Prayer and Pray-er

 

On June 23 Judy and Cammie headed back to Houston because Cammie’s “atrium”, which collects the fluid from the chest tube, was clogging up. We thought it would be a fairly simple deal. It wasn’t. She ended up going to emergency and getting a bed there because there was not another available bed in the whole hospital. They replaced the one tube and added a second one, and put her on a course of antibiotics. Two days later she got a room and ended up being in the hospital a total of a week.

We are all back home now….happily back home.

We have not been shy about the purpose of these updates. They are to elicit prayer and to keep you informed.

But I am not sure if we are doing this right.

Why?

Because if you read through the Bible, particularly the New Testament there is pity little specific guidance on praying for sickness, illness and infirmities. (You think I am wrong, right? Check it out for yourself). This, to me, seems a bit strange. In the era that Jesus was living on earth, there was not a lot they could do for organic illnesses. The Jewish dietary laws gave them some protection, but they still got things like leprosy, and were subject to eye problems, broken bones, and a host of common diseases. So you would think they would do a lot of praying for their health as they had little else to help them. Medicine was not at a particularly advanced state—witness the woman who snuck up to touch Jesus and who was healed even though she had been to countless doctors of the day and had not been.

Did Jesus heal the sick, cause the blind to see, and cure leprosy, not to mention cast out demons? He sure did. But when he taught us how to pray he made no mention of praying for our infirmities or those of others. And did Peter and Paul and other New Testament authors also do miracles and healing? Yep. But did they wrap their ministry around these activities? Nope. And when these authors repeatedly bring up the topic of prayer in their writing, do they mention or even allude to the importance of praying for the sick, the ill and the diseased? (Which was much less preventable as well as curable in that day and age, and perhaps much more common then than now).

Well, actually once. Very clearly at least once. That is in the book of James and you can find the passage in 5:13-18. This passage is very instructive. It says that if you are sick you are to call the elders of the church to pray over you and have them anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord. One of the interesting things here is that not only does the passage say he will be healed, but that his sins will be forgiven as well—a two for one deal.

What I believe the Scriptures do give us are several important principles. One comes from the parable of the importune woman—she was highly persistent. The lesson here is persistent prayer. The second ingredient in effective prayer is faith—unwavering faith (Matthew 21:21-22)—the type of faith that can move a mountain. And the third is that the effectiveness of the prayer is directly related to the quality of the person praying. Nowhere do we get any indication that if we amass a large group of people praying for a specific purpose that quantity will carry the day. No, back in James 5 we are told (I like the King James here) “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (or, in NIV, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”). In some Divine ordering, the quality of the person praying trumps quantity. More is not necessarily more.

An argument from silence can cut both ways, but I think we can safely say that there is nothing wrong with enlisting prayer from as many people as we can for Cammie. But what really counts, I think, are the faithful few, who pray persistently, fervently, with faith …and who have no idea how righteous they are.

And here is something for you to think about. C.S. Lewis is known as perhaps the greatest apologist of the 20th century. And one of the greatest wordsmiths of all time. But did you know that when he “prayed” he often did not use words? How so? He would visually imagine the person he was praying for as whole, healed, and free from sin. I kind of like that.

Bless you, dear friend, for the simplest prayer you utter

(sometime in 2004)