PRAYER AND HEALING
“I’ll pray God will heal your friend.”
“I’ll pray God will heal you.”
Sometimes these promises make me feel uncomfortable. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an offer for prayer? I’ve used the word “offer,” but it’s really more of a statement.
After you share your health struggles or those someone close to you with a Christian friend, there’s often silence. And then …
“I’ll pray for healing.”
How does this make you feel? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but often it leaves me feeling uncomfortable. Here’s why:
I’M UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN PEOPLE OFFER TO PRAY FOR HEALING – EVEN THOUGH I’M CHRISTIAN
I used the word “uncomfortable,” but I think there are four specific emotions I feel when someone promises to pray for healing. It depends on the situations, but it can leave me feeling:
“Do you think I haven’t tried praying for healing?” I want to shout. “Do you think that in my five months, five years, or forty years of illness no one has tried prayer?”
“What makes your prayers so special? Are you saying that I’m doing it all wrong? Are you saying that God will listen to you and not to me and the countless others who have tried before?”
During times when you’re feeling particularly despondent about you own or your loved one’s illnesses, it’s easy to be annoyed by a promise of prayer.
“Your sympathy is too much,” I want to whisper. “I don’t deserve the compassion and the pity radiating from your eyes.”
“Perhaps I’ve exaggerated. Perhaps it’s not so bad. You have struggles yourself, you shouldn’t waste time praying for me and my family. Besides, when was the last time I prayed for healing?”
At times, when illness has become normal for you, or your loved one is going through an OK period, it’s easy to feel guilty when someone else’s passion and desire for healing seems to outweigh your own.
“Illness is an intensely personal thing in some ways, and I feel embarrassed hearing that you will pray for me.”
Part of me doesn’t want my or my loved one’s suffering to be man-handled by others. It can be awkward to hear that people will be praying about my family life over someone’s dinner table.
Healing from chronic illness is something that’s so entangled with my deepest hopes and fears that I’m not even sure I want to talk about it. It’s private and sacred and terrifying.
In certain stages of life being “prayed for” can feel scary and invasive.
“Is that all you can give me? I share my suffering and you give me a four-word promise in response: ‘I’ll pray for healing’?”
It feels like a cop out, a handy way to end a conversation. A platitude designed to help us all feel better – a cliche. It’s a nice, safe thing, this promise. It doesn’t involve tangling with messy lives.
When you’re feeling particularly discouraged, a promise of prayer can sound like empty words.
HOW TO RESPOND WHEN PEOPLE OFFER TO PRAY FOR HEALING
I’m not going to tell you the above responses are wrong. Nor am I going to tell you they’re right. I am however, going to tell you the one thing I think is lacking.
You see, all the above responses are about us. The people suffering or watching suffering. To some degree that’s how it ought to be, but at the same time, really should not.
We pray because God calls us to pray.
PRAYER IS ALL ABOUT GOD
Prayer is all about God. It’s also about others.
What does that mean?
It means that it doesn’t really matter how we feel about it. Prayer is really nice, of course, when it encourages and uplifts us. It’s wonderful when prayer makes us feel loved or grows love in our hearts.
But when when prayer instead frustrates or embarrasses us, when it annoys us or makes us feel guilty, that doesn’t mean prayer is wrong, and it doesn’t mean our friends are insincere, it means our hearts are hurting and in need of comfort, patience, and compassion.
*First published at calledtowatch.com. **Republished with permission.
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Emily J. Maurits
Chronic Joy® Contributing Writer
After working for several years in the public health sector, Emily is now studying theology. She believes we are all called to love suffering people, because that's what Jesus did. She is passionate about equipping and encouraging others to do just that, and founded www.calledtowatch.com for the family and friends of those with chronic illnesses. As well as uncovering God's presence in the chaos of life, she enjoys reading, running, and writing, with her memoir coming out next year.
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