“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” Philippians 4:6, NIV.
Cindy Mercer was fed up. She was ready to leave her husband.
His toxic lifestyle of drug abuse, alcoholism, and lasciviousness was tearing their family apart.
“I hated him,” said Mercer. “I cried out to God … I can’t continue to live like this!”
But, just when she was about to walk out, she heard a voice say, “If you leave him, you won’t have a testimony.” Then the voice continued, even louder, “I want to use your husband in the ministry.”
“I laughed out loud,” recalled Mercer, being honest about her reaction.
She knew it was God talking to her, but she was still unsure about what was going to happen.
“I knew that I was at a pivotal point, not only in our marriage, but for me, individually, as a Christian,” she said.
What happened next is an example of the power of prayer and intercessory prayer, particularly in the case of marriages, which prayer leaders say are a main target of the enemy.
“Marriage according to Scripture is designed to show the world what God’s love looks like, because He says He is the husband and the Church is His bride,” said Melissa Weisner, who conducts seminars on prayer in the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference and abroad.
Cindy Mercer decided to stay and go to war. She was going to fight for her marriage. The battle preparation began by falling to her knees. She had an appointment with God at 4 o’clock each morning. She prayed, read her Bible, and wrote in a journal just about everyday. At one point, she began fasting three days at a time.
“At first, I was fasting and praying for God to change my husband,” said Mercer, who had been periodically attending a Methodist church. “But, something very dramatic happened during this process. It no longer was about my husband anymore. It was about me and God, and God began to change me. I realized that I had just been playing church. I didn’t take God seriously.”
In addition to her praying, Mercer enlisted the help of one of her co-workers who seemed to be a man of faith. “Dave” was an anesthesiologist at the hospital where Mercer was a nurse in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She noticed Dave would pray with his patients before administering anesthesia, and that he wrote their names in a prayer book he kept in a pocket on his scrubs. Mercer felt comfortable talking to Dave, so she asked him if he would add her name and her husband’s to his book. Dave, who was Adventist, did that and more. He asked Mercer if it was okay to visit her husband, Rick, at home and offer to give him Bible study. Mercer had introduced Dave to her husband at a company Christmas party, so they were somewhat acquainted. She liked Dave’s idea. By this time, Rick Mercer had been noticing his wife get up early in the morning and pray and study her Bible, and fall asleep with it in her lap at night. He noticed a change in her, a peacefulness that he hadn’t seen before. So when Dave made the 30-mile trip to his house, and asked him if he’d be willing to give him at least one hour a week to study the Bible, Rick said “yes.”
The very next week, Dave and the Mercers began studying each Thursday night.
“Within three to four weeks of studying the Bible, we quit arguing, we weren’t fighting anymore; things were very peaceful in our home,” said Cindy Mercer.
Indeed, the Holy Spirit was working. After about a year of Bible study, prayer, and fasting, the Mercers were baptized into Dave’s Seventh-day Adventist church. Dave, who was an elder, baptized them. About two weeks later, Dave died from injuries he suffered in a car crash, which also claimed the life of his wife.
Cindy Mercer recalled what Dave said about her husband the last time she saw him before the accident: “God’s got great plans for him.”
And, he was right.
About nine months after being baptized, Rick Mercer was ordained an elder. Not long after that, his wife said the Conference leadership noticed he was “on fire for the Lord,” and asked him to become a lay pastor.
But, God didn’t want him to stop there. About two years later, the Oklahoma Conference contacted Rick Mercer about moving to Oklahoma and going into ministry full time. He obliged, and preached there a little more than six years before moving to North Carolina, where he’s now pastor of the Morganton Church. Cindy Mercer is director of women’s ministries for the Carolina Conference.
Wherever they go, the couple is a source of inspiration to people who hear about how prayer not only saved their marriage, but changed them individually.
“When she started praying and fasting for me, everything changed,” said Rick Mercer, pastor. “All of a sudden, her eyes had love and compassion in them. That was the first time in my life that I saw Jesus lived out in somebody.”
“You cannot stomp sin out of your life, but you can crowd it out with Jesus.”
Prayer the Lifeline of Churches
The Mercers are among countless people who have testimonies about prayer, and how, more specifically, it has brought people to Christ — or back to Him.
“It’s the lifeline for our churches,” said Mary Nelson, a prayer coordinator in the Gulf Coast Church in Biloxi, Mississippi.
She said prayer leaders from around her Conference come together once a week to take prayer requests and share praises. She said there’s one woman who’s not an Adventist who has attended Camp Meeting several years in a row, “and we believe it’s because we’ve been praying for her.”
“Everything that happens I think has to be bathed in prayer; nothing happens without it,” said Nelson, who adheres to the words in Philippians 4:6. “We don’t worry about anything; we pray about everything.”
Prayer Brings Happiness to Homes
Melissa Weisner is a firm believer in that.
She said at one point the tension between her and her husband had gotten so bad, that “the cat and the dog would not share the same space with us.”
“If we were both in the same room together, one went one way and the other went the other way,” said Weisner, who attends Oasis Church in Portland, Tennessee.
She said she prayerfully began looking up Scripture that described what she wanted to see in her husband, and she did the same for herself.
“I needed to live up to what He is calling me to be, and so I started searching Scripture for what a good wife and mother is supposed to be, and I started praying those into my own life.”
Weisner said she finally got a chance to sit down with her husband, and she showed him all the Scriptures she found and the prayers she had also written to go with them. She said he was “blown away,” and things “changed dramatically.” Now, she said the two conduct prayer seminars together.
“We have a ministry together,” she said. “My kids feel the presence of God in our home. Now we are mentoring other couples, and we’re watching God work in their lives the way He worked in ours.”
Rosalind McFarland is women’s ministries director at Oasis. She said God may not answer prayers when we want Him to, but He does so in His own time, and they’re usually right on time.
“Sometimes prayers are answered immediately, sometimes slower,” said McFarland. “And sometimes it’s years and years of talking to God.”
Persistent Prayer Answered
Mary Patton can relate to the longevity. When she became Adventist, her husband wasn’t much of a churchgoer. But, Patton said she started praying for him, as did members of her Sabbath School class, who also called her husband and prayed with him over the phone. Her husband began attending church with her, and after about 10 years, he became a member.
“I am a product of collective prayer,” said George Patton, who is a prayer ministry leader along with his wife at First Church in Huntsville, Alabama, in the South Central Conference. “I wasn’t in the Church at all. God does some miraculous and marvelous things.”
George has personally seen God perform miracles in his life, one not too long ago. He needed an additional $200 for eye surgery, but he and his wife just didn’t have the money. So, they began to pray. Ten days before the surgery, George found out he was due money back for taxes he had overpaid on a tag for a van. The refund amount: $200.
“Prayer is just so powerful!” said Mary Patton, joyously.
is a former reporter for The Associated Press. He is also author of the book,which was featured on National Public Radio.
Southern Union | August 2018