Guideposts Classics: Della Reese on the Power of Prayer

In this story from June 1981, the Touched by an Angel star shares how her faith guided her through a serious health crisis.

By Della Reese

It came just like a thief in the night. I was taping the Johnny Carson Tonight Show at NBC studios in Burbank, California, that October evening in 1979. I had often hosted this show before and felt right at home as I walked out on the stage to sing my second song that night, “Little Boy Lost.”

The studio audience of some 500 people who had applauded me so generously quieted down, my accompanist played the first plaintive notes on a bass fiddle. I drew in a deep breath, threw my head back, sang four bars and then I struck a flat note.

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The studio and the audience revolved around me, my left knee gave way under my sequined gown, and I crumpled to the floor. Bandleader Doc Severinsen rushed up with a doctor and a nurse who happened to be in the audience.

All I could do as they carried me to the ambulance was ask: “Lord, help me. God, help me.”

And then everything faded away.

I awoke the next morning to look into the anguished face of my 20-year-old daughter.

“Where am I, Dumpsey?” I asked.

“In the hospital.” She leaned down and kissed me. “Oh, Mommy, I was so worried about you.”

“Don’t fret, child,” I said, trying to smile. “God will take care of me.” I glanced at my 30-year-old adopted son –a psychiatrist–standing next to Dumpsey.

“What’s wrong with me, Jim?”

“They believe you have an aneurysm,” he said. “But they’re going to transfer you to Midway Hospital for tests to find out more about it.”

The tests were bad enough, but the grim look on the doctor’s face when he came to report was worse.

“You have an aneurysm that has ruptured,” he said, explaining that an artery in the right portion of my brain had ballooned and burst. “But we’re afraid there may be something else,” he added.

After I underwent another series of excruciating explorations, the doctor returned looking even more serious. He told me that two other aneurysms had formed on the left side of my brain, near the optic nerve.

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In time, with blood surging against the weakened arterial walls, these too would rupture, which could mean the end for me.

“Your only hope now is an operation,” he said. “But, I must warn you about it. In operations like this–when the optic nerve is so closely involved–seven percent of the patients have ended up blind.” He paused and looked at me seriously. “Or worse.”

“What do you mean ‘worse’?” I demanded. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Crippled, or with the loss of mental faculties.”

After he left the room, I did a lot of thinking. No matter what he said, I realized I had a choice in the matter.

I remembered what Mama had said about choices when I was about rive years old.

Mama and Papa raised us five sisters and a brother in a Detroit slum. But Mama wouldn’t allow the outside to touch us inside.

She always made it clear that Jesus Christ was her personal choice. She showed it by living His way every day.

“Pray to Him and expect His help,” she told us. “He will not let you down when you need Him.”

Her way of life was our best example. Praying and believing were a part of living in our house. There were no set times, just a part of everyday living. And so, early in life, I had made my own choice.

As I grew into my teens and saw the fancy ladies in doorways, the careening police cars, and people nodding on dope, I was so grateful that I had made the right one. For it was my faith in Jesus and his guidance that kept me from that kind of life.

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Hello Dear Prayer Volunteer,

Please pray for my grandson, Christopher, who is struggling with mental health issues and feelings of abandonment, anger & frustration. Please pray that he will be able to get the help he needs and in Jesus' name, be completely healed of the demons plaguing him.

Thank-you so much,

In His Name,

We are in desperate need for our finances, we are overwhelmed and behind in all our bills. I believe Jesus can and will help us! Please pray for us...

Dear Karen,

I will keep you & your family's finances in my prayers. Remember that it's always darkest right before dawn. God has a tremendous plan set for your lives. Remember, Jeremiah 29:11-14 that God knows the plans he has for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to bring you hope and a future.

In His Name,

I have survived 2 brain aneursyms at the same time. Mine were 6/15/2001. I had worked all day with a bad headache. But around 7 pm that night, it really became unbearable. I called my dr, the dr on call told me to go straight to the emergency room. I thought I would get something for the pain and nausea and go home. I remember the dr telling me about the aneursyms, but God was with me I know. At the time a gospel song on the radio at the time, the name of it "I'm a winner either way. I had 2 surgeries by 2 different doctors in 2 days. The first was was the easiest. They went thru the groin and fed 10 titanium coils in the one in front on the right side and did radiation to shrink the blood vessels. Both aneursyms were bleeding but stopped on their own. This was a fairly new procedure at the time and Asheville had 1 physician trained to do this procedure. The 2nd surgery was done by an outstanding neurologist, who opened my skull to get to the aneursym in the center of the brain. He had 4 to 6 seconds to clip the spot simutainously. He later explained it takes forever for a lot of physicians to learn it is not them but the Lord working through them. I worked in the medical field and knew enough when I left the hospital to request my medical records. They had evaluated me and thought I would need at home cognitive training when I got home. I went to a rehab place to be evaluated, afterwards they told me the same day I wouldn't need any. I was in intensive care for 3 weeks and a regular room for 4 days. I praise GOD for my outcome. I am now 65 years old.