Hey everyone. I just wanted to take a moment to let y’all know why this blog has been relatively inactive these past few weeks. You see, I’ve been dealing with this horrific ear infection that has come and gone for the past year and a half. Recently, it flared back up again to new heights and it was only eradicated a short time ago. On top of that, I’ve been dealing with debilitating depression with a healthy dose of anxiety. So, needless to say, finding the time and energy to write has been difficult. Hopefully I’m at a place in life where that will now change.
That said, what I wanted to leave y’all with is something I wrote for my Patreon supporters the other day. It’s been something I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while now, and thought it would be apropos to include it here. So, without further ado, here’s what I recently had to say to them:
Over the years, I’ve pretty much deconstructed and reconstructed everything I once held to be true. But prayer is one of those things I’m still not quite sure about. On the one hand, I think prayer can be important. On the other hand, I really haven’t much of a clue as to how it works.
You see, I used to believe what most mainline Christians believe: That God listens to our prayers and then decides if it is something that fits within his so-called plans. If, for example, a prayer for a loved one to experience healing is offered up and that person we prayed for gets better, then it is assumed God not only listened but also acted upon our petition. If, however, the person doesn’t get better, then we assume God, for some reason or another, didn’t want them to be healed. That is to say, it didn’t quite fit in with his already laid-out plan.
The problems with looking at prayer in this way are many. Not only does it make God out to be a bit of an asshole, but it tends to disenfranchise those who continue to suffer, leaving them with essentially nowhere to turn. It seems that prayer, then, is one of the biggest reasons folks walk away from the faith entirely.
What if we’ve gotten it all wrong though? What if prayer doesn’t work like this at all? It’s my contention that it doesn’t.
I started really pondering this recently, the minute my daughter Elyse injured her left knee a few weeks prior to dance competition season. She hurt it so bad, in fact, that after a long day of dancing, was unable to bend it or bear any weight on it. Due to this, I did something I hadn’t done in quite a while: I petitioned God to heal her. Hours went by and nothing happened. So, the next day, I took her to see an orthopedic surgeon, who, after x-raying the injured knee, diagnosed her with a tracking issue called patellofemoral syndrome. “Okay, we’re finally getting somewhere,” I thought.Sill, though, I kept praying. For healing. For pain relief. For something. And yet, still nothing happened. Our next step, then, was to see a physical therapist. Luckily for us, our daughter’s dance coach knew one who specialized in treating dancers. And because our daughter is such a vital part of her team, we got right in to see her. Might I say, this lady was a godsend.
After a brief exam, she questioned the original diagnosis and told us our daughter’s knee was tracking just fine. Instead of patellofemoral syndrome, she thought our daughter simply had an overuse issue with her tendon. So, the PT taped her up, taught me how to do the same, and Elyse was walking just fine within a few hours. The next day, she even participated in some light dancing at the ballet studio.
Now, you may be asking, how does prayer fit in with this story? Well, I’ll tell you.
You see, I think that prayer has nothing to do with petitioning God. That type of prayer sort of assumes God is not already doing something, as if he is just sitting around wanting to heal folks if they would only get the words right, or get their heart right, or something to that effect. True, effectual prayer, then, seems to be more about lining our lives up to the will of God—a will that is always oriented toward healing and restoration—so that we can be the answers to our prayers.
If I think about what transpired with my daughter’s healing, it seems all too clear. God always wanted her to be healed, to be restored. I believe that is why my whole existence since Elyse’s injury was about getting her better. I believe it was God constantly moving me to get to the heart of the issue, to get her to the right folks who would mend her knee. And wouldn’t you know it! That’s exactly what happened. Since the onset of the injury, I didn’t stop reading medical articles, making phone calls, and dragging Elyse all around town to specialists who could potentially help. And not for nothing, but the fact that we so quickly found a physical therapist who was so clued in to the dancer’s body, I can’t help but think that the handiwork of God was at play here. Perhaps it was all coincidence, but I’m not so sure.
So, that’s essentially where I’m at with prayer. I think God indeed heals. I think God moves all throughout this world. I just also think that we’ve been tasked with being the ones who are his hands and feet. We are the ones who need to be the answer to prayers. We are the ones who need to orient our lives toward the healing and restoration of others. And so, if we want to see folks heal, if we want suffering to come to an end, perhaps our prayers need to include less talking and more listening, less petitioning God and more allowing God to petition us.
Shalom, my friends.