Mother’s constant praying rewarded


Monica had a hard life. She was a strong Christian married to a man who decidedly was not a Christian, and he let her know it in many thousands of ways. She would give generously to the poor, and he would mock her. She would pray incessantly, and he would mock her. She would attend her church at every opportunity, and again he would mock her. While she was faithful to him, he kept a few mistresses around town, and wasn’t all that secret about it either. Sometimes his violent temper would lash out at her, but she would patiently bear it.

Monica gave birth to three children, two sons and a daughter. She wanted them to be baptized at young ages, but her husband opposed it, and in her society, the husband had full control over his home and family. One time one of her children fell deathly ill. She was worried that the child would die without being baptized, and she begged and pleaded with her husband to allow him to be baptized. He finally relented, but when the child grew well, her husband went back on his word and would not consent to the baptism.

That son who recovered was a brilliant student, so they sent him far away to go to one of the best schools in their country. When her son returned home, he came back with a philosophy that reviled her Christian faith. He let her know that he would have nothing to do with her religion, her God or her church. All she could do was weep and pray. She could not argue with her son. He always had an answer as to why she was wrong and he was right. She could not hold her own in debating him. He could argue and philosophize with the best of them, and there was no logic that she could use to convince him.

Her son grew wild. He was his father’s son in many ways – continually crossing moral lines, sleeping with many women, having a child by one of them. He grew arrogant and sophisticated, with a sneering contempt for his mother’s views on religion and morality. Monica got into the habit of going to her church daily, and through her tears she lifted up her son’s spiritual well-being continually. At one point, she tried to enlist the help of a visiting church leader. Would this leader go and have a conversation with her son? Could he convince him to turn from the path he was on and to follow Christ? The church leader would not consent to go and debate her son, but he did leave her some hope by saying, “Go now, I beg you. It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

One day Monica’s son got on a ship and sailed to a distant port. Monica caught wind of it and tried to follow in his wake. When she got to the port city, she inquired about her son only to find out that he had moved on to another town. She continued her long journey, tracking him down, praying all the while. In the meantime, her son had become more frustrated and restless with the direction of his life and some of the philosophies he had based his life upon. He had been teaching public speaking in the town where he had relocated. Purely out of professional curiosity, he went to a worship service to hear a certain bishop preach. What he got was a persuasive exposition of a biblical text that made him re-examine Christianity. He picked up a Bible and started reading it, and the first passage he turned to spoke directly to him: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:13-14)

He spoke to the bishop, and he was baptized with all the other recent converts on Easter morning. When his mother Monica finally found him, she found a very different son than she remembered.

The name of Monica’s son was Augustine. Augustine became a noted preacher, scholar and church leader, eventually becoming a bishop of the church in North Africa. About a decade after his conversion he wrote a long, intimate account of all of his spiritual struggles and questions. His account was unsparing and honest of his actions and thoughts before he became a Christian. That account became one of the greatest devotional classics of the early church, a book called “Confessions”. It is still read and taught in theology and philosophy classes in colleges and seminaries worldwide. (My first exposure to it was as a philosophy major in college.)

Augustine often attributed his conversion to his mother Monica’s persistence in praying for him, in staying after him, in never giving up on him no matter what he was doing or how he treated her. The church was given the gift of Augustine and his penetrating writings as a result of his mother’s constant prayers on his behalf.

That is the effect a mother of faith can have on her children. It took 17 years from start to finish from Augustine’s first rejection of the faith to the Easter Day of his baptism. It was 17 years, without a glimmer of hope coming from him, that Monica prayed for her son.

Many of us have been blessed with Godly mothers who stayed after us, even when we walked away from the faith. I imagine there are some mothers reading these words this Mother’s Day weekend who have children who have not claimed faith in Christ. If that describes you, be encouraged by the mother who never gave up, whose constant tears and prayers were finally rewarded by a son who was spiritually lost who came home.

Derek Russell is pastor of the Hillsboro Global Methodist Church. He loves Jesus, family, dogs and football.

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