I remember praying for my grandmother to be healed from cancer and really, truly believing she would be. Believing it. Knowing it.
I was away at a summer leadership camp the summer before my senior year of high school when I got a phone message to call home. I remember my stepdad crying on the phone when he answered and told me she was gone.
I don’t know when I stopped praying for unbelievable things.
As a teenager, someone once was praying “over” me–that is the lingo I would have used a lot back then–and he touched my hands and told me that my hands would be used to heal people some day.
He really said that. My hands.
I hear people pray a lot. We’ve got prayer lists in the bulletin, prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. So many meetings and occasions when we gather and “open in prayer.” It is such a normal thing.
I pray a lot.
We are already teaching you to pray. Before meals. When we’re sick. When the booboos need healing. For our friends and family.
But rarely do I hear any of us pray for unbelievable, miraculous, specific things, and rarely do I expect them to happen. Most of what I hear when I gather with other Christians are prayers for God’s peace and comfort, that God would be felt within tragic circumstances. We might pray for a medical treatment to work or for wisdom for doctors. Of if we do pray for healing of the physical body, we usually throw in a “if it is God’s will” or “in God’s perfect time.”
I’ve even fallen into the habit of simply praying for God to have mercy on so-and-so, and leaving it at that. God knows, right? God’s got it covered.
But I’ve been wondering recently whether we are afraid to pray for healing–real, miraculous, crazy healing–because we know it might not happen. Because our faith will be judged according to the success of those prayers.
And so we comfort ourselves with the knowledge that in the unanswered prayer, too, God is still working behind the scenes, in unseen ways, knowing the good better than we do.
One of my best friends has multiple sclerosis.
I went to a women’s’ conference recently and during the first session, I thought–and I don’t say this lightly–that God was telling me to pray for her to be healed. Healed. Not for her treatments to work to suppress the disease’s progression, but healing. I felt like I was also supposed to tell her that I would pray for her.
The following morning, a different speaker at the conference shared about having cancer and how she knew God had called her to pray for miraculous healing–to believe the unbelievable, even while seeking treatment. I knew again that God was telling me to pray and believe the unbelievable.
But what is strange is that in the midst of this conviction, I knew that it didn’t matter whether the healing took place–that the efficacy of my prayer was not to be judged on the outcome of the prayer–but that the important thing was for me to believe that healing could happen. God wasn’t saying, If you pray for her, I will heal her. But rather, Why don’t you believe she could be healed?
That was over two months ago.
I have a reminder on my phone that buzzes at noon every day to tell me to pray for her to be healed. You, my toddler bean, even know to pray for her now, and it really does give me the warm tinglies when I hear your little voice ask God for such a big thing. And you don’t even know it is a big thing.
The truth is, I don’t know what it would look like to be healed of multiple sclerosis. No more relapses? No progress in the disease? No more secondary issues of energy levels and depression?
But what does the unbelievable look like in any situation? What is the miraculous?
Of course it seems ridiculous to pray for cancer to just disappear, for broken marriages to be healed. Those are impossible things. And that’s not even touching on the biggies of our broken world, the structural inequalities and injustices that are hurting so many people. It may not seem crazy to pray for them in general ways, but it sure is crazy to believe a miracle that big, that impossible, can happen.
Why bother praying at all, girls, if we aren’t going to pray and believe the unbelievable things?
This is a strange letter for me, because I don’t often get preachy.
I’ve been slowly adding more reminders to my calendar to pray for people I know, people with real hurts and pain and brokenness, so now my phone buzzes or dings at us multiple times a day. Sprinkling it in is the only way I’ve found to add prayer in at all and, at the very least, it pulls me out of the four walls of our home every few hours, out into the world of real, hard struggles, and gives me some perspective.
And, of course, it teaches you to pray, too.
You don’t know what miracles are yet, but I want you to pray for them. I want you to believe in them.
I want it to be normal.