My Prayer a Year Later—Here’s Hope!

Among my papers here in North Carolina, I found a prayer that I had written last year.  Reading it was like hearing it for the very first time.  I guess that’s what the passage of a year had done.  After reading it a couple of times, I now remember what inspired the prayer: the death of one of Mom’s friends here, and the fact that there are many people here who are sick and dying.  Here’s the prayer I wrote last year:

Lord, show me my boundaries.  I want to live by faith, and I want to grow my faith, and I want to help others to grow their faith.  Here’s the thing: lots of people accept sickness and death and poverty, saying, “God is sovereign,” and “My suffering brings glory to God.”  But, Lord, I’m not convinced that Your will includes sickness, suffering, and lack for Your servants, Your children.  You know I’m not a “prosperity gospel” person, but Your Word says that you are able to abundantly bless me so that in all things, at all times, and having all that I need, I may abound to every good work.  I don’t see where that leaves room for lack.  And maybe the key is that Your people who do suffer lack do not abound to every good work, but instead to the desires of their flesh—only You know.

And about sickness, Your Word is full of healing.  Only once does healing seem to be refused to one of Your people, but that “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8) appears not to be sickness, but literally a “messenger of satan.”  I acknowledge Your sovereignty, and absolutely don’t want to dispute, doubt, or deny that fact.  I only want to know the boundaries.  I want to have faith that heals the sick and raises the dead—and through faith to bring You glory.  But if I’m wrong, if some are denied healing, I want to know that.  How can I build up peoples’ faith if I can’t be sure where the boundaries are?  So please, please, Lord, show me the boundaries between my faith and Your sovereignty.

At the bottom of the page I had written:

Matthew 15:18-20 – Our words defile us

1 Corinthians 11:30 – . . . for this reason many of you have fallen asleep (died).  Communion in an unworthy manner = sickness and death.

In reading this prayer a year later, I remember the anguish I was in.  I want to have hope.  I want to bring others hope.  How can I do that if God refuses healing for some people?  And when I prayed about it, God gave me the following Word of hope:

Matthew 17:19-21 – Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it [a demon] out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

So it comes back to faith.  I angered some folks when I wrote in my blog in 2012 that the reason they don’t see healing and financial provision in their lives is because of their lack of faith (see Laboring for a God-Given Dream).  And, indeed, when I prayed for Mom’s friend to be healed, she wasn’t healed, but died instead.  That was what threw me into this tailspin.  But I wasn’t wrong.  It is a matter of faith or the lack thereof.

Here’s more hope: If you don’t have enough faith, you can ask for it.  But be prepared!  Asking for more faith is like asking for more patience.  God will answer it by allowing circumstances that test and develop that faith (or patience).  Both faith and patience are among the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which are the birthright (re-birthright!) of all believers.  The better thing to do is to ask God for more of the Holy Spirit, which is simply more of God, Himself.  As Jesus said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13, emphasis mine).  And remember, God is good!

A Party in Heaven

Yesterday I went to a funeral in San Remo.  I went because my friend, Nina, told me that I should go.  When I pointed out that I hadn’t known him, she pointed out the obvious thing that I was missing in my momentary selfishness: it’s not for him, but for his family, and particularly for his daughter, who is a good friend.  I hadn’t wanted to go because I knew that it would be an entire day devoted to getting there, a funeral that’s probably a couple of hours, and coming back.  During the brief time between mission trips, I have plenty of things to do: catch up on my bookkeeping tasks, laundry and other housekeeping chores, and catching up with friends here in Milan and with my correspondence.  But, of course, Nina was right, so I chose the better thing, which was to go and be there for my friend.

This morning I went to the prayer group at church.  It’s an hour by bus across town, so I was praying.  I began to feel a deep longing and desperation in my spirit for more of God.  It is true that I have surrendered everything to Him, and that I live for Him, but honestly, sometimes it feels like I’m just playing around at Christianity.  The issue that keeps coming up for me lately is living in God’s supernatural power.  Deep within me I keep feeling that God hasn’t called me to live an ordinary life of going to church, praying for friends and hoping that they’re helped, and just going through the motions—an imitation of Christianity: Christianity lite.  There is a conviction in my heart that we are supposed to be living a life that is truly extraordinary.  This crazy belief comes from the Bible.  Only non-believers lived ordinary lives throughout all the Bible.  And in the New Testament, the extraordinary became even more “normal” for Christians.

I think everything changed when the Church became legal and institutionalized.  But even since then there have been some Christians who have lived extraordinary lives full of the supernatural power of God.  I had wondered if it was wrong to want more of the spiritual gifts (see “Laughing in My Dreams,” chapter 2, The Table).  God told me that the spiritual gifts are really just more of Him.  So this morning, I was praying on the bus for more of God.  The more I prayed, the more desperate I felt.  But I also began to know that this is what God wants for me, too.

I don’t just want more of God so that I can show a mighty display of His power to the world (although that would be really cool!).  I want it for the Body of Christ, for His Church around the world.  If we don’t operate above the level of the world, why on earth would non-believers want to become Christian?  If we suffer sickness, depression, doubts, lack, and fears just like the rest of the world, then what have we got to offer them?  If all this is just for the sweet by-and-by, but not for today, why bother?  But we are called to be different—vastly different—than the world.  They should hold their breath when we enter the room, watching and wondering what we’re going to do next: miraculous healing, prophecy, raise the dead?  They are limited by the natural laws, but we are not, or at least, we shouldn’t be.

I can’t help but be drawn by the contrast of a funeral and a living hope.  It’s in the darkness that the light shines the brightest.  We are in this world, but we need to shake ourselves loose of its fetters that keep us from living the extraordinary life we were made to live.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  Romans 8:22-23, The Message

Yes, that’s what it is that I have been feeling today: birth pangs for the restoration of what we are truly meant to be living.  And let me tell you, there’s nothing like birth pangs to send you to your knees in prayer!  God is good!