I am a firm believer in prayer, in fact, I wrote a book about prayer and about adopting a personal prayer life, so prayer is a big thing in my book. For most of us, prayer gets reduced to a few moments once a week, or maybe each day, where we tick off a laundry list of things that we would like God to do, heal this one, get a job for this one, let the Red Sox win the World Series, etc. we have this long list of things but do we ever listen for a response? Prayer, like a conversation, is a two-way street and there is a list of things that God wants us to do as well.
Today, we hear the story of two people healed of their disease; one is cured because her father asked Jesus to heal her and the other was cured because she showed persistence in getting to Jesus and just touching the hem of his garment. Although there was some work involved, the father had to ask, and the woman had to fight her way through the crowd, they were healed because of their faith. But, before we go any further, it could have also gone the other way. Like all miracle stories, Jesus uses these incidents not only to help someone but to bring glory to God. So let’s unpack this a little.
In my “From the Pastor Column” in the weekly email, I shared a little about my previous work as a hospice chaplain. If any of you have any experience with the hospice process, you know what a blessing it is not only for the person dying but also for the family. I always felt it was an honor to be with someone when they took their final breath. It did not always work out that I was there for that special moment, but the times I was there it was indeed a blessing and an honor.
The whole premise of the hospice experience is to make the patient, and the family, comfortable with the natural process of dying. Understandably so, we try everything to prevent a loved one from dying, but at some point, the decision has to be made to let them go and so hospice makes that process as peaceful as possible. I have prayed with many hospice patients, and the ones who could talk, always wanted me to pray, not for them, but for those they were leaving behind. They felt whatever was going to happen to them was going to happen and they wanted their families to find peace.
We often think of answered prayer for healing in the physical sense but what about spiritual and emotional healing?
Often we expect some form of physical healing but what of the spiritual healing. Perhaps God had answered their prayers and healed them or their loved one of the fear of dying. Maybe they were relieved of their fear of the unknown. Perhaps God paved the way for their loved one to reconcile with someone who had done them wrong or they were provided an opportunity for forgiveness that they had long been withholding. You see, healing is not always physical and spiritual healing is just as important as the physical.
I have witnessed many miracles in ministry; brothers reconciled after 20 or more years estranged. A father and a son who spoke to each other after many years of silence between them. Found money when all hope seemed to be lost. Having just enough food to feed all of those who needed something to eat. Miracles happen all around us every day all we have to do is look for them.
But what about our part in all of this?
I mentioned at the start that God has a list of things for us to do as well and all we need to do is listen. God wants to have a conversation with us. I know that sometimes we might be a little afraid that God is going to ask us to do something we either do not want to do or are not able to do. Well, God will not call those he does not equip, and if we say yes to that call, God will take care of the rest. Spend time with God each day. If it has been a while since you two have spoken, start slow and work up. Read Scripture and sit with it for a few moments. It is not the amount of time we spend together it is the quality of time we spend. Just one word of caution, if you are one who likes to close their eyes when they pray, don’t do it while driving.
As a church community, we are entering a process that is probably the most serious process that a congregation has to face, calling a new pastor. This search will require much prayer, so start now and develop a habit of prayer. Prayer for those that will be chosen to form a search committee, pray and see if you might be one of the ones called for that task. Pray for me as I push and prod those called and chosen. And pray for the person whom God has already chosen to come here.
As with all things we need to remember that we need to let God be in control, we need to do the work, but we need to take our guidance from God. Remember the words of Jesus in the garden towards the end of his life; “not my will but your will.”