Ok, strange title for a blog by a minister. But it is important to say this. I know this because Donna told me I should write on it. When She tells me that, it is important:-). I believe in prayer—but not for the reason most people, even most Christians—pray. Years ago I told my congregation “Prayer is about the relationship, not the request”.
We don’t pray to “get” something—or for that matter just to ask for it. But for many, prayer is a mechanism by which we tap into God’s power to attain whatever it is we most want. We might want something good or something bad. It doesn’t matter. Prayer isn’t supposed to be about us GETTING something. It is about our relationship with God. God wants us to talk to him because he is our father and we are his children. God doesn’t NEED us to talk to him. He wants us to, because he created us to have a relationship with him, and that includes communication.
So, why does prayer sometimes scare me? Because right now I know of two families who are drifting—maybe walking or running—away from the Lord. They are people going through some things which are very difficult—I get that. But they prayed. They asked God to change things. They asked God to give them what they wanted. And when God didn’t do what they wanted, they got mad at God. They decided God let them down. They blame God for what they’re going through (when both pragmatically and theologically the blame rests squarely on them). I have seen this dynamic many times before—it isn’t just these two families. And I see it potentially in the prayers being offered on my behalf right now.
Next week I will have a medical procedure done which might save my life—a stem cell transplant. Without it, over the next few years, I will slowly degenerate and slowly but certainly die. So, I’m going through the procedure. But the procedure itself is dangerous—it sometimes kills people. The stark reality is I could die next week from the treatment, not the disease. In my case, the odds, medically, are greatly in my favor.
But that isn’t why I am at peace with this. I am at peace because I prayed and I know that God will heal me, right?
WRONG! (I put that in caps and bold—not sure how to make it louder:-). I’ll explain why I am at peace below.
A few days ago I was talking to a friend who told me, “You’re going to be fine. I am claiming that!”
“Claiming” that? Show me this in scripture. Anywhere. It isn’t there. We can “Claim” all we want, but if God hasn’t promised it (and he NEVER promised healing to those of us who are sick—that’s why we all die), God isn’t bound by our claim.
So what happens to my friend’s faith if I die? He claimed my healing, and it didn’t happen. God let him down. God doesn’t care. God is mean. God can’t be trusted. And faith goes away. And it isn’t because God can’t be trusted. It is because he prayed for something and believes God is now obligated to give him what he wants!
Never mind God never promised healing. Never mind that I am a sinner and deserve death and even hell. Never mind that God has a perfect plan to eternally save me—and he is carrying that out. None of this matters because God didn’t do what my friend wanted him to do.
That’s why his prayer scares me.
IF YOU CARE ABOUT ME, OR HAVE EVER SAID YOU APPRECIATE MY TEACHING AND LEADERSHIP, PLEASE DO NOT PUT YOURSELF OR OTHERS IN A POSITION WHERE MY CIRCUMSTANCES COULD CAUSE YOU TO LOSE FAITH! THIS IS LITERALLY THE ONE THING IN LIFE I FEAR TODAY. (notice those bold caps again?)
We have no right to “claim” or “trust” or “count on” anything God has not promised. To do so is to take God’s name and authority for ourselves and ignore his sovereignty.
I am not at peace because I know God will heal me. I am at peace because I know I am with him whether he does or not. This isn’t “resignation”. This is peace and joy. As Paul said in Philippians, “To live is Christ (serving him), to die is gain (being with him bodily, eternally).” Even in the outworking of the penalty for my own sin (sickness and death) I can’t lose! Either way, I am with the Lord. And the sadness of my family and friends will be soothed by the knowledge that, if they belong to the King, they are going to be with us as well!
So, how do I pray? The King knows my heart, and the fact that I cherish the gifts of love, family and service he has given me. If I am allowed to enjoy them longer, I would love that. But that isn’t and never has been my prayer. My prayer is that in whatever I encounter during this process—however unpleasant and difficult it seems—I would honor him and be faithful. And now, my prayer is that you would do the same. If you wish to pray for my healing, feel freeJ. I am not “giving up”. I am fighting the disease.
But understand that “healing” now isn’t even close to the most important thing. Not for me. Not for you.
Join me in praying that we would be faithful to the King—and one day we will be together, bowing before him—knowing a joy and completeness that we will never experience until that time!
For health updates during my Adventure go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/theadventure