Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Power (or not?) of Prayer

Children are dying. Everyday. I have heard of four just this past month. And today, as I went to preschool to read to Whit's class, I find out a 5 year old precious member of our church was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. I want to scream and throw up at the same time. Why is this happening?? Why are our children dying of cancer?!? I feel helpless and pointless and scared....because, by the way, once you actually lose a child, it doesn't mean you've "paid your dues." I am highly aware and sensitive to the fact I could lose another. And that makes me want to die. It's so risky, this business of having children. It's the most vulnerable you will ever be because the love you feel for them is so overwhelming and intense....which makes something happening to them (or even the thought of something happening to them) so incredibly painful and hard to take. What can we do? Before Webb died, I would say we should round up the troops, pray like crazy and hope for a miracle. And I suppose even after Webb died, I would still say the same things, but for very different reasons. Before Webb died, I believed if we prayed hard enough, long enough and had enough people by our side, we could change the outcome. I know now that is not how it works. God can still perform a miracle, but it won't be because we stormed the throne and "made" him do so. Why did I ever think I was important enough or powerful enough to change God's mind?? God already knows what the outcome will be. He knows the day we find out the diagnosis whether He will perform a miracle of healing or whether He will call someone home. No matter how many "prayer petitions" or "prayer warriors" or how many people we have lined up begging Him for the same thing, the outcome is still up to God. And we don't get to change His mind. Of course we don't. Do you really think God looked down on us and said, "Well, Webb is sick, but they only got 1000 people to pray, and the little girl down the hall got 2000, so I will spare her and 'take' Webb." ?? No. That is obviously not how it works. SO WHAT IS THE POINT? WHY EVEN PRAY? My past few Bible study groups have wrestled with this question, as I know many, many more have for time immemorial. What is the point of prayer? If God already knows the outcome, why do we bother? I don't know for sure. But to quote a dear friend (hi, Amy Walker)- the point of prayer is not to change's to change you. Because not one person can lay in the bed with their sick or dying child, calling out to God for a miracle for 3 straight days and nights, and walk away without a changed perspective on the world. And having been that person, who laid in that bed and went home with every single prayer unanswered, I can still tell you God listened. And yes, if He performed a miracle and healed Webb that day, I would have given Him all the glory and probably even said it was the power of prayer. But really, the healing would have been the power of God...the prayers would have changed the people praying but not the ultimate outcome. I know the Bible teaches us to pray. We have to, for our sake and for our sanity. But what about when the prayers are unanswered? What then? Do we pull away from God because He does not constantly perform miracles? Of course not. I still pray. All the time. I still ask God for a certain outcome, even if I believe He already knows what that outcome is. And I am a better person for the prayer, even if I sometimes do not know the point. My God still is the all-powerful healer, and the one who performs miracles. We just don't get to tell Him when He should do it. All this is to say, yes, I think you should keep praying. Of course I think you should still ask for a miracle and for healing when you or your loved one is sick. But don't feel forsaken if those prayers aren't answered - it's nothing you did or didn't do. The flip side of saying that healing was caused by the power of prayer is that death happened because we didn't pray enough. And I just cannot believe God works that way. All that said, I would ask for the thousands of parents who have recently lost their child or may lose them and are living through an absolute nightmare right now- we need to round up the troops, pray like crazy and hope for a miracle. The miracle will be up to God. The change will be in you.