If you are a member of Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Adamstown, Maryland, you know who I mean when I say “grandmomma n‘em.” For those who are not familiar with my church’s linguistic style, that phrase references our grandmothers and older family members.
In most black families, this group of people served as the prayer warriors, constantly in spiritual battle for the lives of their entire family. Grandmomma n‘em normally rose early in the morning every day, stepped into their prayer closet, and stayed there [literally or figuratively] until their loved ones came out of whatever situation they were in. These family members- most likely women- could cook like no other and often sang praises and prayed while preparing any meal. Typically, grandmomma n‘em could whip any child into shape with just one quick glance of the eye…because no one dared get on a prayer warrior’s bad side. Lastly, because grandmomma n‘em were so spirit-filled, they knew when something was wrong with you before you even crossed the threshold into their home.
These family members knew the Lord and it was safe to believe that the Lord knew them, too.
Like I said, most black families had this person or group of people… except me… or so I thought…
I grew up without any grandparents. My mother never knew her father and my dad’s father had passed years before I was born. My mother and her mother did not get along and she (my maternal grandmother) did not really like me and my siblings; my paternal grandmother was only in my life for a short amount of time. So, when my pastor would constantly talk about Grandmomma n‘em, I always felt a twinge of pain because I felt like I had missed out on this powerhouse, potent-praying person. It was not until this past Saturday at my church’s Youth Revival that I realized the truth- my paternal grandmother had already prayed all her prayers for my entire life in the short six years that we shared this earth together.
Due to my PTSD, I honestly cannot remember my paternal grandmother at all. In fact, what I do know about her is based on information shared by her children (my dad, aunts, and uncles) and her grandchildren (my cousins). From what I learned, my grandmother stayed in her prayer closet and even had a prayer jar in her home where people would drop off their prayers for Mother Early to pray over. While I do not remember my time with her, I can feel her time with the Lord on my behalf.
Open your bibles to James 5:13-16 (NKJV is below):
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
In this passage of James, we see that the half-brother of Jesus (James was the biological son of Joseph and Mary) is speaking to the Jewish Christians (Jews who newly believed in/accepted Jesus) and advising them on how to engage with one another, as Christ would have them to do. We also see that James is telling the people to seek the “elders of the church” for prayer if anyone among them may be sick. While the Word and its meaning never changes, the context in which we apply it does grow with time. When James wrote this passage, I am sure he only meant physical sickness. In today’s age, sickness extends far beyond just the physical body. In 2018, “sick” can mean physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual ailment; in which case, the solution still remains the same, “let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all need someone in our corner, praying endlessly on our behalf. Grandmomma n’em, as the elders of our families, served as that potent-praying powerhouse; they showered us with prayers, blessings, and well wishes just to make sure that we were covered in every aspect of our lives. And because they stayed on their knees in prayer, we can stand today.
Like me, your grandmother may be resting with the Lord; so, who then, is the new praying elder???
It is now your turn to become the one to pray your family through every situation, burden, crisis, and turbulent ride. As you read this message, realize that grandmomma n’em did not come out of the womb praying; no, they grew in the Lord and learned how to seek Him earnestly. And since you come from their genes, if they did it, you can, too. Even as you read this, go to God on behalf of those in your life- your family, your coworkers, your neighbors, etc. Continue to seek God on their behalf, praying their strength and ability to survive life’s storms. Pray for those who are currently in your life, those who have left your life, and those who are yet to come. Remember that prayers do not have to be elaborate- they are just conversations with God… so, have a conversation with God on behalf of those around you.
I wholeheartedly believe that before my mother even came to this country and met my father, my paternal grandmother was praying for me. She may not have known me at that time and surely could not have known what would happen to me in my life, but she knew God and I know she prayed that all her descendants would come to know Him, too. I am sure that when I was born, she held me in her arms, offering prayers of thanksgiving and protection over my life. My heart fully believes that my grandmother spent those last six years of her life in deep conversation with the Lord on my behalf, fighting off all that would come my way. Her love for me caused her to seek God fervently on my behalf. And it was her fervency for the Lord that transcended generations and influenced my own personal walk. Now I can stand confidently in prayer… just like grandmomma n’em.
My beautiful [paternal] grandmother, Eliza Early.