Several people affected by disabilities have played a major role in my life since I lost my sight many years ago. One was a man named Dennis Dordigan (ThM, 1975) who suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for more than twenty-eight years. Many trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior because of Dennis's witness in light of his disability. Though he wasn't a diabetic, he taught me many things to help me live with blindness and other diabetic-related issues.
One afternoon I sat in Dennis's home and conversed with him about my ministry struggles in the midst of my own disabilities. At one point I foolishly said, "Dennis, I feel so badly that God has taken away so much from you. You used to preach on your college campus, do outdoor evangelism, write songs, teach, write poetry. I'm sorry you've lost so much. I'm so sorry you have no ministry now."
Dennis's response taught me a lesson I will never forget—outweighing every sermon series I'd ever heard on the importance of prayer.
In his raspy, strained voice, Dennis rebuked me with, "Mike! I still pray!"
Receiving no adequate response from me, he went on to remind me in his barely audible voice that I must not think much of the ministry of prayer. I wanted to argue with him to save face, but I knew he was right. I'd completely overlooked his ministry of intercession and the role it played in so many lives. Though I didn't want to admit it, I'd actually relegated the value of prayer to the Court of Last Resort, the place where many Christians go after they have ruled out all other possibilities.
To encourage me Dennis then said I was one of the people he prayed for daily. This brought even more conviction as I realized how little I actually thought of prayer. Yet with his rebuke I also gained a renewed understanding of how much I needed the support of this fervent prayer warrior. He had so much time, and he spent it communicating with the heavenly Father.
Several years later, a young man in our church's youth group reminded me of how, as an elementary-school kid, he would tug on Mr. Dennis's pant leg and ask him to pray about an upcoming math test. Mr. Dennis would ask him if he had studied. When he learned that the boy had not done so, Dennis would tell him to go home and apply himself. Then Dennis would pray. Those faithful prayers left an indelible mark.
To hear Dennis pray in full voice was one thing, but to know he prayed for others when his voice was only a whisper left me with a challenging reminder that the continuous practice of prayer is so vital for the Christian. I used to see talking to God as a matter of final appeal—that if I couldn't think of anything else to do, I could always pray. Only after Dennis told me that he daily prayed for me did I realize my mistake.
Dennis Dordigan left his wife and family, MS, and wheelchair behind nine years ago to go be with His Savior, with whom he spoke regularly. Many people blessed enough to know him have seen embodied the words, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (I Thess. 5:16–18).
Michael Justice (ThM, 1992) served as an associate pastor for more than thirteen years, and he now directs a ministry to the disabled at Orchard Hills Baptist Church in Garland, Texas. He is one of the instructors for DTS's upcoming course on human suffering.