Growing up I didn’t know much about prayer. My grandmother had a “God is Great!” prayer written out and tacked onto the wall of the kitchen, and every time we sat down to dinner we’d have to recite that four-line grace before digging into the meal. After becoming a Christian, I knew that I should pray, but even then I wasn’t sure HOW to pray. I’d mimic what I saw other people doing–closing their eyes, bowing their heads, asking God to help them–but those recited lines felt so fake and forced. On the other hand, my mother, who had been a believer in Christ for about a year which was just as long as me, led a very personal and thoughtful prayer life. I knew her to spend hours in the bedroom, meditating on God’s word with closed eyes and then mumbling something under her breath. What she was saying I didn’t know, but her calm demeanor while in prayer was vastly different than my more rigid one.
So that day after the doctors, while sitting in our living room, her Bible on her lap, my mother was adamant about praying for me. She laid her hands on my chest, and opened up the time by thanking God for bringing me home. Then suddenly the floodgates opened. She started speaking in tongues (something I had never heard her do before), and then she verbally began breaking off bondages in my life.
“I speak to the spirit of lies and deceit, that you have no hold over Lauren’s mind.”
Say what? Lies and deceit? Mind you, I had absolutely NO experience with this type of prayer–the kind of prayers I said were simple, “Thanks God for the grub” type of words before meals, and “Please help me get through this day.” Had I maybe been ready for such a powerful and explosive verbal monologue from my mother, maybe then I wouldn’t have been so afraid.
But I was. I was afraid of what she was praying (how did she know that I was lying daily about my exercise and food?), but moreso I was fearful of the one statement she kept on repeating over and over:
“Spirit of death, I command you to leave in the name of Jesus.”
I just about fainted. Me, dead?! I was a healthy college girl! But in the dark recesses of my mind, the 0.01% part of my brain that knew I was ill and in desperate need of help kicked into gear. I know it was Jesus that pulled that mustard seed sized bit of rationality out, and then miraculously and exponentially expanded it, so that all of a sudden, the fear of thick thighs, the fear of a rounded stomach, the fear of not being liked my others, the fear of my mother leaving this earth prematurely, the fear of not being good enough–they all vanished.
It is very corny and maybe a bit fantastical to many to think that a simple prayer can change the course of a human’s life. But I am living proof that that is true. With my mother’s call to the spirit of death to leave, I felt a flood of wholeness, and more importantly, I felt internal freedom. It’s hard to express in words how one can go from feeling constantly barraged by mental constraints to suddenly seeing the world as one full of possibility and hope. It was as if I suddenly had permission. Permission to eat food. Permission to break the rules. Permission to be a human with wants, needs, fears, insecurities, and dreams. I could be myself in all of its imperfect glory, and I realized that I was a bright 18 years old girl with my whole life before me–a life where I did not have to worry about running or macronutrients or body parts. THAT was liberating.
Case in point: Previous to the prayer I got the Dr. Shintani’s stew for lunch. After the prayer, I asked for a teri-hamburger plate lunch. Why did I ask for that? I just really, really, REALLY wanted to bite into a piece of juicy meat. The savory, gravy-laden meal was all I could think about and I couldn’t stand NOT having it. Did I worry about the meal suddenly expanding on my hips? No. All I wanted was the meat. Did I worry about my stomach suddenly ballooning up to pregnancy status? No. All I wanted was the meat.
There was a whole lot more to my mother’s prayer than just that one line, but there was power with her utterances. Prophetic, life-altering, life-giving utterances. Romans 12:12 reminds us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer,” and my mother believed that scripture with her whole heart. Every morning before we ate breakfast, she would pray for me with that passage in mind: to regain my health, to know Jesus with a pure heart, to be protected from the enemy, and to glorify Him. She was faithful in seeking His protection even if it seemed like I would have to be sent to an inpatient hospital for treatment or that my heart would start beating at any time. Miraculously even at the low weight I was at, I wasn’t referred to the local eating disorder hospital, but was instead deemed medically stable enough to attempt treatment in an outpatient setting. Without my mother’s devoted prayers, I am really unsure where I would be today. Her prayers didn’t only bring me steps closer to recovery and physical rehabilitation–her prayers showed me the power and might of Jesus and gave me a personal connection to a being I had previously only seen as untouchable and unrelatable.
And so I started outpatient treatment with a dietitian and psychiatrist–they met girls and guys like me at a hospital, so on a tri-weekly basis (those were amount of times I met with them, which seems like a lot but I took off from school to enter recovery) I was constantly reminded of where I COULD be if not vigilant and careful of letting the anorexic thoughts seep into my mind. The initial meeting I had with the dietitian was unlike anything I had previously experienced, and even 17 years or so later, I still remember the first time we sat in her office and I started treatment.