Faith Stories: Prayer Shawl Blessing
St. John’s UMC is blessed in its outreach ministries that enable the members to participate in numerous activities to serve God, using the gifts and talents that God has given us.
I have come to know more and more fully that there is a God and He cares for us all. God has given me the talent and the skill to knit and crochet. I was 8 years old when my mother, after finishing the household chores of cooking, cleaning and washing for the day, would sit in her black easy chair and start teaching me how to knit. I was fascinated by the squares I could create just by putting the yarn in and out of a loop. By the time I was 9 years old, I could knit sweaters, caps and booties for my dolls in simple knit and purl stitches. Then I learned to make fancy patterns using knit, purl, slip and pass the slip stitch over. This was creative and a lot of fun. The patterns that emerged were beautiful. I could not stop, and so I kept knitting in my spare time throughout middle school, high school, college and graduate school. I knitted so many sweaters with new patterns that finally my husband said, “Stop, we have enough for our lifetime.” So I started knitting for friends and neighbors and then for mission outreach programs.
When I came to St. John’s, I got involved with the prayer shawl ministry. My faith has grown, and my friendships have found a new meaning as I use my talent and skills to glorify God. I am so passionate and so committed to this ministry that I have helped many UMW groups in various churches in the Louisiana Conference and other states to start the prayer shawl ministry. People who receive these shawls not only find love, joy and comfort wrapped around their bodies but they experience the Holy Spirit surrounding them and they grow in their faith that God exists and is taking care of them, surrounding them with love.
Prayer shawls are knitted with the theme of Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We use three skeins of wool, cast on multiple of three stitches, use a pattern of three stitches and pray for the person by name for whom we are knitting. If we do not know who the prayer shawl would go to, we say a general prayer.
In a series of Faith Stories, I will share some of my stories of people who have received my shawls so that you would know how blessed I have been in my faith journey.
A few years ago when Paul returned from Iraq serving his term in the United States Marine Corps, he was grieving for his buddy who was killed by a bomb explosion and died a horrible death in Paul’s presence. Understandably, Paul went into a deep depression, asking questions like “Why did God not take me? Why was I spared while my buddy was taken so mercilessly?”… questions we all ask when facing crises in our lives and find no answers. In desperation, Paul withdrew from the world and remained in his room. His boxes remained unpacked. He did not want to see or talk to any of his friends. His parents were devastated and felt helpless.
One day, Paul’s mother Daphne came to me at church with her hands full of red, white and blue skeins of very soft wool and asked if I would knit a prayer shawl for Paul, who was so broken and needed comfort and healing. I felt humbled and honored to be asked to do such a sacred task for a suffering soul. I agreed to knit the shawl for Paul.
I came home with the yarn and spread it on my bed. As I looked at it, prayed and contemplated creating a design, I thought of Paul and his pain. Having lost my own brother at the age of 38 and having worked in India in counseling with people suffering from P.T.S.D., I had some knowledge of what grief of loss is. I was aware that my job was not only to change the yarn into a prayer shawl that would give warmth to Paul but that my job was to be an intercessor between God and Paul. I was to convey to him that God’s love surrounds him, His healing power cures him of his depression, gives him hope and takes care of his loneliness. As I kept looking at the wool, suddenly, like a flash, I saw the great American flag waving in the wind and I said, “That is it!” Using the theme of Trinity and all the guidelines for a prayer shawl, I was able to knit one that looked like the American flag waving in the wind. With Paul’s love for his country, I found it not only beautiful but most appropriate and patriotic.
When I told Daphne the shawl was ready and we could come and give it to Paul, she informed us that Paul was not ready for it yet as he still was withdrawn from the world. We waited and prayed continuously for his healing. About a month or so later, one afternoon Paul and his parents knocked at our door. Carlos and I were thrilled to see them and invited them in. We thanked God in our hearts that Paul was ready to receive and accept not only the shawl, but also the love and caring of God. We talked for a while then the four of us put our hands on the shawl while Carlos said a prayer and then I wrapped it around Paul’s shoulders. He immediately held the two ends and brought it tight around his shoulders, taking a deep breath, feeling the softness and the presence of Trinity, he said, “This is so soothing, so warm, so comforting. I can feel the Spirit.” Wow – what a blessing!
Later we heard from Daphne that Paul keeps the shawl near him all the time. He took it to his dorm at Southeastern and did not hesitate telling people about the meaning of the shawl and the power it had over him. Yes, here is a God who loves, comforts and heals.
We shall continue to share our prayer shawl stories in future issues of Faith Stories.