Two weeks ago, I prayed for my father. It was a Thursday. I prayed for him not from a distance, but standing at his side with my hand resting on his upper arm. I’ve prayed for him in private before, but this was the first time that I’ve ever prayed over him. I’m still stunned by the experience. I’ve barely been able to talk about it, much less write it down. I think I’m still in shock about what God can make possible.
We had been talking on his back porch that afternoon. I hadn’t seen him in months, and frankly, I had been agonizing over getting in touch with him. We don’t always see eye to eye and more than once our visits have devolved into petty bickering, or worse. We have little in common and somehow a deep-seated resentment has built up over the years. Him and my mom were divorced when I was five. Mom got custody. I don’t think he’s ever gotten over it. Mainly, I think because he lost. My father is a proud, stubborn man and he needed to win that fight, and he didn’t. Part of me says, Tough shit. Another part of me is more forgiving. I don’t know what’s it’s like to have a son who is being raised by the other parent. I don’t have children. So it must be quite a blow, and I can sympathize.
In a nutshell, I am angry with my father. I didn’t see a whole lot of him growing up. My mother raised me and I’m grateful for that. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I’ve never really stood up to him, either. When I was younger, he was godlike to me. Untouchable. A mystery. But now, when I’m around him I just kind of check out or we snip back and forth about politics or whatever. Sometimes we get along. He can be a funny man. He’s not a tyrant. He’s just a man who feels like something has been taken from him.
I can’t forget that.
I’m not going to air all our dirty laundry. What’s the point? Most men have complicated relationships with their fathers. It’s nothing new. My father and I don’t communicate well. We never have. How is that different from most other men?
The night before I went to see him, I felt God moving me to pray for him. That word seemed to come out of nowhere. I know it didn’t, but that’s what it felt like. Months ago I started praying for strangers on the street. God was preparing me for this moment.
You want me to pray for him? In the flesh? Really?
I didn’t have to ask. I had my answer. In a flash, I knew God had been laying some groundwork. He was preparing me for something I never thought I would do: lay my hand on father’s shoulder and pray for him.
The thing is, though, I wasn’t scared. I felt at peace. Nervous, but calm. I felt like a prayer that I had been praying for many years was answered. Not just my prayer, many people’s prayers. God’s solution is so simple and so profound. Pray for those who persecute you…
Sitting on the porch with my father, I told him about Five Bucks and a Prayer. I told him that I prayed for people on the streets. Then I hemmed and hawed a bit, told him some more about the blog, talked around what I wanted to say, and finally I took the plunge.
Dad, I’d like to pray for you, if that’s okay.
Last year, my father lost his wife. She battled health problems for years. Finally, it got the best of her. It had taken years for the two of them to get together. They had dated when they were younger, but circumstances broke them apart. Through many years and different lives in different states, they found each other again. They were married in 2000. The same year Ginger and I were married. The same year my mother remarried.
I know my Dad has had a difficult time since she died. Who wouldn’t? My mom lost her husband in 1998. A drunk driver killed him. Nothing can prepare you for that kind of loss. Nothing can make the grief pass any quicker. It takes years to reach some kind of acceptance.
It’s going to be a long journey for him.
I’m not going to write about the prayer that I prayed for my father. Maybe I will someday.
For now, I think I’m going to keep it to myself. But, if anyone out there has a minute, pray for my father.
His name is Charles Russell, Sr. For the past few years, he has gone by Chuck not Charles.
Last year he lost his wife.
He has a difficult relationship with his son.
He is in need of some intercession.
He is in need of God’s love.
Just like every last one of us.