The Power of a Mother’s Prayers
Dr. Jim Denison
On April 13, 1989, in Los Angeles, California, a little girl named Tiffany Schaffer was walking home from school clutching her teddy bear. Mrs. Johnnie Matheston, mother of one, was waiting at a red light where Tiffany was crossing the street.
All at once a man turned right on red and headed right for little Tiffany. Mrs. Matheston blew her horn, but it was too late. She watched in horror as the blue Datsun ran over the little girl. The car stopped, with Tiffany directly under the motor. Before anyone could react, Johnnie Matheston got out of her car, ran to the 2,600 pound car and picked up the front end four inches while someone pulled Tiffany out.
Tiffany escaped with only two broken bones and some abrasions. Mrs. Matheston pulled two muscles but was otherwise unhurt. Though six months pregnant, she dead lifted over 1,000 pounds—something no man has ever done, but one mother did.
On this Mother’s Day, we are grateful for the power of a mother’s love.
As you may know, a woman in Philadelphia named Anna Jarvis began a campaign in 1907 to honor mothers, for the sake of her mother. President Woodrow Wilson made the second Sunday in May an official national holiday in 1914.
And so the holiday is not found in the Bible or on the church calendar. As a result, preachers have often wondered what to do with it. My friend Daniel Vestal, now coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, preceded me as pastor of First Baptist Church in Midland. They tell the story about the time Daniel decided to ignore Mother’s Day in his sermon. It’s a secular holiday, he said, as he determined to continue in his sermon series for that day. He later called it the biggest mistake of his ministry.
It is interesting that you have come to church for Mother’s Day. Many of you would be here anyway, but most of you see worship as a part of your Mother’s Day observance. Some of you are our guests today as you have come to worship with your mothers. Most of you wouldn’t feel it was truly Mother’s Day without such worship.
Why is this? What is it about being and having mothers which requires spiritual connection, spiritual help? Why do we seek the vertical in the midst of the horizontal? What is it we need and seek by coming to church on this day?
Praying for an unborn child (1 Samuel 1.10-11)
In our text last week we studied Jesus’ admonition: “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). The “room” Jesus mentions was the storeroom where the treasures were kept. A mother’s greatest treasure is her child. So how do mothers in the Bible pray for their children? Here’s what I discovered this week.
Some of you are not mothers, but wish to be. For you, this is a hard day. You watch the joy of the mothers and families around you in worship and don’t understand why you cannot join them. You know that you would be a wonderful mother. You hear of mothers aborting or abusing children, and you just cannot understand why you don’t have a child to love.
How did someone who wished to be a mother pray? Hannah was the wife of Elkanah. She desperately wished to bear a child, but the years passed with her prayer unanswered.
One time when she and her husband had traveled to worship at the sanctuary at Shiloh, Hannah “wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying, ‘O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:10-11).
Hannah made the “Nazarite vow,” dedicating her child to full-time service in the Temple and the work of the Lord. And her son became what she dedicated him to be. Samuel was Israel’s last judge, anointer of her first king, prophet and priest of God.
So why go to worship on this Mother’s Day? Why seek the spiritual today? Why did Hannah? Because she knew that a child is his gift. How would Hannah answer our question today? She would tell us that every child is the miraculous gift of God, and that he is to be praised and worshipped for such a grace and trust to us. Something in us draws us to worship on Mother’s Day, so we can praise the God who has given us the child we celebrate.
Never give up. Keep praying for God’s will to be done. Consider all the ways he might answer your prayer, through conception or adoption. Keep trusting him.
Dedicate your unconceived child to the Lord. This does not guarantee that you will have a child, and certainly does not suggest that you have not yet conceived because you have not made such a commitment. I do not know why God brings children to some and not to others. But I do know that every child he gives us is to be returned to him. This is a gift, a trust, a stewardship. Be in prayer now that your child will belong to him.
Praying for a growing child (Luke 1:38)
Some of you are hoping for a child. Some of you are expecting one. Next Mother’s Day, you’ll have a baby in the church nursery. And many of you have one. Your children are in the preschool, or beside you in church, or living in another part of the world, or preaching this sermon.
Here’s someone who was where you are. When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, a 13-year-old peasant teenager in the tiny village of Nazareth, he brought astounding news: this virgin would conceive a bear a child. How? “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). What a birth announcement! Outside Mary’s home there would not be a wooden stork with a baby in its beak, but an angel with a baby in its arms.