Lord have mercy on us!
Help us to wake to the Power of Prayer
Memories from childhood can have a life-long impact. When I was born, my parents were living in Loughborough, a small city in the English Midlands. The cold winters meant being given hot water bottles by our feet just to get to sleep. Back then most people didn’t have central heating. Our toes would be chilled to the point of pain in the mornings. My Dad used to get up and fetch the coal from the cellar to start the fire in the dining room. Many mornings he had to take a blowtorch to the outside loo to melt the layer of ice that had formed in the bowl. My mother told me the stories of Jesus. Even then, I heard the call to seek Him. I had a brother and sister, but I was the oldest, the one to set the example. There were toys and jigsaw puzzles to play with. We had radio, but no TV, not even a fridge. I was allowed to play records on an old manually cranked phonograph. We would walk to visit my Nana who lived near a large park which had a marvellous carillon which could be heard from quite a distance.
We visited my great grandparents almost every Sunday for tea. I used to play with a wooden alphabet set. Each block had an animal picture to go with its letter, A for antelope, and so on. I distinctly recall the moment I realized that letters could be put together to made words. Amazing! Before I started school I was reading simple nursery rhymes.
When I was seven and a half, my parents decided to bring us to Canada. In grade five, in Quebec, I memorized the 23rd Psalm for a poetry recital. When I stood up to speak, my teacher told me, ‘Sit down! That’s not poetry, that’s Scripture!’ In grade six, I got hold of a Gideons Centennial Edition of the New Testament. The book of Revelation and the Gospels caught my attention. I also read the Hardy Boys, Jules Verne, Von Daniken, Velikovsky, science, modern sci-fi, historical romance, … One day while recovering from chicken pox I was given a book all about ghosts, mind reading, astral travel and other strange ideas. One night I experienced a very real personal attack. I felt physically grabbed by someone or something not of this world.
Throughout high school I was very shy and always managed to avoid speaking in class. At university, I took honours Physics and Engineering. Friends kept giving me copies of the Bible, some containing strange books with titles like Bel and the Dragon, and the Wisdom of Sirach. I was challenged to seriously consider the story and claims of Jesus, and began to attend Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, where, for the first time, I clearly heard the message of the cross: the good news that Jesus had died for me. I discovered that I needed to make a personal response to his sacrifice. I helped to distribute copies of the New Testament in the Student Union building.
In the middle of my senior year, just after Christmas, I experienced a turmoil that required hospitalization. I asked God in prayer to reveal Himself to me if he really was there. Shortly afterward, I experienced His loving presence in a powerful way. I was pretty excited, 'high on Jesus', and began talking to my friends at length, in the middle of the night! I asked my landlady if I could examine an old ceremonial sword, which hung in her living room. I took it up to my room and, later that night, baptized it in the bathtub. For me this was a powerful symbol of spiritual warfare. Fortunately a friend came by. If he hadn’t been there, I might have done something even sillier.
(Edmund Yu was a troubled medical student who, a few years ago, was killed by police on a TTC bus in Toronto, and all because they thought the little hammer he was carrying might have been a gun!)
My friends contacted the local Anglican priest and my mother and brother, who together got me to see a local doctor, someone I already knew and trusted. He prescribed tranquilizers. But I was so hyper I was admitted to the local hospital for eight days. My Christian friends were all praying for me privately and in their churches. After spending two months at home with my family, I marked in my New Testament, March 9, 1978, as the date I chose to receive the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior. Three days later I was admitted to the Nova Scotia Psychiatric Hospital, where I languished for two months, pacing the hallways with increasing frustration. The rest of that year was a write-off. I had neither motivation nor energy to do anything. I struggled just to get up each morning.
The following year I took two summer courses in Religious Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. In October I heard Billy Graham preach on the story of the Good Samaritan at the Halifax Metro Centre and I went forward as a public act of faith. I began to work with handicapped adults and later that year began shift work as a residential counselor caring for these folk. I also held a second job, 35 miles away, as a research assistant in St. F. X. University’s Spectroscopy lab.
In December, I received my Bachelor’s degree in Science, the two courses in the Christian faith having fulfilled my course requirements. During the next few years I spent five more months in hospital. I was often hyper, going from singing God’s praise in the halls to making an unruly nuisance of myself. One day I was placed, almost naked, in a locked ‘quiet room’. I felt like a caged lion. Someone had etched onto the wooden door the words, ‘Hello world!’ It seemed everyone was going crazy!
The enemy seeks to cloud our minds and steal our peace. I could have ended up another suicide statistic! When Jesus says, ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I’ll restore you,’ He really means it! He’s ready to give His peace if we really want it and faithfully seek after Him.
I spent a year and a half living in a depressingly decrepit Rehab Centre where I learned to operate an offset printing press. My healing has come slowly and is entirely due to the love of our Lord Jesus, my wife and the rest of my family, my doctors, as well as the support and prayers of many Christian friends, known and unknown. I’ve known the torment of dreams that turn to nightmares that gradually turn to waking reality. There’s an ecstasy in believing that Christ will surely come today and severe depression in enduring another day without seeing his face.
In the worst circumstance, there’s really no need to remain isolated and depressed. An Anglican minister and his wife helped me, through the ministry of the Order of St. Luke, to experience a measure of healing.
Demons are real. Mental illness is real. Connections between these two concepts are difficult to establish. Surely we can admit that most mental illness probably has little or no demonic component. Can we not also admit that some conditions are unexplainable unless we accept the existence of ungodly wicked spiritual forces?
Joy Vassal’s book, Demons are Real, gives vivid testimony of the negative spiritual impact of belief in voodoo and wizardry.
Ron Armstrong, who was an Anglican missionary to parts of Latin America, talked about the power of prayer to bring healing to communities bewitched by so-called medicine men and witches. Many people have become followers of Jesus after finding that prayer in His name was the only effective way to receive help for their various afflictions. The occult practices of witch doctors usually only succeeded in temporary alleviation followed by worse problems later. Jesus gives freedom from entrapment to the lies that these people offer.
Too often in so-called advanced societies we believe a different lie, that formally trained medical practitioners, with their drugs and surgeries, can heal our diseases and we are released from the need to pray. Reliance on God becomes an option and only for those who already believe in Him. For me that early memory of hearing about Jesus was critical. Just as we were told as children to look for police if we were threatened or lost, so we were also told to look to the church for help with spiritual struggles.
O that our churches would respond to all illnesses with both prayer and medicine, referring both parishioners and enquirers to other qualified professionals if church members are not yet properly trained and qualified. Doctors and ministers must learn how to work together. This is a life and death issue. God is able. Amen!