Praying in the sunshine during the 40 Days for life vigil

I share my experience of my prayer time in front of Planned Parenthood in order to inspire you who are considering taking this action to do so. I know I was reluctant until I heard some testimonies of how people were blessed. I really hope you will try it–I think you will like it!

What a gorgeous day it was this morning when I prayed in front of Planned Parenthood in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I feel so grateful to have this opportunity to be part of the 40 days for life campaign here. I love the fact that this international organization that has as its goal to end abortion using prayer, fasting, constant vigil and community outreach–has a campaign here in our beautiful city. And I just love praying outside.

When I saw people last year praying in front of Dr. Harrison’s clinic, I felt sorry for them. I thought they were making a great sacrifice. My daughter really wanted me to go, but I kept making excuses. I just didn’t want to suffer. Now I try to go as much as I can. Some things changed about my attitude towards this campaign–and that is a whole other story.

This morning I have the shift that I have committed to do every day during the 40 day campaign–7am on Sunday. I love the way the 40 days for life is organized. They try to find at least one person to commit to the vigil, and then others can join them as they feel inspired. The only time I felt that I could commit was Sunday morning at 7am because that is a time I know I am not going to get work and I am usually not with my family. It also appears not to be a very popular time.

I like getting up early and knowing that I have a commitment to pray in the morning. It is hard for me to keep my commitment to God no matter how I try. To take time in the morning to have a special prayer time and bible study seems almost impossible. Even though I know that this would be a good way to start my day, it is just too easy to get on the computer and look at the incoming messages and start writing or doing other activities. But for some reason keeping a commitment to pray during the vigil really keeps me on track.

As I got ready to go, I got out my winter clothes and figured out how I needed to dress because it was sure to be cold in the beginning and then get warmer since I decided to stay for two hours this morning. That was a good thing that I needed to do any way now that cool weather is coming on.  Since I am fasting mostly on liquids I took some time to squeeze some fresh orange juice and blend it with almonds as well as make some agave lemonade.  I remembered to tuck a handkerchief  into my down vest in case I cried which usually does happen when I pray in front of Planned Parenthood. The first time I did not bring one and it was quite difficult having mucous running down my nose while trying to pray.

My signs and kneeling bench were already in my car because I like to always be ready to pray in case I had some time. I drove to the the only parking lot we have permission to park. It is an architectural office on the corner of Green Acres and Township with a very unusual name that I can’t remember. I always feel grateful to them for letting 40 days for life prayer volunteers use their lot. I am also disappointed that the church across the street and other businesses near by would not let us part at their lots.

A few minutes after I arrive,  Tiffany who is a prayer volunteer and part of the leadership team pulls up in her car with the box of stuff that will be set out for the whole day if there is someone there to tend it. Signs; materials to hand out about crises pregnancy resources; sign in sheets; a pledge to be nonviolent for new prayer volunteers and more is included. I so much value the time and effort put in by the leadership team. They are very committed and responsible. The commitment to nonviolence is very important to me. One of the other reasons I have not gotten involved with the right to life movement is because I thought the people were mostly confrontational.  That is what the mainstream media would like us to believe.

I walk the 1/2 block to Planned Parenthood and put my kneeling bench down on the sidewalk. I also put out my signs: “Pray to End Abortion”, “Women regret their abortions”, “Men regret lost fatherhood”.   The woman who showed up last week walks towards me carrying  her lawn chair and bag with her rosaries.  We share a brief pleasant interchange and she asks me if I want to do the rosary. I say yes.   I am not a Catholic and I don’t quite understand the value of the rosary but it certainly puts me in a prayerful mood. And I appreciate sharing an ecumenical moment with another person who is so dedicated to life.

We start the rosary after she lends me some prayer beads. She gave me rosary beads last week but I didn’t bring it. I will next time though. I want to show here that I appreciate my beautiful beads.  Tiffany shows up with more signs and the resource bin. We interrupt the rosary to greet her and thank her.  She drives off and we continue the rosary.

Tiffany drives back and gets out of her car. “I couldn’t  leave without praying with you,” she says. I enjoyed her prayer. I usually enjoy hearing people pray aloud because they express something deep within them.

Tiffany drives off. We continue the rosary. My prayer partner encourages me to lead out on part of the rosary which I reluctantly do because I am so unfamiliar with it. But I get into the groove and I’m fine. She is very kind and wants to share with me this beautiful ritual which so much blesses her. I am blessed also.

After about 45 minutes the structured prayer is over and we pray silently. There is so much to pray about that the time goes quickly.

Near the end of the hour she tells me that she has a family obligation that she needs to attend to otherwise she would stay longer. Remembering that she is going to meet with a young woman who has had two abortions, she looks for a pamphlet which offers comfort to women who have made that decision. She asks me to pray that there can be an opportunity for her to share with the young woman and I pray right then and there. Thanking me, she takes her chair and leaves. I was glad to have her presence. Now I an also glad to have solitude.

I face the Planned Parenthood when I pray.  In some ways I feel vulnerable with my back to the street. No one has yet honked or yelled at me when I was kneeling alone there. Once another time that I was praying a bicyclist said pretty loudly, “God bless you,” and I jumped because I was standing and praying with my eyes closed and he startled me.  But I did appreciate the positive gesture.

I also have had the strange notion that maybe someone might shoot me in the back.  I rarely have such thoughts. I didn’t feel fearful about it. I thought that it might not be a bad way to go–I could be a martyr and then people might pay attention to this abortion issue. But I would rather be alive with my family and friends  on this still beautiful planet creating a community where  women with crises pregnancies could come, have their babies and raise them as long as they needed to. I also want to have a training center that can train community organizers to address the root causes of abortion.  I can’t wait to write about this vision later.

I’ve been able to pray almost every day during the vigil even if it was only to squeeze in a half an hour. Its almost as if there is an all day prayer chapel open. Most of the time there are people there and I have made some wonderful connections. Sometimes we pray aloud, sometimes silently.  A lot of times there are people who are praying the rosary. The first time I stood facing the street, but after that I found I could pray in a much more focused way facing the clinic. Once I knelt with a sign on my back. Another time there were counter protesters and I have told my story about that elsewhere.  Each time it was different. Each time I met kind and loving people, including two women who carried the signs that said, “I regret my abortion.” They were telling the truth. Although we are asked not to talk too much during our vigil because our purpose is to pray, we take a little time to get to know each other which is valuable. I really look forward to attending a pot luck where I can talk to these dedicated people more in depth.

The hour really flies by. I drink the rest of my 1/2 pint of orange juice during my prayer time, and that is all I need to sustain myself. Kneeling on my prayer bench where I can sit comfortably without any stress is very easy.  I walked up and down for a few minutes carrying a sign thinking I needed to stretch my legs, but after that the next hour I only needed to get up once.

I have never been much of person to be able to sit in one place for very long but somehow being here transforms me. I volunteered to stay two hours because I saw there was no one else signed up and I really want to try to have all the hours from 7am to 7pm seven days a week for forty days filled up. I was concerned that two hours might be a bit burdensome, but I was willing to take a chance. Really, I am not one to sacrifice but this was important to me.I am willing to work hard on things I believe in, but I try to do things that utilize my gifts so I enjoy the work.  I didn’t realize that praying for a long time is one of my gifts.  It ended up being  only a blessing.

There is so much to pray about. I pray aloud because it keeps me on task. First I start by searching my heart to see if I have any one to forgive including myself. I notice some unfinished business with someone and pray about that. I have been reading a great book that was written about 60 years ago about how to pray effectively.  Getting my heart and mind clear of resentments;   knowing without a doubt that God loves me so much and I can trust him, and being totally honest with God were some key ingredients to effective prayer. This is clearly biblical and logical as well. I just can’t remember the scripture…definitely not one of my strong points.

Praying at Planned Parenthood is not just about ending abortion. That could get kind of boring for me. It is about so many things including praying for:

  • me being a better person so that I can effectively work with others to do those things necessary to end abortion
  • the prayer volunteers and the leadership teams in Northwest Arkansas and all over the world
  • the employees of Planned Parenthood
  • the people who were pro-choice  that had been showing up during the last few days to protest what we were doing
  • the women who were considering abortion
  • the babies who are being aborted
  • the women, men and other people who are adversely affected by abortion
  • the of the pro-choice people
  • all people involved in abortion
  • Planned Parenthood as a company
  • the root causes of abortion
  • that people would wake up to the silent holocaust that is happening around us
  • gratitude for this opportunity to pray and that we have a free country where we can do this
  • gratitude for my children who are participating in and promoting both the 40 days for life campaign and Loving Choices, a pregnancy resources center.
  • for the people driving by to be touched by the message and my presence
  • for more churches including the one across the street to wake up and get involved
  • for more volunteers to come and to help so we would have at least 25 people at all times 7am to 7pm present
  • Anything else that came up

I prayed a lot for my vision of community that could be a training center for Community Organizers and a refuge for pregnant women which I will write about later.

I even prayed that Planned Parenthood could be a pregnancy resource center which would be truly pro-choice and tell a woman all of her options including adoption and other free support.  I prayed that Planned Parenthood would show women the ultrasound of her baby. Statistics show that 80% of women who see the ultra sound of their baby choose not to have abortions.

You can really pray for a lot in two hours! So that is why I could get pretty creative. I just think I got a lot of grace from God because his heart is so in alignment with my heart for saving the innocent unborn. I have heard it said that if we pray the will of God then our prayers will be answered.  We just need to know what his will is. This is definitely his will–that abortion will be as obsolete and unthinkable as when people owned black slaves or when women could not vote.

As my time ends, I am hoping that Tiffany will be on time because I can’t leave the resource bin unattended. As I gather my signs and put some of my layers that I took off as it became warmer into my bad, Tiffany showed up right on the dot of ten. I really had a deadline to meet and I appreciated once again her responsible behavior.  She thanked me for my praying and I am thinking I should have said to her, “Thank you for doing all the work to keep this campaign going.” I have so much gratitude for the men and women who have contributed to making this happen in Fayetteville for the past four years.

I walked back to my car holding a sign that said, “Pray to end abortion,” wanting to make the most of my time there. Someone drove by and looked curiously at me. I thought, “I wonder if this small action might have made a difference.”

Well, only God knows in that case. But many men and women around the country including in Fayetteville get the most amazing testimonies about how their prayers and presence made a difference. I pray that some day someone might come up to me as they have to many other prayer volunteers and say, “Because of you I did not abort my baby and I am so glad.”

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2 thoughts on “Praying in the sunshine during the 40 Days for life vigil

  1. Patricia,

    Thank you for sharing so many personal thoughts. You have a beautiful heart and you are very brave.

    Julie Ziegler

    P.S. I have shared this blog post with a woman in my office who is passionate about saving babies from being aborted and helping young women who find themselves in situtations that lead to bad decisions.

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement Julie. I pray that my sharing will make a difference. If it helps save just one baby from dying, and one woman from making a choice that will hurt her–it was worth it all.

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