By: Cynthia Butler
Helen got to the hospital as fast as she could. The doctors had given her mother five days to live. But Helen knew this was not the end. She had prayed, and she was sure God would answer her prayer. Everyone was worried—her sister, her brother, the nurses—but Helen wasn’t worried; she just fasted and prayed and sat by her mother reading scripture. The nurses were shocked when Helen was able to feed some Ugali to her mother. “She is swallowing?” they marveled. The next day Helen brought a banana and a mango, and her mom ate them both. The nurses weren’t done worrying, though. “Her blood sugar will go too high,” they fussed, as if this would make her die sooner than the predicted five days. But Helen had assurance in her heart, and her mother continued to improve. Within three days Mrs. Sabia was ready to return home, no longer on death’s doorstep. Helen’s faith had been confirmed and her mother was healing well. She had seen the answer to her prayer in her spirit before anyone else had seen it with their eyes.
When I hear about faith like that, I want it, too. This must be what Jesus was talking about when He said, “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) If I would follow these instructions when I pray for my own healing I’d be free of anxiety after releasing my prayer to God. It wouldn’t even bother me that I didn’t see the answer to my prayer yet or didn’t feel any different. I would know for sure that the change was on its way.
So why don’t I feel that sense of relief after praying? Maybe it’s because it’s hard to believe something when there is no tangible evidence. But there are times when I accept something based solely on someone’s word, especially if they’re supposedly an expert in their field. So an inability to believe without immediate proof is not really the root of my problem.
I remember a while back I was doing a little introspective thinking. What is my first impulse when I get sick? Go to bed? Go to the doctor? Take a pill? Why isn’t my first impulse to pray? It’s as though I think that prayer is a nice gesture, but it is ineffective.
Have you ever heard someone say this? “There’s nothing we can do; we can only pray”, as if praying is doing nothing. But I’ve been there, too. When my daughter has a fever, I fret until I give her medicine to reduce the temperature. Then my mind is more at ease, and I can sleep, knowing that she will cool down soon. I haven’t seen any improvement yet, but I have already believed it will happen. Based on my behavior it looks like I have more faith in medicine than in God.
I think this is the issue: somewhere along the way I got the impression that when it comes to prayer there are no guarantees. I wouldn’t say it out loud, but this must be what’s going through my head: “I better try to fix this situation myself because God’s not doing anything about it.” But He said He would if I‘d just believe. So the problem is not that He’s apathetic or slow or incompetent or even unwilling. The problem is, I haven’t believed Him.
If I can get it through my head that He really has guaranteed, “you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John14:14) then maybe I will feel more confidence in prayer than in popping pills. Not that I have anything against medicine in general. My dad’s a doctor, and I respect him and his work. God can grant healing through medicine. But if I could have my choice between running around town visiting doctors or kneeling in my room praying, I’d choose the latter. And of course there are some things that even the most learned practitioners can’t cure. But God is unlimited, and He’s inviting us to request, believe and receive. So here’s what I want to work toward: after I pray to God for healing, I want to consider it done.
What exactly will that look like? Well, for one thing, I won’t stress out trying to find a solution to the problem. I’m starting to think I should probably do more praying than thinking, anyway, because God already knows the answer. If midway through my prayer I start trying to formulate a plan B (just in case God doesn’t come through) I am probably not praying in faith.
Secondly, I won’t be afraid. The writer of Psalm 91 tells us: “He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . He will not fear. . .” That makes sense. Why worry about anything when God is taking care of everything. I think of the scripture that says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6-7). Even before we stop praying we can already begin thanking, knowing that the Lord has sprung into action. When I truly believe that, I’ll be happy, excited even, like someone holding a big paycheck. It wouldn’t even matter if I were broke, because I’d know my situation was about to change. Problem solved!
And one more thing, when I get a hold of this I believe I’ll do a little less tiptoeing around my “condition”. If there’s something I feel God wants me to do, I won’t let a “handicap” excuse me from it. I’ll assume that if He calls me, He’ll equip me. Several years ago I was invited to lead a weekly Bible study for students at the elementary school where I was teaching. I turned down the opportunity at first because I thought I had better rest my voice. Having just undergone surgery on my vocal chord, I had not fully recovered my vocal strength although I was medically healed. But I think I knew that this was what God wanted me to do, and I couldn’t let “no” be my final answer. I’m so glad I reconsidered. I got to disciple a group of children throughout the year, and two children ended up accepting the Lord as their savior.
I can’t believe I almost missed out on one of the most fruitful endeavors of my life. I was trying to guard my own health, but that’s the Lord’s job. Now I want to be unguarded toward God. I know He may ask me to do some things that feel a little scary to me. But I don’t just want to follow Him when it’s convenient. I can trust God with abandon, because I know He is my protector, and He is stronger than anything that comes against me.