When Carolyn Shafer came to Tempe, Arizona, as a young mother, she had never heard of intercessory prayer, praying specifically for another person’s needs. But she wanted the companionship of other women, so she joined a Bible study group at a nearby Methodist church. "We were all pretty uninformed about God and spiritual faith," she says. "We had no idea how powerful prayer could be."
One night, Carolyn was startled into wakefulness. "I had a strong conviction that something bad was happening to Jackie, one of the women in our group," Carolyn recalls. "I knew her only slightly, but someone had mentioned that she had bronchitis." Was that the problem? And what should Carolyn do about it? Phone Jackie? This late? Surely the woman had a family to rely on. And wouldn’t it be embarrassing to awaken Jackie, and discover that this strange feeling was only Carolyn’s imagination?
Carolyn plumped her pillows. She would forget it, and go back to sleep. But the unease persisted. "Because I didn't know what else to do, I finally began to pray for Jackie," she says. "Again and again I implored God to protect her from whatever was wrong." Gradually, the urgency disappeared, and Carolyn finally fell asleep.
The following morning, Carolyn was still puzzling over the episode, and felt she needed to know more about whatever had happened. Jackie would probably think she was odd, but...
"Good morning," she smiled, as Jackie answered the doorbell. "I just came by to ask…well..did anything happen to you last night?"
"Yes. Were you in trouble, or sick…?"
Jackie looked astonished. "How did you know? My bronchitis flared up--it was the worst attack I've ever had. I was gasping for air and trying to wake my husband to take me to the hospital. But all of a sudden, everything seemed to calm down."
The women looked at each other. "I was praying for you," Carolyn admitted. "I think God woke me and told me to do it."
Would Jackie laugh at her? But, no. Jackie's eyes were filling with tears. "Would God do that for me?" she asked.
She had been wrestling with a fear that God didn't really care about her, Carolyn learned. But this tender gesture, brought to her from someone she barely knew.
Well, Jackie said, it was all the reassurance she needed.
"We went on to become the dearest of friends," Carolyn says today. "God can use anyone to touch another, if we're willing."