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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Prayer Requests

I almost didn't answer the phone when it rang. Then I looked and saw that it was her. She's been a dear friend for a few years now. Quite an extraordinary individual actually, I've been privileged to make her acquaintance.

God has apparently used me to confront her sometimes, a truth that she's actually expressed gratitude to me for. To be honest, He's used her to teach me a thing or two as well. Kindred spirits, we live hundreds of miles apart and labor on, trying to be the people that God created us to be.

A little while ago, this dear friend had discovered a rare tumor at the base of her spine - threatening her central nervous system and of course her very life. There being no doctors in her entire state who could properly diagnose or prescribe a treatment for her condition, she was referred to the famed Mayo Clinic ( in Minnesota. There, she'd been given sobering news, and put on a grueling (and grisly) course of treatment that in itself seemed to threaten her very life.

Recent phone calls have included some tears and some prayer. I've tried my best to encourage my friend. As we've ended those calls, I've always been consciously aware of the fact that it could have been our last conversation. I wasn't sure if she had weeks, months or years to live. But the threat on her life seemed very real.

Nevertheless, I have prayed, many times. "God, if it would please You, please deliver her from this savage cancer. I know she has much to give. If You won't take this cancer from her, would You at least give her peace with this course in her life? I ask these things of you, dear Lord. in Jesus' name. Amen."

Now when the phone rang the other day, and I saw it was her, I frankly expected more of the same. More of her sharing her misery. More of me trying to be supportive. Maybe some tears to be shed. And certainly more prayers. Quite honestly though, I was not prepared for what she said.

"The tumor is gone." She continued. "I was at the Mayo Clinic again last week. They did a PET scan ( That tumor they've been treating? It's somehow disappeared. The doctor said she didn't know how to tell me this, but there is no tumor now. And there is no explanation. They are certain the tumor was there before. But now it's not."

Well, that is remarkable. The tumor is gone. Of course the doctor wants to finish the treatments of chemotherapy, etc. You'll have to finish your submission and surrender in that process. But the tumor is not there now. "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! I'm so happy for you!"

Hang on a minute though. What do they mean "there is no explanation?" Of course there's an explanation! How many people were praying for you? Did none of us really expect God to answer those prayers? Do we really expect that when we pray for terminally ill people they will still die? Didn't we say all along that you've got a powerful testimony being written here? How could our own expectations not line up with our actions (prayer)?

So there it was. The problem with prayer. Many of us pray and pray, and if we're honest, it's usually not a terribly rewarding proposition. Most often, people I've known (including myself), describe an experience where we prayed fervently, but eventually slack off. It's not that we gave up (at least that's what we tell ourselves). It's just that we began to lose sight of any point in the prayer. Worse, we often become a bit callous toward God on the issue we were praying about. He didn't meet our expectations, so He must not care. Right?

The reason many of us leave off praying and become hard towards God is because we have only a sentimental interest in prayer. It sounds right to say that we pray; we read books on prayer which tell us that prayer is beneficial, that our minds are quieted and our souls uplifted when we pray; but Isaiah (in the Old Testament) said that God is amazed at such thoughts of prayer.

Worship and intercession must go together, the one is impossible without the other. Intercession means, if we're successful at it, that we share the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray. Too often instead of worshipping God, we just make statements as to how (we think) prayer works.

Are we worshipping or are we in dispute with God when we say or think things like, "I don't see how You are going to do it." This is a sure sign that we are not worshipping. When we lose sight of who God is and how He works, we become hard and dogmatic. We hurl our own petitions at God's throne and dictate to Him as to what we wish Him to do. We do not worship God, nor do we seek to share the mind of Christ. And of course, if we are hard towards God, we will become hard towards other people.

Make no mistake, prayer is work. Intercessory prayer (i.e., praying for the benefit of others) is especially hard work. It is also especially important work. Unfortunately, most of us go about it without the right heart. And we go about it without the right expectations. Want proof of this? Think about how surprised we are when someone calls to tell us, "The tumor has just disappeared."

Let's all get on our knees and confess that we've had pretty low expectations of God. We can confess that we haven't been believing in miracles, or the power of God to answer prayer. And we can confess that we've haven't been praying with a worshipful heart, expecting supernatural solutions to life's problems.

He is an all-powerful God. And when I pray with a grateful and worshipful heart, He loves to amaze me.

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