A friend of mine recently shared an article from the New York Times on healing prayer, and one neuroscientist’s mission to prove that it works. She thought the essay was lovely and knew I would find it interesting. And I did, in fact, find it interesting. Uplifting too. And yet, at the same time, I had to confess to my friend that it also revealed my own unbelief.
My new church in the Chicago area prays for its neighbors. My previous church did this, of course, but my new church does this in specific ways. My previous church drew its congregation from many surrounding towns, and my new church is no different. But each week at my new church, a deacon or support person from the church prays for a specific town included in our draw area and what the people there may be facing. They also pray for specific churches in that town. Occasionally, a specific person is named, but mostly, the names dropped are the names of the towns and the names of the churches. Even so, I have to tell you how powerful it was to sit there with my head bowed and hear the name of my new town and then hear the prayers said with me in mind.
Perhaps the church leader had divine inspiration regarding what to pray for, or perhaps I’m just in a stage and season of life where most people need the same things, but whatever the reason, it really felt like the prayers were said specifically for my family and me.
I remember a few of them now. I will voice them again, for myself, and for you, reader, should you find yourself in a similar position to mine.
On the eve of this new year, as someone in a new place, I pray:
For new friendships and belonging
For reconciliation in relationships
For employment and needs met
For closeness to God and his people
For love, joy and hope.
As for my friend who sent me the article, I told her I had a hard time believing in healing prayer. When my own mother was battling breast cancer, I hedged my bets and prayed for wisdom for the doctors and clear treatment plans. I didn’t pray for a cure.
In the Bible, miracles are performed to bring glory to God, which is a way of saying to draw people to him. Will curing my mother bring glory to God? Will my getting a job bring glory to God? I find it easier to imagine that making new friends and hosting community events and actually telling people about God will bring glory to God. I have definitely focused my efforts in these areas in the past. But now I think, maybe it’s okay to ask God for what we want in other areas. Maybe it’s okay to get specific. Maybe it’s not up to me to know ahead of time how the granting or not granting of prayer will be used for God’s glory. Maybe it’s just up to me to pray and lay out the cares of my heart, having the faith that God could intervene, having the faith that he will make all things right in his time.
It’s hard, this prayer thing, whether praying for a miracle or praying for something we actually believe we should try to go out and get ourselves. God, give me discernment to know where to put my efforts, and remind me always to begin with you.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.