I recently read a story by a woman who said that as a girl she was poor. She said, “I grew up in a cold water flat, but I married a man who had money. And he took me up to a place where I had flowers, and I had gardens, and I had grass. It was wonderful. And we had children.
“Then suddenly I became physically sick. I went to the hospital, and the doctors ran all sorts of tests. One night the doctor came into my room, and with a long look on his face, said, ‘I'm sorry to tell you this. Your liver has stopped working.'
“I said, ‘Doctor, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Are you telling me that I am dying?' And he said, ‘I, I can't tell you any more than that. Your liver has stopped working. We've done everything we can to start it.' And he walked out.
“I knew I was dying. I was so weak, I had to feel my way along the corridor down to the chapel of the hospital. I wanted to tell God off. I wanted to tell God, ‘You are a shyster! You've been passing yourself off as a loving God for two thousand years, but every time anyone begins to get happy you pull the rug out from under them.' I wanted this to be a face-to-face telling off of God.
“And just as I got into the center aisle of the chapel, I tripped, I swooned, I fainted. And I looked up, and there stenciled along the step into the sanctuary, where the altar is, I saw these words: LORD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER. I know God spoke to me that night. I know he did.”
She didn't say how God communicated this to her, but what God said was, “You know what this is all about. It's about the moment of surrender; it's about bringing you to that moment when you will surrender everything to me. These doctors, they do the best they can. but they only treat. I'm the only one who can cure you.”
And she said, “There with my head down on my folded arms in the center of the chapel, repeating, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,' I surrendered to God. I found my way back to my hospital bed, weak as I was.
“The next morning, after the doctor ran the blood tests and the urinalysis and so forth, he said, ‘Your liver has started working again. We don't know why. We don't know why it stopped, and we don't know why it started up again.' And I said in my heart, But I know. Oh but I know. God has brought me to the brink of disaster, just to get me to turn my life over to him.”
— John Powell, “Prayer as Surrender,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 108.