Prayer Circle by Myra Holmes

I came broken that night.

I sat on the floor because Amy’s family room was crowded. Our women’s small group wasn’t so small any more, because so many of us were hungry to know and be known. For me, an introvert, just showing up was a risk, a vulnerability. I sat on the floor because it was the most out-of-the way, invisible place to be.

And then, as we began, Amy called me out. She knew, she said, that I was going through a tough time, and, if I was willing, she’d like me to share, and then they’d pray for me.

I gulped. My heart raced. But I spoke anyway: “My mom has been battling cancer for nearly two years. It’s a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma: Mantle Cell Lymphoma. She’s undergone chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, which had sent the cancer into remission. But now it’s come back.”

I reached the end of the words that fell out almost automatically because I had spoken them so often. How to continue?

“This week….” I faltered, struggled to push the words past the lump in my throat.

“This week, the doctor told us that there’s really nothing more they can do.” In my mind, I replayed images of my mom, dad and I crowded into an exam room meant for only one patient and one doctor. The measured, Czech-accented words of the oncologist. The way she met his eyes unflinchingly as he spoke. The hug he offered before he left us to our grief.

I took a deep breath, struggled to squeeze out a few more words before paralysis set in: “It just hurts.” What else was there to say? I had no prayers left. No strength. Only tears.

Amy asked me to sit on the coffee table in the center of the room. Women began to gather around me wordlessly. As they found their places, the room filled with a soft rustling and shifting and with something else – a sense of reverence, the weight of significance. Warm hands landed firmly on my shoulders. Light touches rested on my knees.

And then the women began to pray. They surrounded me with the words I no longer could form. They begged for peace, comfort, strength. They cried out for healing – not for my mom, this time, but for me.

This is what the paralyzed man in the old Bible story must’ve felt as his friends lowered him through the ceiling and laid him at the feet of Jesus: helpless to come, carried by the faith of friends, ushered into the presence of holiness. And a hush settled on those gathered in the house as Jesus looked upon the deepest need, called the hopeless one “friend,” and healed.

I came broken that night. But I went home, mat in hand, praising.