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Pray Like You Mean It: We Often Give Up Too Easily

A man bows his head in prayer while sitting on a wooden pew in a traditional church building, glowing stained glass windows visible behind him. Horizontal image with copy space.

By Andrea Johnson 

A few years back one of our daughter Leslee’s friends had a six-month-old son with an aggressive, malignant brain tumor. Doctors were not giving the parents much hope. In just days little Ari had gone from being a bouncing baby boy full of energy who loved to clap, babble, snuggle, and play peek-a-boo to not being able to hold his head up. 

Leslee knew she could count on us and our friends to pray. But she had one stipulation: She didn’t want anyone praying mealy-mouthed prayers that lacked faith. 

Honestly, the request made me feel a little like the father of the demon-possessed boy who had brought his son to Jesus to be healed (Mark 9:14-27, NLT). The boy’s father prayed his own mealy-mouthed prayer: “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”   

I wonder if Jesus was a bit insulted as He answered, “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” He then placed the responsibility for the healing squarely on the shoulders of the boy’s father when he said, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 

I love the father’s honesty as he replies, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” 

If I’m honest, I know deep down that God can do ANYthing! But I’ve also learned that His ways are not always mine. Healing doesn’t always take the form I want it to nor does it always occur on my timetable. So when I pray for healing, I wonder, What if God chooses not to heal? What if I’m not praying with enough faith? I think about the stories in the Bible of people who were healed. At some point, they died! In fact the Bible tells us that “each person is destined to die once” (Hebrews 9:27). Even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, is no longer with us. Paul instructed Timothy to take a little wine to help with his stomach issues (1 Timothy 5:23). And on more than one occasion Paul had to leave one of his ministry partners behind because they were sick (2 Timothy 4:20). As well, a saint’s arrival into heaven is a glorious event.  

Thankfully, God’s ability to heal doesn’t depend on us or whether we understand the concept of healing. And if we ask Him to, as did the father in the story, God will even help us overcome our unbelief. But to do that, we have to look to Him, not the medical reports nor the stories from the “negative Nancys” seeming to pop up out of the woodwork, so eager to share their sad tales as soon as we get a grim diagnosis. We need to immerse ourselves in Scriptures and acknowledge what a gracious and awesome God we serve. He’s the One who created and sustains the entire universe! And He’s the One who notes every tear that trickles down our cheeks. We need to recount the countless prayers He has answered for us in the past.  

Thankfully, God’s ability to heal doesn’t depend on us or whether we understand the concept of healing. And if we ask Him to, as did the father in the story, God will even help us overcome our unbelief. But to do that, we have to look to Him, not the medical reports nor the stories from the “negative Nancys” seeming to pop up out of the woodwork, so eager to share their sad tales as soon as we get a grim diagnosis.”

When any of our seven grandchildren ask me for a snack, they know that I am able and more than willing to provide that for them. In fact, soon after our grand-twins were big enough to walk, upon their arrival they would immediately make their way to our kitchen table and climb atop the bench, expectantly awaiting their treat. I cherish those memories! And trust me, if the kids think I haven’t heard their request, they will not simply give up and go play, not if they are really hungry. When spending the night, my granddaughter used to come into our room at 4:00 in the morning and whisper excitedly, “Grandma, let’s go make breakfast!” These precious little souls will keep asking until I say yes and provide the treat (usually a chocolate chip cookie because that’s my favorite!) or until I say no because it’s too close to mealtime. Sometimes, not often, I may offer an apple or carrots if they’ve already had too much sugar. They are always appreciative, and I am more than happy to continue this tradition. They KNOW I love them beyond measure. 

I wonder, do we KNOW God loves us and that He has the ability to heal us? If so, that should affect the way we pray. Are we willing to accept the fact that He may use doctors or a healthier lifestyle to provide the healing?  

What about the times in the Bible where someone was not healed? Paul’s thorn in the flesh is a good example. Paul didn’t pray a mealy-mouthed prayer and then abandon his request. He kept asking God until He was certain of the answer. 

So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” 

(2 Corinthians 12:7-9). 

We often give up too easily, before we’ve heard God’s answer and lacking the belief that He would heal us. And yet faith is not something we have to conjure up to get our own way. Faith is trusting in a God who is big enough and gracious enough to give us what is best for us. We need to pray like we believe that! 

What about Ari? Thanks for asking! He has medical challenges, but he is winning his fight with cancer and improving daily. We continue to fight with him on our knees.

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