One More Prayer
Finding the faith to go on.
by Jewell Johnson
Alone in the darkness, tears blinding my eyes, I tried to follow the beam of headlights on the highway. Coming to a decision, I declared, “I can’t pray another prayer for Jenny.”
I was sick of the eating disorder that tormented our daughter, the smell of vomit in our bathroom, the arguments my husband and I had about where to hide the food so Jenny wouldn’t devour it on her night binges. I was tired of our younger children complaining, “Mom, my candy is all gone. Who took it?” “Where’s the sandwich meat for my lunch? It’s not in the refrigerator.”
I resented the tension our family experienced at mealtime as we watched Jenny empty every bit of food onto her plate and stuff it into her mouth. Then she’d rush to the bathroom to purge herself. I wanted to divorce myself from the ugliness of bulimia and the devastation it had created.
I couldn’t quiet my thoughts. Why should I keep praying for Jenny? Haven’t I called her name out to God every day for 13 years? Yet nothing has changed.
If I quit praying, the pain of seeing our beautiful daughter teetering on the edge of ruin might stop. If I cease hoping for a miracle, I won’t be disappointed again and again. Maybe if I stop begging God to heal Jenny, the black cloud of depression I live under will miraculously lift.
After that dark night, I prayed for other people, but I never mentioned Jenny’s name to God.
A month later, I made another decision — this time about a house plant. A geranium stood by the window in the bedroom, the best place in our house for growing things. I had watered it with rainwater and fertilized it, yet it refused to flourish. One green stalk with a few sickly leaves struggled to stay alive. It had been that way for months.
“You’re not going to grow?” I said to the plant that day. “OK. I’m done pampering you! Out you go!” I picked up the heavy pot and stomped through the house to the garage.
As I tipped the pot, ready to dump the plant into the garbage can, I heard a voice: “So, you’re going to throw it out, just like you did Jenny?”
“Jenny?” I questioned. “What do you mean?”
The voice continued. “You threw Jenny out of your prayers. Don’t you know the weakest and most sickly need more time and patience? The hopeless need more care and prayer.”
Had I heard right? Though the words weren’t audible — I heard them in my heart — the message was clear: I had abandoned my daughter at her lowest point, when she needed my prayers and support the most.
I sank to the garage steps. Salty tears dripped into the black dirt as I sobbed, “God, I love her so much. I want her to be a whole person. Why, God, haven’t You answer my prayers?”
Wiping my eyes, I hoisted the plant into my arms and headed back into the house. At that moment, something happened. I determined — I vowed — to again pray for Jenny. How long? One month, two months, a year? Now the time didn’t matter. My faith was renewed, and I’d pray for her as long as I had breath.
Jenny’s recovery came slowly. She suffered from weakness and hair loss. A dentist told her the enamel on her front teeth had become dangerously thin from years of purging.
“If I lose my teeth, I don’t want to live,” she declared. I braced for the worst.
This time Jenny turned to the Bible. “Mom,” she said, “the Bible says God will restore what the locust and cankerworm have devoured. Can I ask God to heal my teeth when I’m the one who ruined them?”
“Healing is a gift,” I said. “Yes, you can ask God to heal your teeth.” Soon the dentist began treatments to preserve the thinned enamel.
Prayers, plants, and perseverance
Every day was a struggle as Jenny tried to re-learn normal eating patterns. Often she slipped back into the old habit of gorging and purging. I stood by, cheering her better days and continuing to pray, good days and bad.
With encouragement, tears, and prayers, Jenny worked toward physical, mental, and emotional healing. One day she told me, “Things are shaky for me, Mom. But God and I together — we’re going to make it. I know it! Just keep praying!”
And what happened to the geranium plant? It stands in our living room, growing, flourishing, and reminding me every day that there are no hopeless cases with God. There are no limits to what He will do as we keep on praying.
* * * *
Jenny is now in a helping profession and contacts her family members frequently, asking prayer for guidance in her life. She practices her Christian faith and attends church and Bible studies. Despite the years she suffered from an eating disorder, it appears Jenny suffers no serious health consequences — thanks to prayer.