1428) A Desperate Prayer

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By Fred Craddock, Craddock Stories, ed. by Mike graves and Richard F. Ward, Chalice Press, 2001, pages 110-111.

     I met a desperate woman the other day.  I had gone to the hospital in Fannin County to visit someone else.  I did not know this lady, and I didn’t know I would encounter her, but when I went down the corridor, I saw her.  Her head was against the door, and both fists were up beside her face, and she was banging on the door: “Let me in, let me in, let me in!”  I couldn’t imagine someone locking her out of the room.  I got there, and it was the chapel door.

     I said, “Let me help you.”  I tried to open the door, but the knob wouldn’t turn.  It was locked.  I stopped a worker, and I said, “The chapel is locked.”

     She said, “We have to keep it locked.  There were some kids in here some time ago, and they trashed the chapel.  We had to get all new furniture and paint the room.  We can’t afford to keep doing that, so we keep it locked.”

     “Well, find someone with a key.”

     She came back a little bit later with another woman, who opened the door for us, and this woman and I went in.  I would say she was about forty.  She had the look of desperation.  I could tell that she hadn’t come to the hospital with any planning; she came urgently, and she came running.  The dress she had on was not typical public wear.  She had no shoes, just scuffs.  Her hair had not been combed, and she had no makeup.  She had the look of desperation.  She had the voice of desperation.  I can’t tell you if she was screaming or crying or moaning or what it was, but it was desperation.  Strange sound.  I heard some of her words. “I know he’s going to die, I know he’s going to die, I know he’s going to die.”


     “My husband.”

     “What’s the matter?”

     “He had a heart attack.”

     I said, “Can I get you some water?”

     She said, “No.”

     I told her who I was, and I said, “Can I pray with you?”

     And she said, “Please.”

     I started to pray for her and for her husband, and she interrupted me.  She didn’t just interrupt me; she took over.  She started praying herself and stopped my prayer.  I think maybe I was too quiet or too slow or saying the wrong thing or something.  Anyway, my prayer wasn’t getting there, and she knew it.  So she said, “Lord, this is not the time to take my husband.  You know that better than I do, he not ready.  Never prays, never goes to church or anything.  He’s not ready; this is not a good time to take him.  Don’t take him now.  And what about me?  If I have to raise these kids, what am I going to do?  I don’t have any skills, can’t find any work.  I quit school to marry him.  If I’d have known you were going to take him, I’d have stayed in school.”  She was really talking to God.  “And what about the kids?  They don’t mind me now with him around.  If he’s gone, they’ll be wild as bucks.  What about the kids?  This is not the time to take my husband.”  Whew.

     I stayed as long as I felt useful.  I went back the next morning, and she had on a nice dress; she had on shoes; she had combed her hair.  She looked fine.  She was in the hallway outside intensive care.  Before I could ask, she said, “He’s better.”  She smiled and said, “I’m sorry I was such a crazy woman yesterday.”

     I said, “Well, you weren’t crazy.”

     She said,” I guess the Lord heard one of us.”

     I said, “He heard you.”

     She was desperate the day before.  She had God by the lapels, both hands, and was screaming in God’s face:  “I don’t think you’re listening!”  That’s desperation.


Romans 8:26  —  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Psalm 142:1-2  —  I cry aloud to the LordI lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.

Psalm 17:1-2  —  Hear me, Lord, my plea is just; listen to my cry.  Hear my prayer; it does not rise from deceitful lips.  Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.


Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need, and rescue me…

–Psalm 42:6a