Copyright © Philadelphia Church of God
Never in my life have I faced a more serious problem than the situation that confronted us at the beginning of the year 1930. Not only were we confronted with another lean year economically—with our own personal financial condition at rock bottom—with the whole nation plunging on down, down, DOWN into the depths of depression—but it seemed as if we were destitute of faith in God as well.
We were within six weeks of the birth of our fourth child. My wife, who had been so miraculously healed in 1927, was now in an alarming condition. She was anemic. Her blood was lacking in iron. Her strength appeared depleted. The doctor was definitely alarmed. He was afraid of complications at the time of delivery due to her weakened condition. He insisted she go to the hospital where every emergency facility would be available in the event of trouble.
But we had been in such financial depths that the hospital bill for our first son’s birth had not been paid. The hospital would not admit my wife again until the previous bill was paid—or else we paid in advance.
I had prayed for Mrs. Armstrong’s healing. But she had not been healed. I had prayed again. And again! But there had been no improvement, and time was running out. We were becoming desperate.
What was wrong? I had learned that God does heal. We had experienced almost incredible miracles. My wife had been healed before. But why not now?
Obviously God had not changed—He is the same from eternity to eternity. He has promised to heal, and His Word is sure! The fault could not be with God. I knew it had to be with me. But where? I “searched my heart.” One condition to receiving miraculous healing is that we obey God.
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments …” (1 John 3:22).
But I had surrendered to obey God’s commandments three years before. Faith is the second condition. But I believed, as firmly as when God first healed my wife.
There was no more time to lose. I had to find the answer. I knew of only one way. Fasting and prayer! It was the last-ditch resort. I didn’t know how one ought to fast and pray—I had never done it before. But when Jesus’s disciples were unable to cast out a demon, Jesus said such a result came only by fasting and prayer. So I began to fast.
The fasting was begun on a Sabbath morning. That morning I ate no breakfast. Not knowing how one ought to go about fasting and prayer, I first prayed and asked God to show me the way—to open my understanding. Then, since God speaks to us through His written Word, I began to search the Bible for instruction about fasting. For one hour with the aid of a concordance I studied passages of Scripture on the subject of fasting and praying, much of the time on my knees.
Then for one hour I sat in thought and contemplation. I turned over in my mind the scriptures I had read. I reflected on my own life in recent months. I tried to compare it with God’s way, as revealed in the Scriptures. Then I spent the next hour in talking to God—in prayer.
And so I decided to continue in this order—one hour in Scripture study, one in contemplation and one in prayer. I did not once ask God to heal my wife—as yet. I had been doing that for weeks, without result. I was fasting and praying, not for the purpose of bringing pressure on God to force Him to obey my will and give what was asked—but to find out what was wrong with me! I realized we did not need to nag at God. NEVER fast as a means of inducing God to answer!
I read of Elijah’s prayer, in presence of all the priests of Baal, when God answered and the fire came down from heaven. I timed that prayer. It was very short—only about 20 seconds. But the awe-inspiring answer came crashing from heaven instantly! Elijah did not need to talk God into it by a long prayer or by repeated prayers. But I knew that Elijah at that moment was close to God—that he had previously been spending hours in long prayers to be in contact and close communion with his Maker! And he naturally knew his Maker would answer!
Gradually the truth began to pierce through the fog in my mind. Gradually, as this process of fasting and prayer continued all day, and into the afternoon of Sunday—as I became more and more hungry—but closer and closer to God, the realization came that I had been keeping my mind more and more fully on this clay project.
This experience in fasting and prayer, and the overwhelming result, has been broadcast over the air, and probably related previously in the Plain Truth. But it is one of the outstanding experiences in my life and properly belongs in this present account, even though a repetition for numerous readers.
This process of self-examination, in the order of one hour of Bible study, followed by an hour of reflection and contemplation, and then an hour of prayer, under the unpleasant weakness of fasting, continued until the middle of Sunday afternoon.
Suddenly I heard one of our daughters cry out, “Here comes Grandpa and Grandma!”
My father and mother were driving their two-door Ford sedan up our driveway. At that moment I was lying on the bed in our bedroom, in an hour of thinking and reflecting. By this time I KNEW where the trouble had been. I realized fully that I had gotten so wrapped up in this clay project—the development of formulas—devising plans for marketing—and selling enough of it to beauty shops to keep us from starving, that I had unconsciously been drifting farther from the previously close relationship with God.
I had not stopped Bible study or prayer. I had not even realized that I had been diminishing it. But now I realized that I had actually become closer to this clay project than I was to God. It was fast becoming first in my mind, my interest and my time. And God will not play second fiddle to anything!
I wonder, as I write, how many of my readers are more wrapped up, in their interest, and in their hearts, in some material business, project or other interest than they are in God! Probably most of you who are reading this need what God had brought me to do.
I realized now that God had mercifully, in His wisdom and His love for me and my family, refused to answer my prayers to force me to fast and pray and come to see where I was unconsciously drifting.
But in a flash, as I heard my father’s car drive past the bedroom window, the realization came that the mission of the fasting was accomplished! No need to continue it now! I must end it, and go out and greet my parents.
And so, in a brief prayer not much longer than Elijah’s, but in deep earnestness and absolute faith, I now—for the first time during this fast—asked God to heal my wife and put iron in her blood and give her needed strength. Like a flash it came to mind that we were completely out of food—out of wood for fuel to keep warm (in January)—so I asked Him to send us food and fuel. I asked Him to send money for the hospital bill for the delivery of the baby. Quickly I thought of my winter topcoat—it had a big hole at the rear of one hip, which was embarrassing and a handicap in my work—and asked God for a new coat.
Asking God for these five things had taken less than a minute. But by now my parents were alighting from the car, and I wanted to go out to meet them. Two scriptures flashed to my mind:
“Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8).
“My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
So quickly I ended my prayer, saying, “Father in heaven, you know what I need before I ask—and you have promised to supply every need—so I ask you to supply whatever else I need.” Then I quickly thanked God for it, rose and ran to greet my parents.
Dad was just handing Mother a big covered roaster out of the car, and then gathering up an armload of wood. He had removed the back seat before leaving Salem, and piled into the entire rear part of the car a large supply of wood.
We soon had a fire going in the kitchen cook stove, and Mother reheated an entire big dinner she had brought in the roaster. Dad had managed to pile about a week’s supply of wood into his car. So here, even as I was asking for it, was the answer to two of my prayer requests—the immediate fuel and food.
Arising Monday morning, my wife’s cheeks were rosy red! When the doctor saw her, he exclaimed, “What in the world has happened to you!” He could not understand how her anemia had so suddenly disappeared. She had her old zip and pep and strength. (Mrs. Armstrong always was an energetic person—as recorded earlier, her brothers had nicknamed her variously “Shebang” and “Cyclone” as a little girl.)
The very first mail delivery after my prayer request, on that Monday morning, brought a letter from one of my wife’s uncles in Iowa containing, most unexpectedly, a settlement from her mother’s will, in the exact amount of the hospital bill! My wife’s mother had died when she was 12.
You may be sure that Mrs. Armstrong and I were overwhelmed with gratitude. Our prayers that morning were all of thanksgiving to a God who is real and near to every one of us—if we will be near to Him!
But Monday was another business day in downtown Portland, and it was necessary to make the rounds of some of the beauty parlors once again to sell more clay. Arriving in the lobby of an office building I would remove my topcoat, and carefully fold it so as to hide the big hole in the side, carry it on my arm, and then enter the shops or offices where I had to call.
About 11 that morning I found myself across the street from the building of the gas company, where my brother Russell was an information clerk. So I crossed over. We chatted for a couple of moments.
“Herb,” exclaimed Russell suddenly, eyeing the hole in my coat, “You’ve got to have a new overcoat. Meier & Frank are having a big sale on overcoats. Today is January 20th. I have a charge account at Meier & Frank’s, and anything charged beginning today is not billed until the March 1st statement, and I will have until March 10th to pay and keep my credit good. You go over now and select an overcoat, and I’ll meet you over there at noon and have it charged.”
“Oh, no, Russ,” I remonstrated, “I couldn’t let you do that.”
But suddenly, as I continued to protest, it seemed as if a still, small voice within said to me, “Didn’t you ask God to give you a new overcoat? Are you willing to receive it the way God gives it, or not?”
It is human nature to rebel against God’s way. We want to do things in a different way than God commands. We want to live a different way than God’s law. I broke off the remonstrance immediately.
“OK, Russ,” I smiled humbly, and gratefully, “I’ll go select a coat—and thanks a million!”—as my eyes began to water.
It was humiliating to me to take this coat from my brother. I felt he could not afford it. But I realized it was God’s answer, coming the way God had chosen to answer my prayer. He was still humbling me. But this was good for me, and actually, giving the coat was good for my brother. It just did not seem so, humanly.
On Tuesday or Wednesday of that week my other brother, Dwight, drove over to our house in his Ford.
“I got to thinking, Herb,” said Dwight. “You may have to rush Loma to the hospital at any unexpected hour of day or night. I’ve brought my car over for you. I’m going to leave it until you go to the hospital. And in the meantime, just use it as if it were your own.”
I think it was on Thursday afternoon Mrs. Armstrong and I were sitting in our living room reviewing what had happened, and thanking God. It was about 3 o’clock.
“You know, I never should have thought of needing a car for a sudden emergency trip to the hospital,” I said. “But I asked God to send whatever else we needed, besides what I asked for specifically—and He sent it.”
“There is only one thing more that I can think of,” mused my wife. “I never thought of this before, but I do not have a robe or slippers to wear in the hospital. If I had those, every need would be complete.”
We dismissed it from our minds.
But that evening, my sister’s husband drove her over to our house. She seemed highly embarrassed and a little flustered.
“Loma,” she said, “I don’t understand this at all—and you may think I’m crazy. But this afternoon, about 3 o’clock, something strange came over me—an insistent urge to go to my bedroom and pray. And while I was praying something put it in my mind—just like a voice saying, ‘Take your robe and slippers to Loma! Take your robe and slippers to Loma!’ I didn’t understand it! I never had any experience like that before. You may think I’m crazy, but I simply had to bring these to you.”
We then explained how God had answered my prayer, and how, at that precise time that afternoon, we had been in conversation about that very remaining need—the robe and slippers.
Truly, God does move in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform!
It was just a little over two weeks later that the loan of Dwight’s car was justified, and I rushed my wife to the hospital.
On the 9th day of February, a Sunday, my second son was born.
My wife named him Garner Ted. The name Garner had been a family name in her family and her mother’s family for generations. Her maternal grandmother was a Garner before marriage. Several men in the family had been given the name Garner as a first name.
Mrs. Armstrong had known an intelligent young man in college in Iowa by the name of Ted, whom she greatly admired. The name seemed, she said, “so short and simple and direct.”
He was our fourth child.
For 11 years of married life I had been denied a son. After Mrs. Armstrong’s first miraculous healing, in 1927, I knew that, despite warnings from three doctors, we could have another child without fear of fatal consequences. God had blessed us with our first son, Richard David, on October 13, 1928. That day was the happiest day of my life. I was filled to overflowing with gratitude for a son after all those years—a gift from God.
But now, a year and four months later, God blessed us with a second son. And Ted, too, was born as a result of an almost incredible miracle of healing only three weeks before his birth!Continue Reading: Chapter 23: Prelude to Ministry