The Power of Prayer
By Ronald Cypress
“You’ve got to tell him.” Martha had told her husband, Jerry, before he went over to their neighbor’s house. “That’s all you can do. It’s the right thing to do.”
Jerry grumbled after she said it to him, realizing that she was right. Going over to his neighbor’s house and telling him about what he had done was the right thing to do. He didn’t want to do it, knowing how John O’Toole would take the information. Jerry figured that he should have just kept his mouth shut after saying the prayer. If he hadn’t told his wife, then he definitely wouldn’t have ever told John about what he had done.
“All right,” Jerry said to his wife. “I’ll go over there and tell him about it. He’s going to think I’m insane. He already does. But he’s the crazy one. I bet he’s even still upset over yesterday.”
“But you said the prayer.” Martha’s eyes were wide. “That changes everything. You prayed for it, and now you have to tell him.”
Jerry nodded. He felt bad about what he had done. He and John had their differences, but Jerry knew that John didn’t deserve what was bound to happen to him.
“Do you want me to go with you?” Martha asked.
Looking at her face, Jerry could tell that his wife didn’t really want to go with him. She was just trying to be supportive, but the nervousness was present on her face.
“That’s all right.” Jerry got ready to leave the house. “It’s better if I do it alone.”
When he arrived at his neighbors’ front door, Jerry could hear voices and noises being made inside the home. Noises were always coming from the property; it was what actually led to John and Jerry being in the situation that they were in now. Jerry gave several solid knocks on the door, and a few minutes passed before John answered it. With a cigarette dangling in his mouth, John looked disheveled and a bit dirty.
“How’s it going?” John said, slowly looking Jerry over.
Jerry could tell that the incident from yesterday was still on John’s mind.
“Hey, John.” Jerry tried to sound as polite as possible. “I was wondering if I could talk to you about yesterday. I wanted to apologize. First, about how I reacted. And second…well, how I reacted even more when I was in my house. Do you have the time to talk right now?”
Jerry was hoping that he would say no and that he could just go back to his house and tell Martha that John was too busy.
“Yeah,” John said, opening his front door up more. “Come on in”
Jerry went inside and the two sat down at the kitchen table.
“Alison is in the back right now,” John said. “She’s getting ready to go to some flower show with some friends.”
“That sounds interesting.” Jerry was ready to get the conversation over with.
Once they were seated, Jerry apologized again for what had taken place the prior day.
“I was just having a really bad day,” Jerry said. “We were backed up at work, and of course I got much of the blame. I heard all the noise and I just…”
John nodded. “I understand. I bet if I were working at that place I would be stressed out all the time.”
“Right.” Jerry thought about how he should start talking about why he had really gone over to John’s house.
“You were really yelling,” John said. “You scared Alison. She thinks you’re insane. Thinks you need to be on medication. Both her and I think you’re too old to be going off like that.”
“You know I do my work over here.” John put his cigarette out in an ashtray. “I can’t help it if my work gets loud sometimes.”
“It gets very loud.”
Jerry thought about all the noises that seemed to be constantly coming from the O’Toole residence. John was supposed to be a man who was good with his hands, and he regularly claimed to be working on projects. Aside from a few pieces of furniture Jerry never saw the finished projects, but it seemed like he was always working and there were constant loud noises coming from his property. That was what provoked Jerry to confront him. John maintained that he was working and that the noises weren’t too loud. He refused to accept that he might be wrong or breaking a noise ordinance.
“No one else is complaining.” John had told him.
John refused to be understanding and negotiate, and that was what caused Jerry to say his prayer.
He had to tell John about what he had done. Figuring that straightforward was the best way to deliver his message, Jerry began telling him about what he had done.
“I was so upset,” Jerry said at the end of his message with a guilty look on his face. “I didn’t mean to do it. It just came out. I got down on my knees, and I prayed that you would die. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I was so stressed out, John. You know, I don’t have that much animosity to really want you dead. It just came out because I was so upset.”
John stared at Jerry. Keeping his eyes on Jerry, John removed a pack of cigarettes from the pocket of his robe. He took out a cigarette and placed it in his mouth.
“I know you don’t want me dead.” John grinned as he lit his cigarette. “You were just stressed. I told you I understand.”
Jerry shook his head. “I don’t think you understand.”
“Sure I do.”
“No. I prayed really, really hard. I prayed so hard for you to die. I got in my zone and let it happen. My God…”
Jerry put his right hand to his mouth. He had to keep it together. John watched as Jerry began to look more distressed over what he had done.
“Hey.” John leaned back in his chair. “I’m not holding anything against. I’m sure God understood you were just stressed. No big deal.”
John stared at the table. “John, the kind of prayer I did the other day is something I’ve only done during special circumstances. I rarely pray, John. But sometimes when I do…”
Jerry looked at his neighbor.
John continued to smoke his cigarette, waiting for Jerry to get to the point.
“You’re going to die, John. That’s all there is to it. I did that special prayer, and now you’re a dead man.”
With a sullen look on his face, Jerry stared down at his hands.
“Jerry, are you feeling alright?”
“Don’t you understand? Those prayers have always come true. And there‘s nothing I can do about it. I let my emotions get the better of me, and now you’re a doomed man.”
The two men became silent, staring at each other and waiting for the other to make the next move.
Jerry started to talk. “John, you have to understand.”
“Jerry, are you threatening to me.” John blew smoke in Jerry’s direction. “Is that what is going on here? You threatening me now?”
“John, I am not threatening you. You have to understand. John, this is something I’ve been able to do all my life. When I was nine years old, I had this dog. His name was Rudolph, after the reindeer, and he was shot by a guy who lived a few doors down from us.”
John cleared his throat as he stared hard at Jerry.
“The guy said Rudolph had tried to attack him, so he shot him. I knew it wasn’t true. But Rudolph had gotten loose from our yard, and he must have gone over onto the neighbor’s property. That guy made me so mad trying to justify his actions. So I prayed really hard that something would happen to someone or something he loved. I loved Rudolph, and I was devastated after he died. I wanted that man, Mr. Thomas, to feel the same kind of pain. I prayed for it so hard, Jerry. Two weeks later, Mr. Thomas was out hunting and his rifle backfired or blew up in his hand. Whatever happened, the damage was bad enough to cause serious damage to his hand, and he ended up losing it. After that he eventually lost his mind. The man was completely lost without the hand. He was crippled and couldn’t stand to be that way. Nearly a year after that accident, Mr. Thomas swallowed some type of poison, taking his own life. I knew after hearing about what had happened to his hand that my prayer had caused the accident to happen. My father said that God was probably just giving the man what he deserved, but I knew that it was me who had made the accident happen. It was my prayer. And there have been more incidents since then, my prayer for your death being the last one.”
Jerry stopped talking and took in a long breath.
John stared at him in a way that made it hard for Jerry to tell what he was thinking.
“Jerry,” Alison’s voice surprised Jerry. “What are you doing here?”
Jerry turned around to face her.
“Hi, Alison,” Jerry smiled at her.
“Honey.” John stood up. “Jerry came over here to tell us something.
“I…” Jerry wanted to stop John from telling her about what had been done.
“Do you have to smoke in here?” Alison swatted away some of the smoke John was blowing into the air.
“Jerry has something very important to tell us,” John said. He began to laugh. “Jerry, you want to tell her, or should I.”
Jerry knew he was going to start getting upset. “John, you really need to take this seriously.”
“Babe.” John put his arm around Alison’s waist. “Remember that little argument Jerry and I had yesterday? Well, Jerry here says he went home and prayed for me to die, and now he is certain that I’m going to die.”
“What?” Alison chuckled. “Jerry, you were that upset? I told John that he was probably making too much noise.”
“You guys have to understand.” Jerry stood up. “I didn’t mean for it to happen. I was just so upset and it just happened. I got down on my knees. I closed my eyes really tight and I went to that place. After the words came out, I knew that it was going to happen. John, I really wish there was something to do about the situation.”
“Oh my.” Alison began to laugh. “He truly believes that you’re going to die because he prayed for it. Jerry, you’re being asinine right now. John is going to be all right.”
“Alison.” Jerry raised his voice, stopping Alison and John’s laughter. “When I was a teenager, my family came upon very hard times. Both of my parents were unemployed, and we were pretty close to poverty. We were so poor and couldn’t really afford anything nice. The kids at school were pretty cruel. Life at home was also very hard. I gave some thought to killing myself. Fortunately, I just prayed really hard one day. It’s not a normal prayer. I have to really concentrate on it. I prayed that my family would come into money. A few days after that prayer, my dad was hit by a truck. He was hurt pretty bad but eventually recovered. The truck that hit him belonged to a company who ended up paying us a lot of money because the driver had been intoxicated when he hit my dad. That was enough to get us out of poverty. After that, my father had a record-breaking streak in various business endeavors. My family never had to worry about money again, and it was all because of my prayer. I made it happen just by praying for it.”
The O’Tooles stared at Jerry. Jerry was getting tired of their looks that suggested they suspected he was partially insane. He knew he was fine, and Jerry was certain that John was going to die in the near future.
“Jerry,” Alison said in a manner that suggested she was getting ready to be condescending towards Jerry. “I have a…A thing that I’m about to attend.”
“And I’m getting ready to go back to work,” John said
“We appreciate you stopping by.”
“I promise I’ll be a little more quiet today.”
“Don’t you worry about John. He’s going to be fine.”
“We’re all going to die one day, but I ain’t planning on going anytime soon.”
“We understand how you felt.”
“I appreciate the apology.”
“John will try to make less noise.”
“If your windows are open, you can always close them. That should help.”
“And there’s no animosity on our part.”
“None at all, pal.”
John couldn’t stand either one of them, but he felt sorry for what was bound to happen to John. He left their house, uncertain about what his next move could be. He was ready to let it go.
Martha wasn’t ready to let it go, and she insisted that she and her husband go visit the O’Tooles together.
“Maybe if I’m there it will be more believable.”
Jerry already knew what the responses were going to me. Alison would think it was funny, and John would just keep staring at him. He didn’t feel like dealing with them anymore, but he still felt guilt over the death sentence he had given John. The two went over to the O’Tooles’ house that night and spoke with the couple. Jerry allowed Martha to do most of the talking.
“You guys know our daughter,” Martha said. “You know Rachel. You don’t see her over that much, do you?”
“I can’t remember the last time I saw her,” Alison said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her.” John puffed on a cigarette that the other three desperately wanted him to put out. “I know I’ve heard about her, but I don’t think I’ve ever even seen the girl.”
“She doesn’t come around too much,” Martha told them. “And there’s a reason for. Several years ago, before you moved here, Rachel was seeing this horrible guy. We didn’t really like him at all, but she was crazy about him. He was a bad boy, and she was trying to be rebellious at the time. Anyway, this guy was a real pain. We wanted him out of our lives, but we could only do so much to control who our daughter saw. She was an adult, and though she still lived with us we didn’t want to intrude too much. So this boyfriend of hers is over one day, and he gets pretty drunk. While he was drunk he ends up breaking something that Jerry had for a long time.”
Jerry elaborated. “The kid went into our room without permission, picked up a very valuable statue and ended up breaking it. Thought the whole thing was pretty funny.”
“He said he would pay us back.”
“The bum didn’t have that kind of money. We never would have seen a dime of restitution.”
“The whole thing made Jerry really mad, and that night he said a prayer. I watched him do it.”
“Breaking that statue wasn’t the first thing he had done. I was fed up with him.”
“He prayed for the boy to be taken out of our lives.”
“I didn’t ask for him to die. I know that for a fact.”
“He just wanted him away.”
“He prayed loud and hard. Our daughter overheard him and she got upset.”
“She didn’t think too much about it until a week later when that boy got in a car accident.”
“He was nearly decapitated. He had been speeding and lost control. I didn’t ask for that. But whatever power listens chose to do it.”
“Rachel remembered the prayer and put it together. She became afraid of her father after that.”
“She asked about it, and I told her that it wasn’t the first time I had done such a thing.”
“That was my second time witnessing him do it. When we were dating, Jerry prayed really hard that a friend of his would be okay.”
“Had advanced cancer in his lung. It was shocking because he was such a young guy and didn’t smoke. The doctors expected him to die.”
“But Jerry prayed and his friend was miraculously healed in a few weeks. I have articles about it if you want to see.”
“I’m really sorry, John.”
“I told him he shouldn’t have done it.”
“I really wish I could take it back.”
“I’ve been praying that his prayer will be erased.”
“I’ve prayed too, but it’s hard to get into that zone. Once it comes out, there’s nothing that I can really do.”
Jerry and Martha looked at the O’Tooles. The looks on their faces were familiar to Jerry. He knew that both of them thought that he and his wife were insane. Alison was probably thinking about how she would tell all her friends about the nutty neighbors, and John was trying to figure out a way to get rid of the two.
“So.” John leaned forward in his chair. “It sounds like you’re a killer. Sounds like no one you dislike is safe. If what you claim is true, then you’re a horrible person.”
“John.” Jerry didn’t know how to explain himself. He didn’t feel like bad person. “I really didn’t mean it.”
“All that power.” John shook his head. “That special connection with the higher power, and you pray for death.”
Alison wagged her finger. “You should be ashamed of yourself, Jerry.”
“I didn’t mean it.” Jerry was almost whispering.
The O’Tooles looked at each other and began to laugh.
They weren’t going to take him or his wife seriously. Jerry hoped that Martha would be ready to just give up on the task. He looked at her and saw that she had an irritated look on her face.
“These two,” Jerry quietly said to her.
“Listen.” John stood up. “I’ll tell you again. I’m going to be fine. Get over this stupid notion you have that you’re so special and can just pray for things to happen and have them happen.”
John walked away from the table.
“Jerry.” Alison was the next person to stand up. “Jerry, you really are funny. I’ve always thought you were just a dull, tense man, but you really are humorous. Anything else you want to tell us about? Maybe that Alison had a son before you two were married and consummated, and she swears she didn’t have sex with anyone? Perhaps a little Jesus Junior is out there in the world. Or maybe you’re the holy one. Can I bring you a jug of water and have you turn it into wine, Jerry? With so few days left for him to live, John and I should really celebrate.”
Alison and John laughed so more.
Jerry turned to tell his wife that it was time for them to leave.
Martha told him how everything went down as soon as he got home from work. She had heard the sirens getting closer and closer. When she realized that the ambulance was on their street, Martha had looked outside living room window and saw that the paramedics were parked in front of the O’Tooles’ house. She watched from the window, knowing that whatever happened had killed John. They weren’t going to see him again until the funeral, if they were invited.
Martha saw them step outside with the body covered. A few minutes after the body was placed in the ambulance, she saw Alison step outside with one of the paramedics. The woman was holding up the distraught widow. Martha figured that they were probably going to take her to the hospital; Alison could barely stand and the emotions were probably too much for her. Martha considered going out to check on her neighbor, but she knew that her face would only upset Alison even more.
After Jerry heard about what had taken place, he went to their bedroom and sat down on their bed. Martha stood by the door and watched him.
“She’s going to want to get away from us,” Jerry said with a blank expression. “She won’t want to be anywhere near where I’m living.”
“We should still try to offer our condolences.” Martha wiped away tears from her eyes.
“Yeah.” John stared at the wall.
“And dammit.” Martha took a few steps towards her husband. “You need to be more careful, Jerry. You know what kind of power you have, and you know what it can do to people. You really need to be careful.”
Martha left the room before her husband could respond.
“I’ll do that,” he promised himself. “I’ll be real careful from now on.”
A few minutes of silence passed before Jerry got down on his knees and remorsefully prayed for forgiveness, hoping that all those he had hurt would hear and believe in his repentance.