My dad was preaching at a church a couple of hours from home recently, and since it wasn't far away we all loaded up and went. Usually him preaching at a different church means we may hear a sermon we've heard before, but that's ok, even the same outline is completely different from church to church.
This particular time he gave a bit of his testimony and the history of Cornerstone. Now, this doesn't change, but I could listen to it over and over again. When he first came to the town we live in now, he was still in the convention. After his trial sermon, and older lady shook his hand and told him she'd been praying for him for twenty years. Since he'd only just met her, this was a bit confusing. After looking at her a bit confused, she said, "You don't understand, I've been praying for a Bible believing pastor for twenty years." That would have been around the time my dad was eight years old - the age he was when his abusive, alcoholic father passed away. This lady may have been praying for a pastor, but that pastor turned out to be my dad - and those twenty years in his life had involved several major car accidents, the way too early death of his mother, suicidal thoughts, salvation, the call to preach, marriage, college, seminary...you see where I'm going.
Due to a stand on the KJV and a few other issues, a few years later, my dad was asked to resign that church. He handed in his resignation, and when he and my mom got to the parsonage there was a group of people waiting for him. They wanted to start a church. An independent, King James only, Baptist church. Mrs. Hailey, our valiant prayer warrior, was part of that group. They first met in a tent, then a community church building that was falling apart, and then in '94 they moved into the newly built building we're still in debt free.
Today, Cornerstone has been going strong for 25.5 years. We've expanded our sanctuary 3 times, built a gym, a Missions House, a residents house, and a Sunday School building. We're at full capacity - and to be honest, we're probably beyond that but the only way to get more room will be an entirely new building for a bigger sanctuary. I don't say any of this boastfully because God has a different time frame for every person and every church, but I say it to illustrate the great power there is in fervent and heartfelt prayer.
Now, I've heard that story my entire life. I'm 24 and our church was established one year before I was born. I don't remember Mrs. Hailey but I've seen her prayer journal and my mom wears her ring. For some reason, sitting in that church that night, the twenty years she'd spent praying stood out to me. Twenty years is a long time. I wonder if God had given her any signs that her prayer would eventually be answered or if her faith was strong enough that she didn't need one. Growing up hearing about her, I feel confident it was the latter.
She isn't around today, she didn't get to see that our biggest "problem" is our growth - and how can that be considered a problem? People have moved from states away to attend Cornerstone...and all of the credit goes to God, but what if she had given up? There have been things I've prayed about for going on five years, and I feel like my answer must be a "no" because I've seen no progress, but what about Mrs. Hailey? The fruit of her prayers continues to produce more fruit. I think, if she could see Cornerstone Baptist Church today, she would be utterly delighted.
She prayed, and God had a plan. She had patience, and God provided in due time.
This is a time a great turmoil and great opportunity in America. It's a time for action, but there's never a moment we can give up praying. When I think it's a lost cause, I remember Mrs. Hailey. Twenty years of prayers for the same thing. Can I be as faithful?
God may not answer our prayers in our time frame, and I've told Him a time or two how much that frustrates me, but His plan is much more complex than we can see. Our prayers may be helping someone we've never met. We may not get to witness the fruit of our prayers in our lifetime, but I sure am grateful for Mrs. Hailey. Without her prayers my life would probably be entirely different. I feel like there's a generation of people in our church my age and younger who are the products of her and seventy-something other people who stepped out on faith and prayer into the power of God. How can I not hope to do the same for a future generation?
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."