“I’ll pray God will heal your friend.”
“I’ll pray God will heal you.”
Sometimes these promises make me feel uncomfortable. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an offer for prayer? I’ve used the word “offer” but it’s more of a statement really.
After you share the health struggles of yourself or someone close to you with a Christian friend, there’s often silence. And then –
“I’ll pray for healing.”
How does this make you feel? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but often it leaves me feeling uncomfortable. Here’s why:
Why I feel uncomfortable when people offer to pray for healing (even though I’m a Christian)
I used the word “uncomfortable” but I think there are 4 specific emotions I feel when someone makes a promise of prayer for healing. It depends on the situations, but it can leave me feeling:
Do you think I haven’t tried praying for healing before? I want to shout. Do you think that in the five months, 5 years, 40 years of illness no one has tried prayer?
What makes your prayers so special? Are you saying that I’m doing it all wrong? Are you saying that God will listen to you and not to me and the countless others who have tried before?
During times when you’re feeling particularly despondent about your Loved One’s illnesses, it’s easy to be annoyed by a promise of prayer.
Your sympathy is too much, I want to whisper. I don’t deserve the compassion and the pity radiating from your eyes.
Perhaps I’ve exaggerated. Perhaps it’s not so bad. You have struggles yourself, you shouldn’t waste time praying for me and my family.
Besides, when was the last time I prayed for healing?
At times, when illness has become normal or your Loved Ones are going through an ‘ok’ period it’s easy to feel guilty when someone else’s passion and desire for healing seems to outweigh your own.
My Loved One’s illness is an intensely personal thing in some ways, and I feel embarrassed hearing that you will be praying for me.
Part of me doesn’t want their suffering to be man-handled by others. It can be awkward to hear that people will be praying about my family life over their dinner table.
Healing from chronic illness is something that’s so entangled with my deepest hopes and fears that I’m not even sure I want to talk about it. It’s private and sacred and terrifying.
In certain stages of life being “prayed for” can feel invasive and scary.
Is that all you can give me? I share suffering and you give me a four word promise in response? “I’ll pray for healing.” It feels like a ‘cop out’, a handy way to end the conversation.
A platitude designed to help us all feel better – a cliche.
It’s a nice, safe thing this promise. It doesn’t involve too much tangling with messy lives.
When you’re feeling particularly discouraged, a promise of prayer can simply sound like empty words.
How to respond when people offer to pray for healing
I’m not going to tell you the above responses are wrong. Nor am I going to tell you they’re right. I am however, doing to tell you the one thing I think they lack.
You see, all the above responses are about us. The people suffering or Watching suffering. To some degree they ought to be – but at the same time they really should not.
We pray because God asks us to. Prayer is about God. It’s also about others. What does this mean?
It means that it doesn’t really matter how we feel about it. It’s really nice of course, when prayer encourages and uplifts us. It’s wonderful when prayer makes us feel loved, or grows love in our own hearts.
But when it doesn’t – when prayer instead frustrates or embarrasses us, when it annoys us and makes us feel guilty – that doesn’t make prayer wrong. It doesn’t mean that our friends are insincere in their offers of prayer.
It just means our hearts are hurting.
Interested in prayer + chronic illness?
What we can learn from promises of prayer
Even when we feel negatively about prayer for healing, we can still learn something valuable from these offers.
When people pray for healing we can be reminded that:
1: We believe in an impossible God. It is not a ridiculous thing to pray for healing.
2: We believe in a capable God. It is not pointless to pray for healing, it is not beyond His capabilities.
3: We believe in a good God. Even if we for some reason doubt the sincerity of the person offering to pray, it does not mean their prayers are useless. God is sovereign and good and can use all things for his glory.
4: We believe in a relational God. We serve a God we can pray to, a King who wants to hear our thoughts. More than that, we believe in a God who embraces community, and does not wish us to live through life alone. Other Christians’ offers of prayer are reminders of this truth.
So how do we accept offers of prayer?
1: With a realisation that it’s okay to admit that we do not always think nice things when other people offer to pray for healing.
2: With an acknowledgement that prayer doesn’t always have to make us feel good, but that doesn’t make prayer wrong.
3: With as much humility as we can – and eyes wide open and ready to see the truths which prayer can remind us of.
//What about you? Do you struggle to accept other people’s prayer?
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