My mother sent me a text last week, and along with it, she attached a picture she had taken. Here is what she sent:
I found this in Dad's wallet in March of 2022 after he was gone.
This is a note that he had carried in his wallet since 2007, written by me-a claim that I had made to the Lord. I'm sure he had seen it many times when he would regularly purge his wallet of stuff, but he never would throw it away. What I think is very interesting about the words on this request to the Lord are the words "power of darkness."
And it was exterminated by the "power of light."
What is so incredibly remarkable about this particular prayer is that the very statement that my dad would pray to receive salvation, some fourteen and a half years later, would be "Jesus, be my light." Four simple, yet most sincere and eternally impactful, words.
(Almost a year after my dad had died, I wrote a piece about this moment and then posted it on January 28, 2023, the one-year anniversary of my dad's new birth in Christ. If you are laboring in prayer for a lost loved one, then click the button below. I pray my words encourage and compel you to keep on keeping on.)
When I responded to my mom's text regarding how unbelievable this purposely saved note was, especially as I contemplated the words that would materialize years later in my dad's salvation prayer, my mom texted back this reply:
You know it comes to my mind how Jesus reminds humanity that he knows when even a sparrow falls. He knows every prayer and every way we have expressed that prayer, and he answers that prayer . . .expressly! The mainframe that is maintained in Heaven of every word that is entered out of his children's mouths is kept in that eternal place. We can't even claim to comprehend God's order in the universe when it comes to his children especially.
Amen! No we can't, Mom!
When it comes to His most beloved children crying out to Him in prayer, the Father is listening. Whether in our best Sunday clothing as we sit in a corporate church setting, or whether dressed in a bathrobe as we sit alone with the Word in the dark stillness of the morning's commencement. Whether boisterously spoken aloud, spiritually warring while the mop is gliding across the kitchen floor, or whether written on the page of a journal-one among countless filled as the years pass by. Whether poured forth while driving down the interstate—beaten down, defeated—as tears roll down flushed cheeks, or whether uttered in the inner sanctuary of the mind in the busy workplace's chaos. Whether declared and dated on a scratch piece of paper and then tucked away in an unsaved husband's wallet. No matter the where or the when or the how, as the days of seemingly-unanswered-prayer continue to labor on, Heaven's preeminent mainframe is storing up earth's petitioning words.
The Father, most assuredly, hears His precious children's prayers. And He remembers. Every. Single. Word.
Yes, He certainly does! Doesn't He, Mom?
Today, September 4th—Labor Day 2023—is my dad's birthday. If he were still alive on earth, he would have turned eighty-four. And if there is one commendation I could say of him on this particular day, in light of this being the day that we honor the laborers of this nation, it's that my dad was not a lazy worker. Far from it. He spent almost forty years laboring in the steel mills of Cleveland so that my mom, brothers, and I would be provisionally cared for as a family should be. And he labored long and labored well so that my brothers and I could attend private Christian schools and that after high school graduation, I could follow God's leading to a Christian college in Nashville, some 500 plus miles from home. Through the hot days of summer and the elevated blistering temps of the mill, through the frigid nights of Lake Erie-impacted winters, Stanton Sifers went to work—day in and day out, in the repetitious, hard-laboring environment of factory life. Did he do so because being a steel worker was his life's ambition? Or because laboring in a hot, dirty, noisy mill satisfied the deep longings of his heart? No, it was neither of these. It was because my dad was carved from a generation that knew how to sacrificially work and labor well for lengthy stretches of time, for the well-being of others.
So, on this Labor Day 2023, on what would have been my dad's 84th birthday, I honor him and the labor he long endured for my family's benefit and provision.
But, additionally, on this day, I'm considering my mom. Not for the earthly work she did at different times outside the home, but for the heavenly work she was committed to throughout the passing days of our life. I'm considering the lengthy stretch of time she labored in prayer for an unsaved spouse (as well as so many other needs of my family and others). I'm considering all the people she didn't feel embarrassed to engage to pray for her husband, a lost soul in grave need of a Savior. I'm considering the still-dark, early-morning prayer times that took place with Milford, one of her dear sisters in Christ, who came weekly to our home before heading to work so that she and my mom could petition and intercede together. I'm considering all the verses circled, and dated, and written out, and claimed quietly and cried aloud. Over and over again, as the days and weeks and months and years continued on.
As my dad, my mom was not a lazy worker.
So, in this moment, I also honor my mother and the spiritual labor she endured for the heavenly provision and benefit for my earthly father.
But, most significantly, on this Labor Day 2023, I'm considering my Lord and Savior who endured the greatest labor of all when He willingly lay down His life for the wellbeing of all who would believe and receive. I'm considering the words the writer of Hebrews penned: "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (12:2).
I'm considering the hard work that Christ bore for the benefit and provision of humanity.
He labored well that we might not remain lost.
So, in the sacredness of this moment as I sit here at my kitchen table, I fix my gaze toward Heaven and honor Him above all:
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (I Timothy 1:17)
Indeed, the privilege and power of prayer is a great labor of love.
The hard work, done via the Savior's act of love on Calvary's cross—willed by the Creator's heart of love—makes it possible for God's child to boldly approach the throne room of Heaven. Makes it possible to petition Christ's intervention on behalf of another who's in desperate need of heavenly interference of mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Makes it possible to talk to the ever-listening Father, day or night, in joy or sorrow, triumph or tragedy, wellness or pain, good times or hardship, contentment or chaos, strength or weakness, in every high and low of life.
Because the greatest labor of love ever known to man was, first and foremost, started and completed by Jesus, you and I have the incalculable privilege as God's children to petition and intercede, come what may, via the labor of prayer. Apart from the gift of eternal salvation, it's the greatest provision and benefit for all who belong to Him.
Fellow sojourner, may we never be categorized a lazy laborer concerning this hefty honor, this holy responsibility, that is ours.