An Answered Prayer
by Doug Whittlef
I was raised on a farm in the small farming community of Crown, Minnesota. The town really centered around the Lutheran Church. I attended the church school for my first eight grades and received a good biblical education. Although baptized as an infant and receiving confirmation, I never developed a relationship with Jesus Christ. I married my high school sweetheart. Our three children were baptized as infants and confirmed in the Lutheran Church. After the children were out of the house and on their own, our church attendance and participation dropped off. For a number of years, we attended church only sporadically. Weekends were filled with hunting, fishing, camping and parties.
Our daughter Rhea began attending a different church with some of her friends. There was a change in her that we didn’t understand until much later. She had discovered a relationship with the Lord. She said that she was praying for us to receive Jesus. We didn’t know what that meant but thought that it couldn’t hurt. Little did we know where the power of our daughter’s prayers would take us.
Deep in my heart I began to feel an emptiness – something was missing in my life. I really didn’t know what it was. What could possibly be missing? I had a wonderful wife, a good job, good kids. My brother invited us to attend his church. It was a shock to my spiritual system! They met in a school. There was no organ. A band played and people stood and raised their hands in worship. What kind of a church was this? But it was the pastor’s message that really touched me. He told me about a God that loved me. It seemed that the God that I had heard about for so many years was a judgmental God. I was carrying so much guilt that it was hard to believe that someone loved me enough to forgive me. I sat there with tears in my eyes. Could this be true?
While driving home from the service, I asked Sher what she thought. She said, “I think we need to go back.” And so we did! We continued to attend that church, Grace Fellowship – finding a sense of peace and hope in the message.
We joined a small group and of course, I needed a Bible to do the studies. I had been given a Bible at my confirmation many years ago. Since my wife knew where everything in the house was, I asked her where my Bible was. She replied, “When was the last time you read it?” Ouch! After an extended search, I found my Bible in a box of old books in the basement. As I picked it up, a moldy smell touched my nose and I noticed the inscription on the cover. DOUGLAS ALLEN WHITTLEF, APRIL 15, 1962
As I held it in my hands, I realized that I hadn’t even looked at it since my confirmation. My relationship with my God was as moldy as my Bible smelled. I sat on the basement floor and cried. I really wanted to give my life to the Lord. I had heard others’ faith stories, so I prayed every day that he would accept this sinner. But nothing miraculous seemed to be happening. In frustration I went to talk to the pastor about it. He told me to write a note on a piece of paper and tape it to the refrigerator. This is what I wrote:
“Lord, today I give my life to you.” I signed and dated it and taped it to the refrigerator. I still have the note today. What had seemed so difficult to understand, suddenly happened. Simply BELIEVE! It was that difficult and that easy. This miserable sinner finally accepted God’s saving grace and forgiveness!
We continued our involvement with a small group and through their love and patience, we made a commitment to the Lord. We were baptized as believers in 1997. I got very involved in many ministries of the church. It seemed so natural and so rewarding. The pastors encouraged me to consider vocational ministry and God created that message in my wife’s heart as well. I was scared to death, but knew I had to take this message seriously.
At the age of 50, I started college and committed the rest of my life to serving my Lord and Savior in any way that He directed. In 2002, while I was attending Bethel Seminary, my seven-year-old grand-daughter Madalyn was diagnosed with lung cancer. As I watched and prayed for this beautiful little girl, I was sure that God was going to heal her. After all, why would God let a little girl suffer this way? This was going to be my miracle story.
Very early on Christmas morning of 2002, I drove to University of Minnesota Hospital where Madalyn was being treated. I sat at that little girl’s bedside and prayed my heart out. She was very weak and frail and had lost most of her hair from the chemo treatments. She woke up and looked at me through those tired, beautiful eyes. I told her how beautiful she was and that I loved her. She whispered back, “Grandpa, I love you too.” Those were perhaps the most beautiful words I have ever heard. As I walked out of the hospital I was crying and again asking God to save this little girl. I stopped in my tracks and begged God, “Why can’t you save this little girl?”
His answer was a clear as a bell! He said, “My son, I have saved my beautiful child. She will be with me.” That moment defined my faith – I either had to believe or deny my God.
James 1 says, “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trial of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Madalyn went to be with her Savior on February 1, 2003.
Sometimes it seems almost impossible to find the joy when you are being tested. But God is always there. I’ve been beautifully blessed and extremely challenged as I’ve stepped into ministry. I’ve been tested in many ways, but God has always been walking beside me. And I believe with all my heart that it all started with my daughter’s fervent prayer for her parents. I am forever thankful that God answered her prayer.