Prayer + Chronic Illness = ? (Or, why we need to make up our minds about prayer)

For many of us prayer is like wishing on birthday candles. We may as well give it a go..

We all like the idea of prayer. It's something practical. Something we can do. But what about when it doesn't work?Why we need to make up our minds about prayer and healing in chronic illness_ _ #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #emotions #faith

This is the first in a series of posts about prayer. Below are what I believe are the “pros” of prayer, the “cons” of prayer, and the reason we need to discuss it!

Why we feel we need prayer

When I was little I used to search the chip packet for wish chips. Chips in general were rare, and those double folded chips were even rarer. When you ate them you were meant to make a wish. Like wish bones in chickens and blowing out birthday candles.

Every time I crunched a wish chip, I wished for the same thing.

I wished for my mum to be healed.

Now even if you had asked, I would have said I didn’t really believe in wishes… but I felt I had to try. Just in case.

A lot of us think the same thing about praying for healing.

We have to try. Just in case.

Why prayer needs to be discussed

‘My thoughts and prayers are with you.’

‘I’ll be praying for you.’

As Watchers we have all probably encountered the above sentiments. Perhaps at times you’ve appreciated them, and other times you have not. I know I’ve certainly growled at a fair few.

The topic of prayer and healing is sensitive. To treat it lightly is to deny the reality that for many people hopes and dreams hang on the outcome. It can be painful to discuss – and yet needs to be. Prayer and healing, is, I believe, another one of those huge white elephants squatting in Watcher’s bedrooms.

I’ve always liked elephants.

What sort of prayer are we talking about?

From here on out, any time I talk about prayer, it will be in relation to Christianity. Many religions pray, as do non-religious people. But the Bible defines prayer as:

The way in which a human being can have a conversation with God. It is described and required by God.  It is an essential part of the Christian faith, and it is offered in Jesus’ name. These are the Bible’s teachings on prayer.

Praise, thanks, repentance and ‘just talking’ are often described as important parts of Prayer – but this post is only going to be about prayer as a petition (or plea).

I’m not going to go into details (they are easy enough to find) but from the numerous examples in the Bible, we see that:

  • Anyone can pray
  • About all things
  • And God says He will hear
  • And God says He will respond

To give ourselves an idea of what we are grappling with in this post, here is an example of prayer which we have all either heard, uttered, or at the very least can imagine:

‘Dear God, please heal my brother from his sickness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.’

“Prayer and healing is like a big white elephant squatting in the bedrooms of those dealing with chronic illness.” – Tweet @calledtowatch

Why do we like prayer?

  1. It’s the only option we have

When the doctors have given up and medicine isn’t working, prayer can give us a hope that perhaps there’s still a chance for healing. Perhaps wishes still come true and miracles happen. Perhaps there’s a happy ending in sight, even now.

  1. It’s something we can do

As Watchers we can’t heal our Loved One. Prayer is something physical and constructive that we can do no matter the situation. It makes us to feel less helpless.

  1. It’s something we can talk about

When our Loved One tells us their bad news, or lays out to us the trials of their day, there are often no words of encouragement to offer. Their situation is bleak. We dare not give  false encouragements. Yet we can promise to pray for them. It is a response, and sometimes the only one.

Why do we hate prayer?

  1. It doesn’t always work

I think this is the number one issue us Watchers have with prayer. We pray and our Loved Ones are not healed. We turn to God day in and day out and nothing happens. We begin to question. Does the fault lie with ourselves or with God? Is He ignoring us or are we simply not praying hard enough or having enough faith?

  1. It sounds silly

I felt silly sharing my wish chip story. Likewise, prayer is often difficult to talk about. Voiced out loud it seems like such an abstract, elusive, wishy-washy thing. We want to whisper ‘I’ll pray for you’ – not shout it across the sports field. Prayer is a sacred thing. But our bashfulness also comes from the fact that prayer often feels like something ‘a modern person does not do’. It seems like a quaint ritual or a last resort measure.

  1. It is difficult to talk about

As children we tend to whisper when we talk about magic and wishes. Similarly it is often just as difficult to talk about prayer. It’s simply (sadly?) not a “normal” topic of conversation. Thus, we don’t know how to respond ourselves, and we’re unsure how others will respond to us. We turn to cliches to help us, and sometimes they fall through.

You need to make a decision

But friends, we need to make a decision… will we pray? Will we accept prayer? If it is a dangerous thing to play around with wishes (think, Aladdin!– it is equally dangerous to play around with prayer. Will you take prayer seriously? Are you willing to lay aside your frustrations and misconceptions and give it some thought?

// What do you find difficult about prayer? Do you find it easy to talk about or admit to? How do you address that?

Comment and join the conversation here!

PS: Because I regularly update old posts, you can miss some posts if you are only a ‘WordPress Follower’. Sign up for email notifications instead.

Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

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