Monday, August 29, 2011
What Do You Want God to Do When You Pray?
Someone recently asked me a very thoughtful and basic question about the Christian faith that often doesn't get the attention it deserves. The question was, "What do you want God to do when you pray?" Specifically, this person was asking what I'm trying to do when I pray for someone who is in need of physical healing.
My quick and unreflective answer would be that I am praying for God to intervene directly and bring healing to the person who is ill. But I wouldn't be honest if I answered the question that way because that's not the substance of my prayers in those situations.
I notice that in these situations, my prayers tend to go something like this:
"Dear God, we turn to you this day to pray for ______________ who is facing ____________________. You know his/her needs in this moment. Thank you that you care about our bodies and you desire for us to be healthy. Bless the doctors, the nurses, (the surgeon), and the caregivers that they would be instruments of your healing for _________________________. Remind ______________ that he/she is not alone. You are with him/her through the presence of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for your church and for the people who are praying for us even now. We pray for your healing presence upon _____________ this day. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we pray. Amen."
This prayer reflects my theology that God desires to participate with us (the doctors, caregivers, loved ones, etc.) in bringing to bear God's healing love upon the person. My prayer asks God to bless the skills of all of these people for the purpose of healing. God is still the ultimate healer, but has created us to be a blessing to others.
Yes, I do believe that God has been known to intervene directly and sometimes even in isolation of human aid, but this is not the typical pattern of how God works. I can't explain why this is the case except that from the very beginning of creation, God has chosen to rescue the world from sin and death through the calling and participation of people like Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, the prophets, the disciples, the church, and yes...you and me!
While I long for God to intervene directly especially in those cases where human wisdom and strength fall short and I will never fully know the ways of God, I also believe that a time is coming when God's kingdom will fill this earth completely and sin, injustice, disease, death will be defeated once and for all.
Until that time comes, I continue to pray for God to bless and strengthen the skills of those who are in the medical profession that they would be instruments of God's healing grace and love. At the same time, I seek to remain humble at the mysterious ways in which God brings about healing in our world.