Friday, February 09, 2007

Prayers for healing....

Too much illness, I'm afraid...

Beyond my own health concerns, a number of friends are struggling as well. My blog-sister Penni is struggling with both pneumonia and conjunctivitis in both eyes (yuck-o-rama, sister!). Her own mom has been dealing with all kinds of health issues, too. My sister and brother-in-law's health has been sagging lately - at precisely the time that their temporary health insurance has run out.

In addition, my adoptive sister Sandy in Kansas is dealing with asthma, and my aunt Roma in New York has been generally failing for some time. My brother-of-the-heart in Kansas City, Mike M., has been fighting shingles and emphysema and various other ailments - and for the last little while, the ailments seem to be winning.

I tell people of faith what's going on, and they say, "Well, you gotta just pray for them!"

Well, duh. No kidding?

The problem is, I have struggled for years with faith healings - running between faith, trust, and complete disbelief, at times. For a long time, faith healings (and the lack thereof) was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to belief that I had.

I have seen truly Godless people being spontaneously healed, while incredibly Godly folks, dedicated servant ministers, were prayed for day and night and still died - often horrible, senseless deaths. I kept wanting to ask God, "OK, whose side are you on, anyway?"

The worst was the loving wife of a minister, who was herself a powerful preacher and music minister. At the time when their church was reaching out in powerful ways to the middle-class black community in suburban Kansas City, cancer swept through her like a wild-fire. There were prayer vigils and prayer chains and prayers without number; faith healers; anointing with oil; laying on of hands. Nothing. In no time at all, she died. A family lost a mother and a grandmother; a church lost a preacher and a music minister; and a whole lot of people lost a friend who knew Christ in a powerful way.

It made me insane. I completely understand the envy, and the "what the heck did she, or I, do to not make it on this particular train, Lord?" Because trust me - this woman did NOT die to to a lack of faith. If faith was the answer to healing, the whole city would have been healed on her faith alone!

The one who saves me from the fire on this particular topic is Nicky Gumbel, of the oft-maligned Alpha Course, who had perhaps the best words I've heard on praying for healing:
When we prayed for no one, no one was healed. When we prayed for people, some were healed, and some were not. We have no answer for the whys and wherefores, but now I pray for everyone, hoping that some prayers will be answered.
A dear friend also suggested to me that there is a big difference between prayers of supplication where I turn my prayer concern over to God and let it go, and praying just to manipulate God into giving me what I want. Ouch. There are many days I still can't find the line between those two. I know beyond any doubt that I know how to do the latter much better than the former.

And then there are the words from singer Wayne Watson's old classic, "Home Free:"

Out in the corridor,
We pray for life
A mother for her baby
A husband for his wife
Sometimes the good die young
It's sad but true
But while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is in You

You know, pain has little mercy
And suff'rings no respecter or age
Of rank or position
I know that every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray
Is slow to come
"O Lord, not mine
But your will be done....

Yeah, no kidding, Wayne. When I heard of Penni's illness, I told her, "I keep telling God, 'You're not checking my list!' And the fact that I even have a list is a good sign that I'm not quite all there, spiritually..."

In the end, I have to come back to the simple answer: God is God, and I am not. This side of the final trumpet, I will never know the "whys." All I can do is sing and pray Wayne Watson's chorus:

Home free
At the ultimate healing
We will be home free...


Michael Dodd said...

Some day we'll all have perfect wings...

Vic Mansfield said...

I too struggle with the healing thing. When the 5yo daughter of friends died of a brain tumor, I struggled more (and still do).

I do not understand it, but thankfully, God does not wait for my understanding to come around. Jesus said to do it, and I do, though reluctantly.

I've come to believe that prayer is NOT about convincing God to change God's mind. Prayer is about letting God change us.

No matter what happens, God loves that person more than we can imagine, whether we pray or not.

Also, we sometimes think that "The one with the most prayers, wins." If that were so (of if it was up to MY faithfulness for prayer to "work", we'd all be in a heap of trouble.

I don't understand it in my head, but there is something in my heart that says, do it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, I saw this on my blog as your comment and addressed it there...

"there is a big difference between prayers of supplication where I turn my prayer concern over to God and let it go, and praying just to manipulate God into giving me what I want. Ouch. There are many days I still can't find the line between those two."

This is so true. I think, though, God continues to teach us and transform us, as we continue to 'pray without ceasing,' 'by prayer and supplication, make our requests known to God' and all the other verses that address prayer. Because, like you, I find the line is blurred sometimes.

And I think about Jesus, who prayed in the garden for the cup to be removed, but ultimately prayed 'Your will, not mine.' And that's what all of this is about, really. Us being able to bend our wills to His.

Very good, post, Steve. :)

Tom Scharbach said...

Why not simply ask God to be with the person you are praying for, to strengthen him or her to face the challenges wrought by illiness day by day, and to grant him or her the grace to recognize God's love, whatever the struggle and whatever the outcome? And, while you are at it, ask the same for yourself?