I sat five rows from the front, right side of the auditorium. In the half-hour before, I’d heard a compelling and convicting sermon on Luke 11 and the power of prayer. Jesus left no doubt as to the purpose and potential of prayer. His instructions read black and white:
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10 (NIV)
To put an exclamation point on the message, the pastor then directed our attention to a video. The video told the story of a woman who had been unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. A routine CT revealed multiple large masses — advanced and terminal disease. She was devastated, overwhelmed. So she drove to her local church and asked for prayer. Three people surrounded her, laid hands on her, and prayed for her healing and peace. Comforted by the prayers of strangers, she left the church, ready to face whatever came.
Two weeks later, she awoke from the surgery to discover the cancer had disappeared. The tumors didn’t shrink or reduce in number. They simply vanished! When the team of doctors opened her up, they could find no evidence of disease. A miracle!
My heart leapt in celebration with this woman and her unexpected healing. What a gift! God’s goodness and generosity astounds me.
At the same time, I know of too many who haven’t received such a miracle. The tumors didn’t disappear. One surgery became the first of many. The hope of a quick healing became a life shortened by disability or death. When considering such, Jesus’ apparent black-and-white words become a murky grey of disillusionment and confusion.
Why does God deliver some miracles and seemingly withhold others? Why does He heal one woman and not another? Why pray when it delivers such unpredictable results?
I’ve been fighting cancer on and off for almost eleven years now. This is my longest stretch without a recurrence, and for that I’m thankful. At the same time, the fear of it hovers on the fringes, reminding me that I live on borrowed time. Perhaps that is my miracle, still being here.
And yet, I live with the pain and disability of a body that’s been ravaged by disease and the treatments to overcome it. Some days living doesn’t feel like a healing, the pain wears a soul down. Some days I question even while I give thanks: Why the many years of suffering?
I find great comfort in an old, familiar story of three men in the book of Daniel. Faced with being burned alive in a furnace of fire for refusing to worship false gods and a pagan King, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had to choose: denounce their confidence in the One True God or believe Him one more time.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV)
Our God is able, and he will deliver . . .
But even if he does not . . .
Hidden in these two phrases is my secret for making peace with the prayers that are answered and those which are not. My God is able, there is no doubt in my mind. He can make tumors disappear, bring prodigals home, heal marriages that are broken. He can make a way where there is no way, and He has done so more times than you and I know.
But even if He does not, He is still worthy of my worship. I trust Him in the healing and the absence of it. I trust Him in the answers and in the questions. I trust Him in what I know and what I do not know.
Because I need Him more than I need healing. He is my rock, my joy, my True North. The object of my affection isn’t this body, this life. It’s the face of the One who saved me. And although I’ll keep praying bold and audacious prayers, I do so knowing He’s already given me what I need most:
Keep praying, my friends. Keep asking, seeking, knocking, and believing, with great boldness and confidence. Our God is able to deliver you. But even if He does not, remember:
What you and I need most is not the thing we’re praying for but the One we’re praying to.Leave a Comment