Praying for the Sick

From my 2009 Journal. I get a little confused when I hear others pray and teach on prayer for the sick. Chrissy claims the blood of Jesus “by His stripes we are healed” for anyone who is sick and expects instant physical healing. She had a little crisis of faith when her father passed away. One pastor says it’s weak praying to say, “If God wills” because we shouldn’t be asking for healing unless we know it’s His will. What if, he says, the illness is “unto death” and we don’t know the person’s heart? What if he/she needs to let go of rebellion before God wants to heal him/her? How can we ask if we don’t know what to ask for?

Maybe it’s God’s will that all be healed, but Man still has a will and a choice as to how he treats his body, and God is not obligated to override his choices. I can’t ask God to make a person choose something, but I can trust God to know how to get a person’s attention like He did for Jacob or for Jonah.

Somewhere there must be discernment in our prayers for the sick. The biblical author James says to pray for the sick, and the elders of the church should anoint with oil. Should we do this for every sniffle?

Sometimes I think we’re so focused on physical healing, we forget to pray for the spiritual. Jesus often mentioned the faith of the person who asked for healing. The disciples healed many sick after the resurrection. Did they stop to ask if the person wanted healing or what was preventing their healing?

Maybe our prayer for the sick could be, “Reveal to X anything that is preventing his healing, give him courage to face his pain, may God be honored through his responses and reactions, and heal his body if it will give God greater glory.”

I take comfort in the fact that God knows my heart. He can interpret my words and intent and use them for His glory. He knows me well enough to know what I believe and mean.

2020 Update.  I find it interesting to look back at how I struggled 10 years ago. Those questions no longer burn in my heart. It’s not that I have fewer questions; it’s that I’m more content with not knowing all the answers. I just ask and let God sort it out.  This past week a dear friend and prayer warrior had a massive stroke. The church gathered together to pray for her, but our emotions were conflicted. We wanted to see Mary Lee fully restored to health, but we opened our hearts and hands to release her to heaven. We trusted God to do what was best. Today she is dancing with the angels, and I’m okay with God saying no to the cries of our heart to give her physical life back.

photo of woman lying in hospital bed

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Just a Little Talk with Jesus

red ant on green leaf

Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

From my 2009 Journal. God is SO big—bigger than my puny imagination can handle. I can see Him occupying heaven’s space with earth as His footstool. I feel like an ant in His sight. How does an ant talk to Someone so magnificent?

And Jesus says:

“I know. That’s why I came down to your level and became an ant. We want relationship with you. Why do you make prayer such a chore? Such a to-do list? Such a grocery list? Just talk to Me! I already know what’s on your mind and in your thoughts and in your heart. You don’t have to speak it for Me to know it. But I love having conversation with you. I love it when you tell Me about your day and when you’re worried and why you’re afraid and who you’re concerned about. Just talk. Just tell Me. And if you’d rather draw a picture in your mind, that’s okay too. I love you, you know. You already know you can trust Me. You just need to learn to relax and enjoy Me. You keep saying you need friends. I’m the best friend you’ll ever have!”

BOXES OF PRAYERS

Each prayer is like a seed that gets planted in the ground. It disappears for a season, but it eventually bears fruit that blesses future generations (Mark Batterson in Praying Circles around Your Children).

From my 2009 Journal. As I continue to struggle with the concept of prayer, I can see myself seated in the middle of a room, conversing with Jesus. A large number of boxes line the periphery of the room. What are those? I wonder.

Boxes 2

“They are your prayers,” He says. “You had a question about them?”

How did He know? (Well, duh. He knows everything.)

“Yes,” I say. “I want to know what good are they?” They’re in files, categorized and maybe even numbered, but here they all sit, here in my mind. What good are they? I can go to a box, pull out a file, read what I wrote, but so what?

“Would you like Me to take them off your hands?” He asks.

“Sure. You’re welcome to them.” I have no clue what He’s going to do with them, but I agree.

Several angels enter and start picking them up, loading them onto carts, and removing them from the room.

“So now what?”

“Just sit and talk to Me,” He says.

“What shall we talk about?” I ask.

“Anything we like,” He responds. “Got anything on your mind?”

Nothing comes to mind.

“Okay,” He says. “Want to play checkers?”

Really?! This is the answer to my question “What good are they?”

“Do you trust Me?”

“Explicitly,” I reply.

“Then don’t worry about it. The angels know what to do with them.”

I watch as one angel pulls out a file and reads the contents. He laughs. Is he mocking me? Was it a silly little prayer that I tucked into that folder?

“Not at all!” responds Jesus to my thoughts. “It’s giving him something to do. He has an errand to run and delights in fulfilling my commands.”

“Your commands?! But that was my prayer!” I exclaim.

“But you gave it to me, didn’t you? You said you trusted Me with it. Now it’s mine to do with as I please. Some of the prayers will get dispatched immediately. Others need to stay in the box a little longer—it’s not time yet. A few of these files don’t belong there. We’ll sort them out and discard the redundant ones and the soiled ones. (We will replace those with clean copies before they’re dispatched.) A few we’ll just toss in the fire if you don’t mind.”

“Mind? Of course not! I trust You to figure out which is which.”

“Good,” says Jesus. “Your move.”

I mull over what He’s just told me. “So I don’t need to figure out what to pray or write down? Just do it, file it, and keep handing the boxes off to You?”

“Yep, that’ll work.”

“Jesus . . . thank You.”

“You’re welcome. You still have a question?”

“Yeah . . . does a bigger folder get more attention than a smaller one? For example, if I pray for someone once, it creates one sentence on one sheet of paper and makes one skinny file. But if I pray for someone daily, their folder gets stuffed and may even need a filing cabinet to hold them all.

I sense at once that no single piece of paper gets lost. But . . .

“So what’s your question?”

“Do You give preference to bigger files?”

“Do you trust Me?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Really?”

“I think so.”

“What would happen if this room burned down and all the boxes were gone?”

“It would feel like a waste.”

“But what if one paper survived? What if it was made of an incorruptible material?”

I raise my eyebrows.

“What if that one item was your heart? Prayers are important enough, but it’s your heart that I care about even more.”

“Wow!”

And all this time my focus was on how many prayers I prayed, how long I prayed, what I prayed—all the “shoulds” and “supposed tos.”

There’s no should in a love relationship.

Intercessory Prayer—God’s Part vs. My part

From my 2009 Journal. I know that God loves the person I’m praying for, and He wants her to have relationship with Him. God knows what a person needs and will pursue relationship with each person in His creation because of His great love. So, God’s going to pursue her whether or not I pray and ask. So why pray?

It’s an age-old question. I know that prayer releases something in the spiritual realm that I can’t see. But everyone has a choice, and God will not violate a person’s will. So, what do my prayers for this person accomplish? Does it change God’s mind? Does it change the person’s mind? Of course I pray by faith, ask what I know is God’s will, and leave the results to Him. I know that. How then should I pray?

Jesus, I have a friend who needs relationship with You. Is there something You want me to do today that will nudge her closer to the kingdom?

Now there’s a prayer I can sink my teeth into!

U of the South 2 (2)

University of the South, Sewanee, TN

More Thoughts on Prayer

From my 2009 Journal. I want to learn to pray. I really do. It’s been a drive, a passion, and a pursuit of mine since junior high. It’s one of those spiritual disciplines that one never seems to master. I think I am motivated by what others do, say, preach, and model. I listen, attempt to imitate or explore, try to learn from . . . but ultimately, this conversation is between me and my Creator, no one else. Is He satisfied with my performance (or non-performance)? Is my heart right? At peace? Are my motives pure? If they’re not, can I trust God to reveal them to me? To expose me? I keep learning, trying, applying, but it never seems “enough.”

It’s the word enough that trips me up. More implies time. Is one minute a day in prayer enough? Is one hour? What about 20 hours? If I talked to my husband nonstop for two hours, I’d be tired. It’s okay occasionally, but I don’t make a habit of talking that much. I prefer to listen. So . . . if prayer is also listening, I can increase my “time” easily. But does a certain amount of time spent with someone indicate how much you care for them? No. but choosing to do so out of delight in being together does. “Having to” is totally different from “longing to.” [2020 Note: I’ve since learned that enough and more are not quantifiable and never satisfied, and that’s why Satan loves to bind us with them. Relationship is about connection more than just time spent, though time spent can certainly impact relationship.]

I recognize that some people are more naturally gifted in the art of communication. And I also know that it’s not just the words themselves that communicate. When I smile at someone, or when I frown, I’m communicating. Cannot God, who made me, interpret every nuance, know every secret longing, and read between the lines, or does He expect me to use words every time? Those who have been given a prayer language would say words aren’t always necessary.

So how do I go deeper? How do I find that place inside that is deeper than words? Are visuals the key for me? The word pray sounds so formal: on the knees, head down, petitioning the King for a boon or a favor. Sometimes prayer is like that. But sometimes it’s chatting with your best Friend around the dinner table. Or snuggling up in your Papa’s lap and telling Him how much you love Him and appreciate Him. And sometimes prayer is begging for mercy for having disobeyed Him while He’s holding the chastening rod. Perhaps prayer is just breathing in and out.

candySometimes my prayers are so shallow, without thought, childish, and me-centered. But Jesus understands that we’re frail and immature and ignorant. He doesn’t mind our childish babble—when we’re children. When my kids asked for candy, I knew it wasn’t always best for them and often said no, and I said no because of my love for them. But sometimes I said yes because it was fun to give them a treat. Candy before dinner on an empty stomach? Not such a good choice. But if they insisted and persisted and perhaps secretly ate some anyway, hopefully they soon learned from experience that getting a sugar high and crashing or feeling sick afterward or getting a headache wasn’t worth it. And so I can relax with my prayers. I can ask whatever I want but trust God to run interference for me if I run my mouth off the wrong way.

Bottom line: I delight in spending time talking to and listening to God. It’s not a chore. Sometimes I make appointments with Him, and I like to keep those appointments. And if God makes an appointment with me, I won’t miss it. He’ll make sure I’m there. He knows how to get my attention.

Live Long and Prosper

From my 2009 Journal. Why do we hold so hard onto life here on earth? Suicide, euthanasia, and murder are odious to us. Is staying alive a God-given survival instinct? What if we knew the date of our death? Would we accept it or bargain for more days?

In her last days, my mom observed, “The will to live is pretty strong,” and she fought hard till the end to stay here on earth. Shortly after she passed away, I read Isaiah 38, the record of King Hezekiah’s demise. God said to him: Set your house in order; you’re going to die.

Hezekiah wasn’t too happy about that announcement and he wept bitterly. Remember my good works and service to You,” he replied. And later, “I must depart . . . deprived of the remainder of my years . . . my sleep has fled, because of the bitterness of my soul . . . Give me back my health and make me live.

I cannot judge Hezekiah for his response. We do this all the time. The minute someone gets ill, we pray for their recovery. I don’t think that’s wrong—but I think it needs the condition “if it’s Your will.” What would happen if, when someone fell ill, we also prayed for their spiritual growth or acceptance of their plight?

We do not always know the mind of God. We think all affliction is bad, but sometimes it fulfills God’s purpose. In Hezekiah’s case, God told him directly that His will was that it was time for him to leave this earth. When we do know His will, why do we fight against God’s directions? Do we really think we know better? He knows our heart. Do we know His? Do we know the whole picture? The whole truth? (See Job).

Surprisingly, God responded to Hezekiah’s plea: I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. I’ll add 15 years to your life. And I’ll deliver Jerusalem from Assyria.

It is a comfort to me that the God of the Universe has an ear to His creation. He has compassion on our tears and He responds with abundance. Not only did He spare Hezekiah’s life, but He offered safety from his enemies. He answered Hezekiah’s prayer, but at what cost? During the remainder of his life, pride and arrogance took over his heart. Was 15 years on earth really better than 15 years he could have lived in heaven? I can picture Hezekiah arriving at the pearly gates, realizing the ignorance of his request, hitting his forehead with his the palm of his hand, and saying, “What was I thinking!?”

The Scriptures talk about long life being a blessing. We always assume a person’s life is cut short if he dies young. Somehow it seems easier to grieve an elderly person’s passing than a younger one. But from heaven’s perspective, the younger one has been spared an awful lot of heartache. If God’s best is for a person to live 5, 15, or 50 years, then he has lived for his full quota.

When God speaks, when He reveals His will, it is best to keep silent. I don’t think it’s wrong to struggle and work through our emotions—even Jesus struggled to accept the Father’s will—but our conclusion, in the end, must be, “God’s will be done.” I don’t want someone praying for me if they’re not praying the Father’s will!

I’m not near death’s door. When my time comes, will I, too, scramble for a foothold in order to stay bound to earth?

On Prayer—Doing It Right?

From my 2012 Journal. I started to pray for a friend, asking God to move all obstacles from his path. But then I paused. How can I be sure what obstacles are from God (remember Balaam’s angel?) and which are from Satan? And so I modify my prayer—please, Lord, remove all obstacles that belong to or originate from the enemy. And then I think again, “But what if God was the One who originated that idea (remember Job?) So again I change my prayer:  Lord, give courage, wisdom and strength to grow through all obstacles that You allow to enter my friend’s path. That sounds right.

Does God ever get tired of my asking for the same things every day? Every day, same prayers for the same people, with different words perhaps, or different needs prayed for. But same, same, same. And then I think of my three-year-old Grandson Jack. He walks in my front door, flings wide his arms, and cries out, “Hi Grandma!” followed by “Play Wii?” Every time. And my heart melts, and I delight in his childish exuberance, and I don’t mind that he asks for the same thing every time he greets me. He makes me smile. And maybe, just maybe I make God smile when I open my eyes in the morning and say, “Hi, God.”

To Whom should we pray?

From my 2009 Journal. I listened to a radio pastor yesterday who stated: we are to pray to the Father, through Jesus, by (I think he said) the Holy Spirit.

Always? Is it wrong to pray to Jesus? To the Holy Spirit? And are not all three God—equal, unified? Is it merely semantics? Or is it indeed the biblical model? When Jesus was on earth, He never told the disciples to “pray to Me.” Or did He? He said, “Ask Me what you will and I will grant it.” I know my prayers change in tone and in request depending on the One to whom I focus in prayer.

The Trinity is spatial to me. I visualize The Father high up, above, beyond the earth’s atmosphere, ruling the universe, sitting on His throne, judging, overseeing, in charge of the atoms, big, big, big. Jesus, on the other hand, is here, beside me, friend, intimate, sitting with me on the bed, at the table when I eat, watching over my shoulder while I’m at the computer, walking beside me at the grocery store. I see the Father watching over me; the Son is beside me. But the Holy Spirit is in me. He permeates every cell of my body and brain and heart, convicting, whispering truth into my innermost being, comforting, enlightening, revealing, opening my eyes, teaching.

Three separate Beings? Yes—and no. They are one—there is only one God, no longer separated now that Jesus is home again. They’re not “apart.” Just as I am made up of three separate (but unified) parts—I have a body, soul, and spirit. I can no more separate one from the other than God can divide Himself. I suspect it’s not as big an issue as we make it. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one after all!

I still have my earthly body, and my spirit/soul are finite/limited, but I am made in the image of God. I cannot pray to one “part” of God without praying to all parts. I suppose you could say that I could speak to my body, or I could talk to my “self” (my soul/mind), or I could converse with my spirit, but each part is aware of the other parts.

Just for fun, listen to people when they pray and note whom they address. What do you think this reveals?

When Prayer Is Not a Good Thing

From my 2016 Journal. Sometimes we pray out of our triggers; and God, for some reason, listens and answers our prayers—even when they’re not good for us or for others.

Moses begged God not to destroy the people of Israel and start over with a new nation. What if Moses hadn’t prayed and God did destroy His chosen people? Israel’s history would have been very different and forty years of desert wandering avoided.

Hezekiah begged for more years to be added to his life, and after God granted him an extra fifteen, this king turned to idolatry.

Abraham begged God to spare Lot’s life, and incest and warring nations ensued.

Hannah cried out for a son and then lived with the pain of giving Samuel up to be raised by an ungodly priest.

And yet—God is capable of turning bad into good.

And yet—we also suffer the consequences of our poor choices.

I wonder if I have ever begged God for something that was not good for me, and He relented, and I paid the consequences, but He turned it for good . . . I can’t think of anything right now, but I suspect I’ll be quite surprised when I find out the truth in heaven.

I think the lesson here is learning to ask God first what His will is, and then praying that prayer, rather than trying to twist His arm to do mine.

Have you ever noticed that the majority of our church prayer requests are for physical needs? We list all known ills from a sister-in-law’s cousin Becky who has cancer to Great-uncle Bob who just had a toenail removed. We pray and ask for healing and get all excited when someone is “miraculously” healed. But what if . . . just what if . . . God had a better plan but He relented and gave me what I asked for? Even Jesus was discerning as to whom He touched and whom He healed. And He certainly didn’t raise everyone from the dead.

For me, personally, I want to glorify God whether I’m ill or well. I can’t ask for something with great assurance unless I discern first that He desires it, lest like a child begging for candy, I do more harm than good. But if I ask for good things, I can trust my loving, heavenly Father to supply what I need.

What’s your experience?

Candy

To Pray or not to Pray

From my 2016 Journal. A conversation

Karen: There are a lot of people out there who need my prayers.

Jesus: (with raised eyebrows) Oh really?

Karen: Well, isn’t that true? We’re taught, commanded, instructed to pray.

Jesus: (smiles) True. But that’s not why you pray.

Karen: It’s not?

Jesus: You pray because you love Me and I love you. It’s not a duty, a job, or a task to fulfill, a checklist to complete. People don’t need your prayers. I’m quite capable of taking care of them.

Karen: Ouch. Yes, Lord.

Jesus: I just want you to be with Me. I’ll guide your mind. Talk to Me about these people who are on your heart. I will listen, and I will consider your requests, but I know what’s best, and My will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. I know your concerns. I know your thoughts before you even express them. But spoken words are important. “Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth.”

I have been a lifelong student on the subject of prayer and have met many who are skilled at verbalizing their prayers, but I have yet to meet anyone who believes they have mastered the discipline of an inner prayer life. Tell me what you’ve learned on your journey of intimacy with God.

Prayer