Chapter OneA Mother's Heart .
or that monster-mother thing
Hannah answered and said, "No, my lord,
I am a woman oppressed in spirit .
I have poured out my soul before the Lord .
I have spoken until now
out of my great concern and provocation."
1 Samuel 1:15-16
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "We've done all we can do for
your son." The doctor's words played over and over in my mind.
Justin was supposed to start first grade today, not be in serious
condition in the hospital
I got off the phone with our twenty-year-old, knelt by my bed, and wept.
Alison had been discouraged for weeks, couldn't sleep, and felt totally
unsupported in her new location. "I feel so alone. I can't connect with
anyone here ." Her voice broke, and all I heard was her crying. Yet she was
six hours away-too far to hug or comfort-and my heart ached for her
When our son Chris signed up for the Eastern Religion class at the university,
I wasn't surprised. Chris had always been a seeker, but he wasn't
seeking in campus Bible study groups . not now at least. What "truths"
would he be hearing? What if he turned his back on his faith? .
Your fragile child is seriously ill-again.
Your shy, tender-hearted daughter is away from home-adrift and all
Your bright, inquisitive son is learning to think for himself-but
looking for guidance in all kinds of places.
Sound familiar? Has your heart ever ached so strongly for your child
that you seriously wondered if it might rip apart? As moms, no matter what
stage of mothering we're in-experiencing the delight and fear of being
responsible for that first, fresh-from-heaven newborn, or wandering
around in our empty nests-we are concerned for our children. We hold
them when they're sick, ache when they're lonely and lack friends, worry
when they struggle in school and even more so when they rebel and make
bad choices. We want to protect and nurture and guide these children we
literally carried for nine months.
A recent movie reminded me of how strong this mother love is. In Safe
Passage a mother of seven boys is watching her fourteen-year-old, Percy, play
in a school football game. Decked out in his green and white uniform, Percy
clutches the football and races toward the goal line. Just as his mom yells
from the bleachers, "Look out!" Percy is crushed by a huge linebacker on the
opposing team. Knocked unconscious, the boy lies motionless on the field.
Instantly, Percy's mother is on the field with the coach, trainer, and
players. She scoops her teenager up in her arms and frantically carries him
into the field house as the coach yells, "Wait a minute, Mrs. Singer! We'll
get a stretcher!"
Moments later when the doctor brings him to with smelling salts, he
asks Percy, "What's your name?"
"Percival Singer," he answers.
"Who is this?" the doctor asks.
Surprised to see his mom in the field house, "My mother," he
"She's a pretty strong lady. She carried you all the way off the field
herself," the doctor continues.
"She what! In front of the guys? . like a baby?" Percy asks, shocked and
humiliated. He then turns to his mother. "How could you?" he asks. "Why
didn't you just leave me there?"
"I'm sorry, I just couldn't help it," she answers. "When a woman
becomes a mother, there's this little part of her, this monster-mother thing,
that grows and grows, like the things in your cereal box that grow to three
hundred times their size. When a woman becomes a mother, it just rules
her life-this monster-mother, three-hundred-times bigger part. I saw you
lying there. I was scared. I wanted to get you to help. And I couldn't hear
or see anything else!"
Her answer is one most of us moms can readily identify with. This
"monster-mother thing," this mother-bear instinct, begins emerging the
first day we become a mother, and absolutely takes over when one of our
kids is hurting or needs help. In truth, this powerful mother heart is a gift
from a loving God who knows children need lots of love and nurture.
But with powerful mother love comes a world of other, equally
powerful emotions engendered by our own flesh and blood-fear, worry,
frustration, anxiety, joy, delight, guilt. "Our children bring about intense
emotions in our hearts," says Fern Nichols, founder and president of
Moms In Touch. "When they are responsive to us and to the Lord it brings
joy, peace, harmony-we're on a roll. But when they are not responsive to
us and they are not responsive to the Lord, it brings turmoil and anxiety.
We feel hurt, betrayed, and excluded."
No matter which stage of the mothering process you're in right now,
no matter on which end of the emotional spectrum you find yourself, the
question is the same for you and me, for all of us. How do we handle this
God's answer to the "Monster-Mother Thing"
Throughout the Bible God tells us what to do when we are anxious,
worried, or distressed, whether it's about our children or any other issue of
life. He says:
"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty
things which you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3).
"Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking
about you and watching everything that concerns you" (1 Peter 5:7, TLB).
"Gather together and pray . while there still is time" (Zephaniah
"Arise, cry aloud in the night Pour out your heart like water before
the presence of the Lord; lift up your hands to Him for the life of your little
ones" (Lamentations 2:19).
Let's look at a mother who did just that, for her prayer is not only the
first recorded prayer in the Bible by a woman but a pattern of effective
prayer I'll be sharing throughout this book.
Like Mrs. Singer, Hannah was greatly distressed, but over a different
matter. She deeply desired a child and had been unable to conceive. To
make matters worse, her husband's other wife, Peninnah, had borne him
several children, and she taunted Hannah for her barrenness, making her
pain even greater.
Elkanah, Hannah's husband, loved her, but he couldn't understand her
agony. "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is
your heart sad?" he asked. "Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
Husbands, even loving ones, sometimes don't understand a woman's heart,
but God does.
So Hannah went to the temple and poured out her request to God,
making a vow that if He would give her a son, she would dedicate him to
the Lord all the days of his life. In her great distress, she "prayed to the Lord
and wept bitterly." Her groanings were so deep in her heart that her lips
moved, but no words came out. Seeing her, the priest Eli accused her of
being drunk. Hannah's answer to Eli was, "No, my lord, I am a woman
oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink but I have
poured out my soul before the Lord." Eli then gave her his blessing and
asked the Lord to grant her request. Hannah left the temple, no longer
burdened and sad, and the next morning she rose up and worshiped God.
The Lord heard Hannah's prayer and granted her petition. In time,
Samuel was born to Elkanah and Hannah, and Hannah nurtured him
until he was weaned. Then the time came for her to fulfill her vow and take
him to the temple to live and serve God. He was probably no more than
three years old. How difficult it must have been for her to let go of her
beloved firstborn son, the one she'd prayed and wept for! But as she had
trusted God to answer her prayer, so she trusted Samuel into Eli's hands
and God's safekeeping, dedicating him to the Lord's service in the temple.
Despite it being God's temple, this was no godly environment. The
leadership was weak, and Eli's sons were evil and worthless; "they did not
know the Lord." Sin abounded. Yet Hannah left Samuel there for Eli to
Each year Hannah stitched little Samuel a robe and took it to him at
the temple. I can just see her hemming him in prayer and love, every stitch
a prayer-for God's protection and His favor, and for His glory and
purpose to be accomplished through her son's life.
What were the results of Hannah's bringing her need to God in prayer
and trusting her child to Him? Her sorrow turned to joy. Freedom and
blessing abounded. As she dedicated Samuel to God, her heart sang a song
of praise which begins with "My heart exults in the LORD." Later God
blessed her with three more sons and two daughters. Samuel grew before
the Lord, becoming God's chosen spokesperson in a time in history when
words and visions from God were rare. God's power and sovereignty
protected her son, and God used him in a great way to fulfill His plan. As
1 Samuel 3:19 says: "Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let
none of his words fail."
The Power of Prayer
Although we may have a hard time imagining relinquishing our children
to God's service at age three as Hannah did, we can learn much from this
woman and her prayers. Like Hannah, we can't put our children in a
protective bubble until they get through childhood and adolescence. We
can't control all the forces that try to undo our careful training and nurture.
We can't always pick them up, kiss the hurt, and make everything better,
especially when they get big enough to be on the playing field. But we can
follow Hannah's example by scooping them up and carrying them to Jesus,
who loves our children more than we ever could.
God has given us the same powerful resource to bring all our concerns
about our children to Him-the power of prayer. When the love of a
mother for her child is connected with God's power through prayer, an
irresistible force is released that changes people (including us!), situations,
schools, and even communities. Our prayers make a highway for God to
come and bring His salvation and intervention. In this book you'll read
stories of modern-day Hannahs, women in distress, mothers like you who
love their children and whose greatest desire is to call forth God's best for
their children-and whose prayers are laying the tracks for God's power to
The stories cover the span and seasons of a mother's life-from caring
for that totally dependent baby, to walking with children through the
school years, to being a mom of a college kid (where did the time go?), and
even to being a grandmother. These true stories of prayers offered and
prayers answered show what a mighty influence our prayers can exert.
They will refuel you, encourage you to persevere, and offer hope as we see
over and over that when mothers pray, mountains move. The mountain
may be a learning problem, drugs or alcohol, a difficult relationship,
rebellion, or a medical crisis. No matter. When mothers pray, school and
teachers change, prodigals come home, and sometimes the stirrings of
revival are seen. And when we pray for our children, we are also changed.
We learn to let go with grace, our anxiety and heaviness are lifted, peace
returns. We see God acting among us. We see His faithfulness.
Our Problems with Prayer
Does that sound too good to be true? Is your desire to pray tinged with a
bit of guilt, some doubt, some anxiety? Perhaps you feel like many other
mothers I've interviewed. Maybe you've even asked some of the same
questions they did:
• "With my busy schedule-caring for kids, running a household,
working in and outside the home, caring for an aging parent, and
everything else-how can I find time to really pray?"
• "What do you do when you don't see any results from your prayers?
I've prayed for years for my children, but I don't see any change."
• "With all the distractions, how can I keep my thoughts from
wandering? Is God really going to listen to me when I have trouble
giving Him my undivided attention?"
• "I hear others talk about having a quiet time, but with children at
home, my schedule is never the same two days in a row. What can
I do to be consistent in prayer?"
• "How can I pray more effectively for my child?"
Being a Martha at heart who juggles several plates at one time, I can
relate to these questions. So besides sharing my own struggles and journeys
in prayer, I'll share practical suggestions in each chapter to enrich our
prayer lives. There are ideas for both Marthas and Marys, for those of us
who are busy and easily distracted and for those who find it natural to be
still, to know that He is God and sit at His feet.
Some of the stories you'll read have a wonderful resolution, but others
are in process-with the "rest of the story" of God's working in situations
and lives still to be seen as we persevere in prayer. Although many are
accounts of answered prayer, in no way am I suggesting that prayer is a
magic formula for getting our hearts' desire. Much about prayer and how
God works is a mystery, but this we know: God invites us to pray. He hears
us and blesses us when we pray. He gives us His Word to equip us and
guide us in how to pray and what to pray about, and He promises a special
effectiveness in praying in agreement with others.
Prayer isn't a secondary thing; it's the most important thing we can do
for our children and ourselves, and it will dispense the most blessings. If all
that we do as mothers flows out of the fountain of prayer, we will experience
grace, joy, and rest in the heart of the Father. It doesn't mean we won't
have difficulties, but we will be able to face them with more energy and
My Prayer for You
My prayer is that the Lord will use this book to encourage you, to enrich
your prayer life, and to fill you with hope. May it help you know that just
as God met mothers in Bible times like Hannah, as He has heard the
prayers of mothers throughout history and across continents, so He is
listening to you, desiring to show you His love and power as you come to
the throne of grace and call on Him.
Now may the God of hope fill you
with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.