Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5: 13-15 New Testament- NIV Version)
On a Thursday evening in late summer in 2003, I was visiting my cousin's church in Longwood, Florida. I was invited to attend their Bible study. I was going through a really rough time in my life, and an impending period of incarceration was just a few short months away. I was in really bad shape emotionally and spiritually, and most of those present knew this.
The small Bible study quickly turned into a prayer service that evening... for me. I had opened up about my personal struggles and fears, and the church group, being led by the Spirit, began to pray for me. Present were the pastor and his wife, a friend of mine who at that time was an elder in the church, three or four of the senior members, and myself. They all gathered around me and laid hands on me. They prayed like I have never heard praying before. This went on for thirty or forty minutes, and I was exhausted. Tears were flowing from my eyes, but I didn't want to stop because at that very moment I knew that my life would never be the same.
Most of my adult life has been spent battling drugs and alcohol. In fact, it was my addictive behavior that had me in the predicament I was in that evening in August of 2003. A feeling of hopelessness and despair had become the norm for me. As I sat in that church, I felt if God didn't do something for me at this very moment I knew that this night could be the very end for me...so I cried out to Him. As the church group was singing the song, "What a Mighty God We Serve," I was praying, "Lord, help me." It was then that I finally experienced the nearness of his love for me. And as I continued to keep my eyes closed and cry out, I could feel the group laying hands on me; the elder began to anoint me with oil. Then we all prayed another prayer that I thought would never end. The Pastor was speaking in tongues, and my dead and sick spirit began to come alive. I knew a change had come over me. I knew then that God had done for me what I could not do for myself.
I remember everything that happened to me that night, nearly fourteen years ago. I remember because it definitely changed me, as well as prepared me for the journey I was about to embark upon. I could never have loved the person I had become, but God loved me up one side and down the other.
I've been drug and alcohol free since that night - not once having the desire to go down that path again. Instead I began thanking God for His mercy and love. Now while being incarcerated, I have been attending A.A. meetings for the last decade. I have not done so out of fear of a relapse, but because it is just one of the places where God meets me. I have also been allowing God to use me, in a way that produces an effect upon my environment.
Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that I have come this far. But I realize that I couldn't have done it without His guidance, and strength. I am so thankful for those that were present at that Bible study turned prayer service. They were living the Word as spoken through the Apostle James that I quoted at the beginning. I am also grateful for every opportunity that God gives me to tell this story because it is not really a story about me, but about His love and mercy... in spite of me. Mine was a sickness not of the body, but a sickness of the mind and the spirit. God reached down into my very being and brought a healing into my life. So many people ask me how I am doing, and I usually respond, "Better than I deserve." I say this because it is the truth; no one knows this better than myself. In my remembering, I will never forget the impact God's love had on me! Without it, my whole life could have turned so very differently!