I was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in mid 1991, when I was 35.  At the time we were living in an apartment while our new house was being built.  It was very cramped, and most of our things were in storage. There were my wife Judy, my two sons, aged 4 and 2, and me.  Judy was 8 months pregnant with my third son.  The diagnosis hit me like a bomb. Unfortunately, I had ready access to the Internet through work, so I started my research.  The news was generally the same...all bad.  Terminal...gradual loss of voluntary muscle function...most patients succumb in two to four years...presently no treatment...TERMINAL!

I spent many hours after my diagnosis crying in a dark closet.  I didn't want to burden Judy with my sense of hopelessness, or let the boys see their dad falling apart; I did not want them to remember me as a blubbering mess.  So I retreated to my closet, closed the door, and cried.

After the tears ran out, as they are bound to do, I started praying.  Not for a miraculous cure or a misdiagnosis, but simply for the strength to get through the day.  Soon I found that I was crying less, but still spending time in the closet, talking to God.  Then I stopped going into the closet.  The neat thing about prayer is that you can do it anywhere.  You don't even have to close your eyes.  You can pray at work.  You can pray in bed.  You can pray watching the sun set or the moon rise.  You can pray while driving to the mall (a good time to pray with your eyes open...trust me on this).

But my favorite time to pray is in the morning, while Judy and the boys are still asleep.  I roll into my office to get dressed, but before I turn on the lights, I spend some time talking to God first.  Generally, I first thank Him for the day I've just had, and for all of the blessings in my life.  Then I ask for strength to get through the challenges, both known and unknown, in the day ahead.  It is said that God will never give you a burden greater than you can handle.  I ask Him for the strength necessary to meet that day's challenges.  He knows what they are.

I have been talking about "me praying for me".  Many will rationalize this as a self-fulfilling visualization.  But I experienced something in January 1997 that defies this rationale.  My associate pastor, Rick Baldwin, asked permission in late 1996 to use me as an example in a sermon he was preparing on "Joy".  I agreed, although I was curious as to how he was going to fit me into that topic.  He delivered the sermon on January 5th, and it was wonderful.  He talked about joy coming from a deep, abiding trust in God and His son, Jesus Christ.  I did not attend church that day, because ALS exaggerates your emotions, and I didn't think Rick's present-day example of joy ought to be bawling in the back of the church.

For the next couple of weeks, I noticed that I was able to stand up more easily.  I stand up for only three things: pulling my pants up; going to the toilet; and getting into bed.  The rest of the time, I'm in my chair.  When you stand up that rarely, you are able to render accurate judgment on the ease with which you are able to accomplish the task.  I was able to stand more easily, and while standing, was better balanced.

I mentioned this to Rick, and he replied that a strange thing had happened on the day he delivered the sermon.  It was Communion Sunday.  After Communion was served, each group remained at the altar several minutes longer than usual, praying.  The service, which generally takes about an hour, lasted almost 90 minutes.  I am not so taken with myself as to believe that all of those people were praying for me.  But I do believe that some of them were, and that their prayers were answered.

Prayer works...

© 2007 Douglas R. Jacobson

*** “As of June 6, 2007, Douglas is still very much alive.  He says, “It's strange (although it shouldn't be) that every time I get tired of keepin' on keeping on, I get an e-mail like yours (my email, asking permission to use Doug’s story on planting his seeds…Rick).  It has happened more than once, actually three times.  The first time proved to me the existence of a loving God.  It was about a year after my diagnosis, and I was in a real funk. I made an appointment with my associate minister to discuss what possibly God could have in mind for me.  You know, essentially the "Why me, Lord?".  A half hour before my appointment, I checked my e-mail, read it, and printed one note out.  I rolled into my minister's office, showed him the note, and asked him what else he'd like to talk about.

You see, the note was from a fellow who had decided to kill himself. He went web-surfing for the last time, and happened on my site, and read my Power of Prayer.  His note was to thank me for saving his life.

As of that day, I stopped asking questions, and figure God will call me home when he's done with me here.




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