“Mom, I almost got killed last night.”
No mom wants to hear those words—although a call from someone else, without the “almost,” certainly would have been worse. This is a story of a miracle—of prayers answered before the need was known.
I’d been praying extra hard all week for our son Jim, for no particular reason. He had midterms but otherwise life was good. No worries, as he often says. But God’s nudges can’t be ignored. The entire week, He’d been prompting me to pray more often and more earnestly for my children, and Jim in particular. Now I know why.
Jim drove to O’Hare Airport and dropped his lovely girlfriend off for her flight home to Atlanta for spring break. Turning back towards Notre Dame, driving his girlfriend’s car, he hoped traffic would keep moving so he’d get some sleep before the next day’s 5 a.m. ROTC training and his own last day of class. Dark now, traffic on I-90 was heavy for a weeknight but thankfully zipped along at 70 mph. A half-hour into the drive, passing Chicago on his left, Jim’s long legs began to rebel. He’s a big guy, 6’1” and athletic, and foot space was cramped in the girlfriend-sized car.
He stretched his right leg—perhaps too fast—and his knee knocked the keys right out of the ignition—at 70 mph. In an instant, he was no longer driving, but trapped in an uncontrolled, 2-ton, rolling hazard with no brakes and no steering. Car after car barreled up behind him on the dark highway, only to swerve or slam on the brakes at the last minute as they realized he was decelerating and out of control. He was a slowing target, a rear-end collision waiting to happen. Flashers on, he tried to restart the car, but the ignition was locked. He would have to coast until he lost enough speed to use the hand brake, put the car in park, and restart. 70, 60, 50, 40, 30. The speedometer crawled slowly downward and the headlights behind him came up faster and faster, swerving with inches to spare. In the darkness and heavy traffic, cars behind him had almost no time to react. Praying, Jim knew it was only a matter of time before he’d be hit.
But then the van showed up.
Jim didn’t see who was driving, but I suspect it was his guardian angel. A dark van came up behind him but, instead of swerving aside, it braked, threw on its own flashers, and stayed behind Jim, decelerating with him. At risk of being rear-ended first, the van driver created a buffer zone behind Jim. Together they slowed–30, 25, 20 mph–while cars whipped past them still going 60, 70 miles an hour. The van stayed behind him, giving him space and safety. At 15 mph, Jim wrenched the car’s gears into park (yes, the transmission survived) and was able to restart the car. Shaky, and with a profound sense of God’s intervention, Jim accelerated towards home. The van disappeared in the traffic. More than a minute of terror, but with a miraculous finish.
About the same time, across hundreds of miles, another miracle was taking place, and another mom likely heard similar words: ‘Mom, I almost got killed today.’ A young Marine, out on patrol in Afghanistan, stepped on an IED. Usually, that means death, disfiguring burns, or missing limbs. The explosion sent him flying across a field, but inexplicably he landed in one piece, suffering only a concussion. His grandma, whose email I received through a military-moms prayer chain, witnessed to the power of prayer: “[P]raise be to God, he walked away with only a concussion. Keep up those prayers!“
Two miracles in one week—how can I miss God’s message? Our prayers matter. And it’s irrelevant whether I know why I need to pray for someone—I just need to do it. Those stray thoughts, memories out of the blue, or nagging feelings might be God prompting us to pray for someone whose private crisis or need is unknown to us. Only God knows the best result in a given situation—but we know He hears us. And fulfilling our promises to pray for others, whether we make that commitment through a prayer chain, in conversation, or at Mass, binds us mysteriously to those who receive our prayers. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
Our prayers do make a difference. And I am so grateful.
© 2010 Mary Rice Hasson
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