I was sitting in my usual spot at the pastors’ prayer meeting, listening to the prayer requests and preparing to join in prayer. Often the requests made by this interdenominational group of pastors are for God's blessings on events and programs, mission trips, or other exciting happenings these dedicated pastors are organizing in the community. I rarely have such requests to bring up since our little church, with its limited budget and manpower, does very few big or exciting things.
But that day the tone of the conversation was downcast. A few pastors had just conducted some very difficult funerals. Others were trying to help congregants battling alcoholism and drug addiction. With each contribution, our hearts were getting heavier. We all needed a little encouragement, so I decided to share one of the recent testimonies I’d heard at our church. An 83-year-old man in our church had broken his hip; a few weeks later his wife got up in church and testified that his hip bone was completely healed. The doctors couldn’t even see a break.
The quick turn of heads and the looks on the pastors’ faces shouted a collective, “Are you serious?” Then came the half-serious question: “God's not supposed to do stuff like that in a Christian Reformed church, is he?”
I probably don't speak up often enough about the miracles God does in our congregation. I tend to check my motives to a fault before sharing. So often I’ve seen the work of God proclaimed in a way that glorifies the individuals or churches who received the miracle instead of simply giving all the glory to God.
But God doesn't receive glory from fear or silence either.
Raised from the Dead?
It started in the spring of 2008. My family and I had just left for Michigan. Somewhere en route we got a phone call from a member of the congregation who told us her cousin’s heart surgery had gone badly. His brain had been deprived of oxygen long enough to put him into a coma and destroy any possibility of quality of life. She asked for the congregation to pray. Her cousin had been a faithful attender at our church for quite some time. Shocked and horrified, we prayed that he would somehow recover. Weeks later, his condition was deteriorating. Given no hope of his survival, the family eventually made the heartbreaking decision to “pull the plug” of the machinery keeping him alive and to let him go.
We prayed as the family gathered. But instead of dying, he came out of his coma and began to breathe on his own. After a few weeks, he left the hospital to enter a rehab center. By the time I saw him again, he was functioning quite well. When he showed up in church for the first time, the congregation went wild—well, as wild as a group of Dutch and Navajo folks can get. There were a few unsolicited “Amens” and some good healthy nods. Really, we were all blown away.
Two years later, a woman in our congregation was having a very difficult pregnancy. At 22-and-a-half weeks her water broke. She contacted me, and by email and text I was able to get the whole church praying. She desperately wanted her baby to wait one more week to be born. This tiny human being, smaller than an iPhone, was born 17 days later, breathing with his own little lungs. Doctors soon had to put him on a respirator because his lungs were too tiny to handle breathing. After about a month, he was hanging on to life by a thread. Facing his likely death, we somehow received the grace to keep praying. The nurses, calling him a fighter, gave him the name “Eli the Prophet Edwards.”
Eli is now almost 2 years old. He’s still on a ventilator part of the time until his lungs heal completely but has no signs of brain damage or hearing loss. I don’t believe that this little guy survived because he was a fighter—but because a miracle-working God was fighting for him.
That same year another mother in our congregation had a baby. Delivered full term, the child wasn't breathing. Doctors told them he wouldn’t survive. The grandfather of the baby, however, called his son to say that he believed he had heard a word from the Lord: “Peace be with you. Do not fear. You shall not die” (Judges 6:23). He called upon the church to pray. Once again, prayers were prayed, faith was stirred by the Holy Spirit, and baby Gideon came home a few weeks later, thriving.
Marveling at God’s Wonders
By this time, our congregation had begun to believe that God does great and mighty things. A sense of joy and hope arose during our gatherings as people were reminded of God’s love for them and his power to work on their behalf.
It had always been our practice to set aside a section in the bulletin for prayer requests so that members of the congregation could lift those requests up in prayer throughout the week. I honestly didn’t know if anyone other than a few prayer team members took the time to pray over those requests. But suddenly that section of the bulletin was in high demand. People wanted to make sure they knew about all the latest challenges to pray for and they wanted to make sure their requests got into the bulletin. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that a church bulletin would get so much attention! People in our church were starting to believe with all their hearts that when the people of God pray, God moves.
There is no human logic to what we have experienced. I have served in churches with more charismatic, faith-filled leadership and congregations where people believed and waited passionately for God to move among them but saw very little in the way of miracles. Perhaps God has chosen to show his power among us in these ways because our weakness makes his strength so obvious. Our congregation has certainly faced its share of disappointments, and there are many people who struggle and receive no miracles. But we have seen what God can do, and it’s changing our lives.
We have become a congregation that testifies regularly about the great things God has done. Not long ago a woman told us that her son, who has had a heart condition since birth and has undergone several surgeries, received a report from the doctor that his heart was “in perfect condition for a boy his age.” Within the last few years, a woman's grandson and two others were healed of cancer. A man who was saying final goodbyes to his relatives because his organs were shutting down showed up in church on Easter Sunday, to our great astonishment. People testify about financial miracles, salvation, deliverance from drug addiction, and many other works of God's power among them.
So I really didn’t feel like I was saying anything surprising when I reported that God had healed an 83-year-old man’s hip bone. It was just one of many incredible things I’ve seen God do for his people. Is God supposed to do this in a Christian Reformed church? I don't know. All I know is that he’s doing it, and we are grateful witnesses.
Questions for Discussion
- What is a miracle? How do you define it?
- Does God still do miracles today? Does he do them in your congregation?
- What is the connection between miracles and prayer? Will God only do miracles if we ask him? How many prayers must be given and how many people must pray for God to do a miracle?
- Why does God do miracles at some times but not at other times?
- Is the everyday, ordinary process of healing also miraculous? An uneventful birth? A healthy crop growing in the field?
- Share some stories you have personally witnessed of God doing miracles and/or acting in very surprising ways.
- If God does not answer prayer for a miracle with a yes, does that mean those praying don’t have enough faith? How about Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane?