As we bring this 40 Days For Life to a close, it is important to remember that prayer is still vital and still powerful, any day of the year. I have been meaning to write this story down for a long time. It illustrates beautifully the power of prayer, and the importance of remembering that if our efforts affect JUST ONE PERSON, that is meaningful. Even if it seems that your efforts are going nowhere, never give up. God knows what you are doing and what is in your heart, and His power and grace are without limits. We may never know how many babies were truly saved, or how many clinic workers' hearts will be converted by our presence and our prayers.
I was raised by an abortion clinic nurse, and required to work as a patient escort in the clinic parking lot on abortion days. There were many pro-lifers who came out to the clinic on those days; some were sidewalk counselors, some were protestors, some were prayer warriors. There was one woman in particular who never spoke a word, never even interacted with the other pro-lifers. She was a tiny, frail, very elderly woman, who each Friday would walk to the clinic, kneel on the sidewalk at the corner (some distance away from the entrance), and pray the Rosary. Sometimes she would be there for hours, through any weather, with her bony knees on pavement that could be blazing hot, freezing cold, or soaking wet. I saw her every Friday I was there, and she always smiled at me when she arrived and again when she left, but never said a word. One winter day she came and prayed for at least three hours, in freezing rain. The clinic owner came out and saw her, and asked the escorts to ask her to come in for tea when she was done. When she got up from kneeling, I went over and invited her in. She accepted, and I walked her into the clinic and the owner brought over a pot of tea. The three of us sat together on one of the couches in the counseling area. The old lady (I never did find out her name) sipped her tea and smiled peacefully, nodding solemnly as the owner explained that her efforts in prayer were wasted, that she was needlessly inconveniencing or even harming herself by kneeling on the sidewalk, that she would be better off staying at home in comfort since nothing - NOTHING - would ever dissuade the clinic's owner, doctor, or staff to stop performing abortions; and that by just kneeling and praying without interaction, she was hardly going to convince any women to change their minds. When the owner finished speaking, the old lady put her teacup down, and said "God knows what I'm doing out there, and it matters to him even if it doesn't matter to you or anyone else. My prayers have value to God. And if I can change one heart - even ONE" - and she looked straight into my eyes as she said this - "then it will have all been worth it. I know God will reward me in the end." The clinic owner rolled her eyes, sighed, and shook her head. The old lady stood up, thanked us for the tea, and left.
I never forgot her. I was already questioning and doubting my pro-abortion indoctrination; and years later, I would join the pro-life movement as a post-abortive mother, and speak out against abortion and to encourage people to reach out to women considering abortion, people who have been harmed by abortion, and especially to clinic workers. I now pray in front of our local abortion clinic, and I plan to one day pray in front of the clinic where my mother worked. I am certain that the little old lady who used to so faithfully pray there is in Heaven now; and I want to encourage all of us to follow her faithful example. She did change the one heart she hoped for; and who knows how many more?