Editor's note:

To celebrate the release of a series of interviews on healing prayer, we have a special week planned. These interviews are delightful, casual, story-laden conversations between James Catford and Bill Vaswig, recorded shortly before Bill’s death. You can find a link to the interviews on our website under the resources tab/online video and audio.

In this week’s podcast, James and I talk about his recordings with Bill and about healing prayer, and in next week’s podcast we will continue the conversation and share some of our personal experiences with healing prayer.

It’s remarkable to me how often those of us who knew Bill Vaswig still talk of him. He was a faithful student of Agnes Sanford and eventually left the pastorate to develop a full time prayer ministry. His work with Renovaré truly left a lasting mark. It is a great joy to share some of his work with you.

Below is a piece I wrote shortly after Bill’s death in January of 2011. 

—Nathan Foster

As winter begins to soften and Lent is upon us, my mind turns toward a funeral I recently attended. I wonder if I might take this time to talk about the passing of one of the most beautiful humans I have known, Bill Vaswig. 

Those of you who float around in Renovaré events will know Bill as one of the founding board members and a gentle man who prayed for everyone. Bill was a flirt, and a smiling jokester, who loved well.

While Bill was my father’s closest friend for 40 years, my first memory of him was when he came to pray for me as a teenager. I’m not entirely sure what brought him to my room, but what I do remember was that those were the days of my misguided attempts to try to please God. I worked hard at perfecting my legalistic view of faith and regularly practiced ruthless judgment towards others and myself. So you’ll understand my shock when this Lutheran pastor laughed in the middle of his prayer. I don’t think he understood that God required seriousness when being addressed. But, shock was brought to a whole new level and my respect for him plummeted when with passion and intensity he prayed the following words. “God, would you clean up all the s*** in Nate’s head?” 

As the months wore on, this experience proved to be paradigm shifting. I have since found it immensely helpful to use honest, colorful metaphors in my own prayer life. 

Another formative experience I had with Bill came many years later after a midnight incident in which my substance abuse landed me bloodied in an E.R. getting a CAT scan and multiple stitches. In the end my wife asked me to not come home. Eventually, I made it to Bill’s place where he spent three days praying for me. As you may expect I was filled with shame and embarrassment. I tucked my head in my lap as I recounted the last months of my journey and to my amazement Bill responded to my shame with laughter. When the shock of his reaction wore off, I began to see his message. He was trying to tell me that everything was going to be all right, that while my life was out of control things could be okay. This brought tears to eyes. While I didn’t know it at the time, his countenance was exactly what I needed. In the proceeding days he treated me with such care and tenderness, fully believing that I could get sober and that life awaited me. While my last drunk was a few days away, this experience was a hinge in my healing process.  

And so as I stood graveside and listened to my father deliver the final words, I watched two of the graveyard workers appear from the hazy shadows with muddy clothes and long greasy hair carelessly tucked under their hats. Both had a good two weeks worth of facial stubble covering the scars of sadness and hope lost in days past. I imagine Bill would have loved to talk with these men. I could see him taking them in and praying for them with well-executed profanity and perfectly timed laughter. I watched as the workers nervously sauntered over to the casket, maneuvered ropes and hooks and began to drop my friend’s cold shell into the ground. With an echoing thud, the earthly chapter was closed on 80 years of a life spent loving and praying, the earthly experience of William Luther Vaswig was to be no more. And while his memory, his goodness, his laughter, and his love will continue to reverberate for many years, I exaggerate not when I say his death is a profound loss for humanity. The heroes of our age are dying. But, in death, God always seems to find a way to bring about new beginnings.

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