Last night I received some painful news from a friend. Her husband has been battling cancer for several months and everyone had been hopeful that the last round of chemo had been successful. Sadly, tests show that it had no effect on the cancer and the growths that had been surgically removed were returning with a vengeance. They had been very hopeful...and yes, faith-filled...that he had been cured. But he wasn't.
With this coming on the heels of learning of another friend's death from the same kind of cancer, I was sick at heart this morning. What's the use of prayer, I wondered, if it has no effect? And, of course, being selfish and self-centered as we all are, I thought about my own prayers that I might be healed of the panic and anxiety that have followed me this past year like a starving wolf trails a wounded rabbit.
What if all my prayers have been words cast into a vast emptiness, pointless yammering, that does no good? That thought alone was enough to push me into a state of heightened anxiety!
That's when I went back over my Prayer Score Cards. While there have been quite a few "no's," and there are many "not yet's" on my scorecard, there also have been a number of "yeses." More "yeses" than "no's" actually. One of the major ones was the restoration of a relationship that I had believed was destroyed for life. I had spent many hours in prayer about it and, miraculously, it has been healed.
Now healing a relationship and healing an illness aren't exactly the same thing. For one, it feels like the ability to heal a relationship lies with me and the other person, while healing an illness is external and isn't something I can influence or control. However, when you don't know where the person is, you haven't spoken in nearly a decade, and you don't have any idea how to find them, going from there to a second chance is pretty darn close to miraculous.
Which brings me back to healing and prayer. When I don't get the Voila! healing, the instant cure, I feel like the answer is "NO!!!" and I stop praying. But in the case of the relationship, I prayed for years. Literal years. With no sign whatsoever. I don't even think that I had faith that the relationship could be healed. I just prayed and kept on praying. Then, it seems so sudden, the door opened and everything changed, seemingly overnight.
A year of prayer about anything...anxiety, cancer, relationship...feels like a long time. It's very tempting...VERY TEMPTING...to decide the answer was "not for you," and give up. So I've been wondering how often persistence, as well as faith, may sometimes be required when we are asking for something that is very important to us. Maybe we need to just keep knocking on that door until it finally opens.
And, as I reminded God this morning, we don't read in
Scripture that ten lepers approached Jesus and he healed none of them.
Or that a father asked for healing for his son and he didn't get it. I pointed out, lest God be unaware, that it does a whole lot more for faith for a prayer to be answered than for one to be denied.
Of course, at some point, I may have to face the reality that healing isn't going to happen, but perhaps if I reach that point after much persistent prayer, I will be able to accept the "no." Until then, I will pray for my friend's husband and for myself as we continue on the journey.