Do you believe in prayer? Six years ago, overwhelmed by the responsibilities of raising four children – one with special needs – I threw out a desperate prayer to God for help. That very week, a neighbor I barely knew marched down the street with her husband carrying two enormous boxes of home-cooked meals.

“I thought you needed a break,” Joan said.

Ever since, Joan has brought meals, picked up kids from the bus, watched our children so my husband, Dana, and I could go out, celebrated birthdays and grieved with us through our losses – including the recent loss of my mother. When we met, my own mom was busy travelling, often overseas. In fact, the exact words of my prayer all those years earlier were, “I need a grandparent!”

Imagine my astonishment upon learning that Joan and my mother shared the same birthday! That is how specifically God answers prayer. No, God does not always answer so immediately, but the knowledge that he does answer provokes me to wonder how my life – or the lives of those Iove – might be different if I spent more time in prayer.

Flipping through a Christian magazine this week, I came upon a book review of a new release titled, “Five Minutes with Jesus.” Five minutes! I thought. What happened to the ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer’ we often sang about in church growing up?

Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!

That calls me from a world of care,

And bids me at my Father’s throne

Make all my wants and wishes known.

In seasons of distress and grief,

My soul has often found relief,

And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,

By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!

This summer, sorting through my mother’s books, I came across “A Survey of 20th-Century Revival Movements in North America” by Richard M. Riss. Without embellishment or commentary, this slim volume recounts the great turning of hearts toward God as believers gathered in makeshift churches across the American landscape to seek the divine power present in the days of the apostles.

Over and over again, I was astonished to read of the faithful prayers of those who paved the way for the immense manifestation of God that swept across denominational lines to usher in a resurgence of the gifts of the spirit, such as divine healing. In one case a member at a meeting in Saskatchewan, Canada, wrote that he and others had been praying for such a revival for twenty years. Twenty years.

This week, on my birthday, while I was missing my mom, Joan braved the pouring rain to knock on my door with a breakfast cake and a giant pot of mums along with a card reminding me of God’s faithfulness. That evening, Dana and I headed out to see War Room, an inspirational movie about a crumbling family that is held together through prayer.

This is the kind of prayer we need – prayer that fights against the darkness seeking to tear apart our families and communities and countries. If God is willing to answer a five-second or five- minute prayer, imagine what persevering prayer can do.