How The Question Came UpMy husband's best friend recently found out that his recurrent cancer is inoperable and likely to kill him in the very near future. He and his wife have been encouraging friends and family to read this insightful article by John Piper. And they have asked loved ones to join them in praying for a miracle, even as they prepare for "the worst."
"Not What I Will, But What You Will"
So, I've been considering the question of how to pray for someone's healing, knowing God's answer may be "No." I've mostly seen people following the example of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, asking that a painful fate be averted and adding, "nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done." Obviously, this is an excellent way to pray, since it was modeled for us by Jesus himself.
Faith That Moves Mountains
But elsewhere in scripture, it is indicated that one should pray boldly--and, in Mark 11:23-24, even with supreme confidence: "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you" (NASB).
Kicking People When They're Down
Some people take a passage like that and end up using it in a way that just discourages or angers those who are already desperate and in pain, telling them that they simply don't have enough faith, and if only they would believe in their hearts, then God would heal them. That's one reason people who are more kind and sensible try to sweep that passage under the rug.
Don't Throw Out The Baby
But perhaps Jesus' teaching on mountain-moving faith really can help us in our hour of need. I say "perhaps" because apparently it requires a deeper understanding of the things of God than many people have today--and I have not yet experienced the power of this teaching myself, so I am just trying to piece together a hypothesis from what I have seen, heard, and read.
"Your Heart" = Your Unconscious Mind
To start with, here are some ideas I've taken from a woman named Agnes Sanford (who really had experienced the healing power of faith): believing in such a way that you "do not doubt in your heart" and "believe that you have [already] received" what you're asking for means believing not just with your conscious mind, but with your unconscious mind. And that's tricky, because you do not have direct control over your unconscious mind. So, Sanford recommends that you pray by creating mental images and painting pictures with words of the healing you are asking for, in order to change your unconscious mind. She also recommends thanking God for the healing as if it had already occurred.
Freedom Is Coming; No Doubt About It
I don't like to do anything that seems logically inconsistent, and thanking God for healing that has already occurred when, in fact, it hasn't--and when I know that it may not happen at all--is not something I can do easily or in good conscience. But I can see why that would be helpful to the unconscious mind. So, my thought is, I can thank God for the fact that any ailment someone has today will ultimately be healed--whether in this life, or in the Age To Come (as Jesus liked to call it). And I can thank God for saving them from death, as well--anticipating either restoration in the present or resurrection in the future.
Sometimes Faith Is Blind
And the other little thing that niggles at my mind is that I'm afraid of putting God to shame by asking for the intervention of the Holy Spirit and then seeing no results. But if I truly believe that God is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving, then it follows that whatever his answer to prayer, it is the best thing possible. It may not look like it, but sometimes I just have to make that assumption. Some people heap scorn on the concept of "blind faith," but if the alternative is to put absolute trust in my puny little brain (which has been proven a profoundly unreliable organ), then I would rather trust a mysterious Someone who is bigger than me. In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus says that no good Father would give a child a snake when they've asked for a fish--and I've always thought it must work the other way around: sometimes we don't realize we're asking for a scorpion and get upset when God hands us an egg. (And an egg is a symbol of the tomb in which Jesus lay between Good Friday and Easter ... How's that for a poetic ending?!)