A “no” is a “no” in most people’s books, but Stormie Omartian was holding out hope that maybe—just maybe—God’s answer to her prayers wasn’t “no” and that uprooting her family from California and transplanting them to Tennessee wouldn’t be necessary.
All Stormie could see was enormous disruption. What she couldn’t perceive was how God’s grand design would be lifesaving.
In late 1993, when her husband, Michael, first painted a positive picture of moving from Los Angeles to Nashville, Stormie recoiled. “What about the negatives?” she protested. Her relatives lived in the Los Angeles area, and she felt comfortable there, even having grown accustomed to the city’s infamous daily traffic woes. And she loved her church and couldn’t conceive of leaving that fellowship and the security she drew from her long-standing circle of friends. Besides, that’s where she had given her life to Jesus.
Stormie wanted to be sure this wasn’t just Michael’s own good idea but that the Lord was indeed leading them.
The couple agreed on one vital thing: the need to pray seriously–and openly–about this potential life-altering transition. Over time, Michael grew more and more confident of God’s leading, but Stormie, who had written numerous best-selling books on prayer, kept wrestling with the idea and didn’t hesitate to unload her burden to God.
“Heavenly Father, I don’t want to go,” she prayed in earnest. “I really like living in Los Angeles, as difficult as it can be. I don’t know if I can live anywhere else. Please don’t send us to Nashville.”
But eventually, Stormie knew in her heart that God was answering “no” to her request and that His plan was for her family to move. Though saying goodbye would be tough, she bowed in obedience to God’s will.
Then came the unexpected. Convinced that God was guiding their family to head nearly 1,800 miles eastward, Stormie now felt an urgency to move.
“God not only said ‘no’ to my prayers, I believe He was showing us that we should go now,” Stormie recalls. “The Holy Spirit was prompting us to leave immediately.”
They didn’t wait for their home to sell–a decision they realized wasn’t the wisest from a financial perspective. Michael and Stormie packed their belongings and exited Los Angeles as quickly as they could.
Why speed was so necessary was soon revealed. On Jan. 17, 1994, not long after they moved, a violent earthquake jolted Los Angeles, killing 60 people and injuring 11,800 more. The Northridge quake, named after the San Fernando Valley community near its epicenter, hit at 4:31 a.m., causing more than $20 billion in damages, and becoming the costliest in U.S. history.
Among the wreckage was the Omartians’ Northridge home. Its huge windows, large brick fireplaces and tall ceilings tumbled to the ground. Since the house was still on the market, no one was occupying it when the 6.7-magnitude quake struck.
“Our house was completely destroyed, so I don’t think we would have lived through it if we had been there, or anyone else,” Stormie says nearly 20 years later. “I was glad and thankful that we listened and heard the leading of the Lord. God always knows best.”
Six years later, Nashville became the site of another amazing answer to prayer, this time a “yes”–but one that Stormie and her sister, Suzy, didn’t expect.
When Billy Graham held a Crusade in the Music City, June 1-4, 2000, Stormie and Suzy, along with members of their prayer group, went through the Christian Life and Witness Course to become trained volunteer counselors. They would talk with people responding to Mr. Graham’s invitation to make a decision for Christ.
One evening, Stormie’s two young nephews attended the Crusade with her and Suzy. Derek and Matt listened to Mr. Graham’s message just as the tens of thousands of other people did. When it came time for Mr. Graham to challenge people to come forward to confess their sins and commit their lives to Christ, Suzy told her boys to wait there until they came back. “Aunt Stormie and I will get you when we’re finished counseling, OK?” Suzy said. The boys understood.
Stormie and Suzy bounded down the steps of Adelphia Coliseum. When they reached the grass field, where thousands of men, women, boys and girls were gathering, they turned around and there were Derek and Matt. No, they weren’t disobeying their mother’s instructions. They were obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit. They wanted to give their hearts to Jesus and follow Him.
“We had prayed for them, but to be honest we weren’t expecting them to receive the Lord that night,” Stormie says. “It was so great. I loved how God answered our prayers in His timing.”
Stormie’s popular “Power of a Praying …” book series was an outgrowth of specially targeted prayer groups that began back in California after she surrendered her life to Christ in October 1970 at the age of 28. She and Michael hosted a small-group study at their home, where Michael taught the Scriptures and Stormie led the prayer time afterward. Group members shared their requests, then they prayed for each one.
The group started with 18 people but grew to 75. The Omartian home was bulging at the seams. With prayer time easily extending past midnight, Stormie added an extra meeting once a month just for prayer. That meeting was so well attended–and the requests so numerous–that people prayed till 1 a.m., or longer.
That’s when Stormie devised a new strategy. She formed specialty prayer groups–one where people prayed just for their children, another to pray for their marriages, still another to focus on their ministries.
“Out of these groups came all of those books on prayer,” Stormie explains. “As I was writing them, I was really surprised to find out how prayer is so difficult for so many people, how they feel overwhelmed by it or intimidated by it.
“Many feel like they can’t pray well enough or long enough or right enough or loud enough,” she adds. “I wrote those books to help people understand that prayer is simply communicating with God.”
Stormie and Michael’s bedroom has a sitting area with two couches, one facing a window. That’s where she sits for morning devotions and reads her Bible and prays. She keeps an ongoing list of specific prayer requests that she marks off as God answers. But she also asks the Holy Spirit to lead her in prayer, bringing to mind needs of people that she may have read about in a Christian magazine or seen on a TV news program.
“There’s always so much to pray about that I’m never at a loss to pray about something or someone,” she says.
Whether in her hometown or on the road, Stormie keeps praying throughout the day, as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs. “God has been teaching me that I can’t take a step without Him,” she says. “He doesn’t want us to just turn to Him in a crisis, He wants us to turn to Him every moment. That’s why it’s easy to pray without ceasing because I can’t get from point A to point B without Him.”
Stormie encourages Christians to recruit a prayer partner or join a prayer group. “I believe in private time with the Lord, but the Bible [also] teaches in Matthew 18:19-20 to pray with one another,” she explains.
“The Scriptures say that when just two or three Christians are gathered together in God’s name, He’s there in their midst,” Stormie says. “What better reason do we have to pray with each other? He’s present with us.”