pray.

3. Interested in helping marriages in your church and community?  Host a video event using The Art of Marriage®. The Art of Marriage webpage offers information about the event and provides help for hosts.