This post is the second in a series on prayer and Watching. In the previous post we discovered that prayer is desirable in theory yet hard to practice –but if the Bible is true it must be taken seriously.
Prayer and God
When we look at prayer and our responses to prayer for healing, it is easy to lose sight of the reality that prayer is not actually about ourselves. Prayer is about God.
Don’t get me wrong, many good-intentioned people have said that prayer changes us and that is undoubtedly true. But in the end, all things (… the weather, our appetites, the time of day) change us.
Why then do we pray? After all, prayer doesn’t always lead to healing (otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation) and it is not the only thing that changes us.
Why should we pray for healing as Watchers?
Having a wand is not a choice
If a wizard doesn’t have a wand, we begin to doubt whether he truly is a wizard. If he has one, and doesn’t use it… well that just seems silly. Similarly, if we profess Jesus Christ as Lord, prayer is non-negotiable. It is part of our identity. It’s a responsibility and a demand. In the Bible God doesn’t tell us that prayer for healing is an optional extra if we feel in the right mood. Instead he demands that we turn to Him in prayer (Eph 6:18; James 5:13).
We want healing, plain and simple. And if we’re not asking God for it, I suspect it means we’re asking someone else. Perhaps we have pinned our hopes on doctors and treatments (the gifts rather than the Giver) or simply ‘fate’ (what will be will be). If the former, we’ve created idols; if the latter, we’ve lost sight of God’s bigness and sovereignty.
Prayer can sometimes feel like something of little consequence. A few muttered words, clenched fists, perhaps closed eyes. Yet I think, as Watchers, praying for healing is a unique way we can live out our faith. It is faith in action and glorifies God as trustworthy and powerful.
On that note, if God demands that we pray, and if it’s such a central part of what it means to be a Christian, how dare we refuse or try to avoid other people’s prayer? How can we possibly sigh at yet another conversation that begins with ‘I’ve been praying’ and ends with ‘I’ll continue praying for you’?
Having a wand is exciting
Let’s not forget what prayer is. Let’s not become insensitive to both its sacredness and its brilliance. Praying directly to the God of the entire universe for healing is a gift and a joy and a blessing. We’re not in the Old Testament anymore. We don’t need to sacrifice an animal to cover our sin so we can approach God for twenty minutes. God has already spilt Jesus’ blood for all time. Our ability to pray for healing has been bought at immense cost. We can’t waste such a gift by retreating into our pride or embarrassment. It is a present to shout across the soccer fields about.
Perhaps we don’t feel very excited about it. Perhaps we are exhausted and our prayers seem repetitive. Perhaps we’re sick of living and Watching, let alone dragging sickness and suffering into our prayer lives as well. Oh my friends. The truth is, we’re not going to feel enthusiastic about praying for healing all the time. Day in and day out. The same prayers. The same answer. Yet the only solution to our apathy and our Loved One’s sickness is prayer. Prayer for excitement. Prayer for desire. Let us pray so that we can pray.
We’re not actually holding the wand
When we pray… we’re not actually holding the answer in our hands. This seems a bit obvious, so let me explain:
Prayer is not a lonely task. It’s not a solo activity. It’s a conversation. It’s a reminder that we are never alone! Prayer arises from our relationship with God. Some people say ‘I may as well be talking to a brick wall’ in explaining their conversation with someone else. Although they are engaging in conversation, they still feel alone on their side. In prayer this is never the case. God the Spirit inside us speaks to God the Father. In essence, God is on both sides of the engagement in prayer – and so we are doubly never alone!
Secondly, prayer throws the ball into God’s court. It’s about handing over the magic wand, and leaving the problem with the Maker of the wand rather than a mere user. Sometimes it’s easy to believe that the answer to our prayer is dependent on us. But that’s not what prayer is. That’s not what petition is. We ask someone for something primarily because we can’t do it ourselves. If we could, we wouldn’t be asking. When we respond to someone, do we blame them for our answer? Never! We believe (even if it isn’t true with us humans) that we answered autonomously. So it is with God.
Prayer is like a magic wand which is always effective and the most powerful utensil possible, because God is holding it and not us.
BUT Wand-waving is hard.
Having said all this, praying is not easy. Praying for healing even less so. After all:
We have to learn how – Sadly, prayer isn’t natural to us. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him how to pray, He didn’t laugh at the question. Nor did He say ‘What do you mean? It’s not that hard’ or ‘go ahead, you already know how!’ No, instead He sat down and taught them by example.
Learning to pray aloud is also difficult. It’s even less natural. Take heart, my fellow Watches, if praying for healing is not easy for you.
It requires perseverance – Like any tricky thing, building a habit of prayer takes time. It requires discipline to pray, it requires humility. In Gethsemane Jesus had to ask his disciples three times to pray for Him as He suffered, and in the end they fell asleep. Unlike them, He didn’t give up, but prayed several times for his suffering to be taken away. Prayer (especially, perhaps, prayer for healing) is not a one-shot wonder.
Anything we are not used to feels awkward or embarrassing. Only perseverance will help it become natural. Let us bring up prayer into conversation again and again. It takes time, but if we repeatedly pull ‘sacred’ topics such as prayer into ‘normal’ life, they will become natural, and separating them again will seem abnormal (as it is). The root of our embarrassment is often inexperience.
Prayer hard. It’s time-consuming and unnatural (talking to an invisible person) – so it shows what’s important to us (God).
It requires concentration – Prayer is time-consuming. It can be difficult to remain on track. It’s also a very different style of conversation than we’re used to. We don’t often engage in conversation with someone without being able to audibly hear their replies. We might not be used to talking to anyone for a significant length of time. Even if we are, it becomes more difficult when we don’t have a visible person to focus on. After all, how often do we daydream during conversation with humans right in front of us?
There are many answers to these objections. Perhaps we can walk and pray, or pray in small short bursts. Ultimately, though, the answer is concentration. We need to actively choose prayer. We need to remove distractions. Jesus left the crowds to pray. He didn’t even stay in the town where people could possibly interrupt – He went out onto the hillside.
Concentration becomes even more important when we’re praying with others. To do so is a blessing, but to remain praying to God and not the other person can be difficult.
There are many reasons we should pray – and equally as many reasons why prayer is hard. We must weigh them up. We must make the decision. There’s no sitting on the fence.
For me, being able to talk to God is utterly and entirely worth the difficulties – yet these difficulties are ones I will be fighting until my dying day.
//What are the reasons you find prayer hard? What helps you to persevere? What is the reason you believe prayer is important? Do you think the analogy between prayer and wand-waving is helpful?
Come join the conversation! This is a topic which requires more thought and many brains.