12.21.2013

"So, God, will you?"

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I have a confession to make: I am confused and dismayed about prayer.  It is probably not the "Christian" thing to say (or even think), but I am rather frustrated with prayer and confused about how to do it.  I have been questioning lately, "Why pray?"  "Do my prayers really even matter?"  I have prayed often, only to receive silence and non-answers in return.

My first issue stems from praying for my son's healing from blindness ever since we discovered he lost sight in one of his eyes.  Yet for some reason, God -- who has the capability to heal -- hasn't healed him.  I've heard many well-meaning Christians say, "Maybe God HAS healed him -- by sparing the sight in his 'good' eye."  But my response is, "No, that is not healing.  That is sparing his good eye from blindness."  The two are entirely different!

But SPARING is not HEALING.  The two are entirely different!  Jesus healed the leper (Mark 1) when he touched him -- he was made completely whole.  Jesus healed the man with the withered hand (Matthew 12) when he spoke the word -- he was made completely whole.  Jesus healed the woman (Luke 8) who bled for decades -- she was made completely whole.  Jesus healed the cripple (Matthew 9) when he said to rise up -- he was made completely whole.  Jesus didn't simply "spare" these people of something; He healed them.  So why not now?  While God has spared sight in one of Joshua's eyes, why not make him completely whole and give him fully-restored sight in both eyes now?  There was no magic prayer in those recorded events, only Jesus' compassion on the sick.

Do I have to be more specific when I pray?  "Please God, cause the retina in Joshua's left eye to attach to the rear of his inner eyeball so light can pass through the cornea and optic lens, then reflect off the retina so as to send a signal to his brain to process the vision of light."  Do I really have to do that, as if God might reply, "Ahh, but you got wrong how the eye processes light.  I'm sorry, Mike, not until you get it right will I do it for him."   Please don't mistake me -- I am very thankful for that good vision in one of his eyes.  I simply want Joshua to experience physical wholeness that Jesus afforded to the others mentioned earlier.
 
So when Jesus was quoted as saying, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!" (John 14:12-14), did he mean what he said?  Can I ask him ANYTHING, or is there a catch-clause in there somewhere?  Are there limited circumstances to which this promise applies?  If so, that frustrates me.  If not, it frustrates me -- because He hasn't come through on it.

Other well-meaning Christians may suggest, "Well, He WILL heal him one day.  Then, Joshua's sight will be made completely whole." Mary and Martha -- the sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead (John 11) -- had a similar response.  When asked by Jesus if they believed he would raise Lazarus, they replied, "Yes, one day at the resurrection."  But Jesus' actions of raising Lazarus right then and there implied, "No, I mean today!"  I don't want my son to have to wait for physical wholeness "one day".  Why can't God provide it now?  Has He stopped answering?

Jesus was also quoted by Luke as saying, "And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:9-14).

This passage leads to issue #2: How long does "keep on asking" mean?  When does the child in the passage run out of hope and trust that his father will finally provide?  When is enough enough?  Such situations are truly exasperating.  How long shall the child plead with his father for good things?  How long must I continue to plead with God to heal Joshua before I run out of hope or confidence in Him?  I honestly don't think Jesus was inserting trickery in his statement, implying, "Yeah, you can ask all you want, but you ain't gonna get it unless x, y, and z..."

So when well-meaning people say, "Well, it's just not God's timing", or, "He always answers...sometimes it's yes, sometimes it's no, other times it's 'not yet'."  That rationale bothers me.  Just when IS God's timing, then?  When do I "let God off the hook" for not healing or answering...when I physically unable to ask?  I do not treat God like He's a genie in a bottle who will give me a jumbo jet, a fast car, and a big mansion.  But I also believe Him when he said, "Ask...and I will."

So, God, will you?

9 comments:

  1. Brother my heart goes out to you and your son. I appreciate your honest transparency and the willingness to bear your heart and soul. I grieve with you as a brother and would that God answer your prayer as you desire.

    But this is one of the biggest problems with continuists. God healed to authenticate his message and messenger prior to the Scripture being completed. He is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow but that does not mean he has to do everything the same for all times. Otherwise you wife would had to offer a cleansing sacrifice for each child born, or we would not be able to eat pork, or we would go to a synagouge on Saturday.

    God, who can heal anything including death, does not always choose to heal. His desire is for you to see his glory, his majesty, and all of his attributes in this earthly trial. This is his best for you and your son at this time.

    My counsel would be do not waste his eye problem. Use it for God's glory.

    Paul prayed three times for healing and God told him his grace was all Paul needed. I am not saying that you need to pray 3, or 30. or 300 times, but at some point, change your prayer. Thank God for the trial, embrace it and seek His glory in it.

    God is never on the hook.God said "He will..." when we pray in accordance with His will. It seems at least at this moment it is not his will to heal your son. Be satisfied with that. Do not take Scripture out of context.

    I pray you will receive this in the love it is given and the heart-ache that I share with you. There are things God has chosen not to answer in my life that grieves me, but God is good, merciful, sufficient, glorious, and sovereign.

    Fanny J Crosby, the great hymn writer when asked once if she prayed for her sight and wold she want God to heal her blindess, said, "No, when I stand before God and my eyes are transformed and healed the first thing I want to see is Jesus who saved me."

    Google John Piper (of whom I am not a fan) paper entitled. "Don't Waste Your Cancer." 10 things to understand about God permitting catastrophic things in our lives. Execellent paper.

    Don't waste your son's trial. Teach him that God is sufficient in all things including eye problems.

    Love ya brother.

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    1. Brother Gregg, I know your heart well enough by now to know there was no malice intended in your words. I receive them as offered. Thank you.

      My contention with cessationists (since you presented the continuationist box -- an argument for another day, I don't like that we must conform to certain boxes) here is that cessationists want to have it both ways. They want to suggest prayer is for God's glory only, but then turn around and pray for various miracles themselves. "Pastor, please pray for my Aunt Agnes." "Ok. God, be glorified!" I doubt that's your prayer. Instead, you also (cessationist) pray for HEALING just like me (continuationist).

      If God only healed 2,000 years ago in order to authenticate His message and Messenger, then why pray for anything now? If healing has ceased even when we ask for it, or if any other supernatural phenomena have ceased for that matter, then how can anyone be sure any of His promises to forgive, or give life abundantly, or anything else non-physical are true today?

      Cessationists still pray for Agnes's broken hip to heal quickly, or for Uncle Delbert to finally trust Christ for salvation. Both are miracles of healing -- one for physical healing, the other for spiritual. If Agnes is healed, then super! If not, then "Glorify God and be thankful, sister."

      For Delbert, however, to be saved is an even greater miracle, and we fully BELIEVE in God to save...so much so that we continue to pray for our lost friends and loved-ones. But, if cessationists also believe in Election (which I believe, even as a continuationist), then I'm confused why a cessationist would even pray for Delbert's salvation anyway. Either God will save or He won't, and your prayers will have no impact on His decision to do so.

      In short, I do not see how cessationists can have it both ways, friend.

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  3. I am not the least bit offended. I believe we should be real and honest and I am more offended by the "fakeness" that seems to pervade our churches so often.
    But I must say... My love and prayers are with you my friend. And my answer is "I don't know". I know he can - I don't know why it hasn't happened. Why did he walk past the blind man at the gate beautiful and leave it for the disciples - most historians believe he had to have been there. Why did my dad die when we were all praying so much for him? I don't know! But the older I get the more my crave to know why seems to wane and my reach for "God, so what now do you want of me?" tries to peek through. I still believe He is all loving, all knowing, and all powerful (quoting Blackaby's book on Experiencing God) - I really do. But I can't even begin to pretend to know why for most of the things I thought I had answers for when I was young. I love you and your family my dear friends. And I still pray for healing. And His grace in all we have to go through in this life here on earth.

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    1. It is difficult to trust and give thanks when question marks loom in the air. But, with the psalmists, I will trust in His unfailing love.

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  4. I know many people who would either be in my camp or thought to be so by others are either hypocritical or inconsistent. However, for the record, I pray for many things that I desire but with the full understanding, submission, recognition that I am subject to God's will. I asked God that my father my be strengthened and recover from his heart-attack but I admitted to God I was selfish in my desire, and ultimately I am subject to HIs will because I know it is better than mine. God is sovereign and has the right to do as He pleases without consulting me.

    I get into more trouble at prayer meetings because I call people on these very things. God is at our disposal nor do we ever change his mind. I for one know that God as my father likes me to ask but I know His will is what I want regardless of any personal desire.

    As far as why as one who believes the bible's teaching on unconditional election, I do not know of one verse in the NT that says we should pray for the lost. When I do pay for the lost it is that God perhaps you will be gracious and grant them repentance. I certainly don't pray for the lost person to "do" anything because I know they won't because they don't desire it.

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  5. If only I knew the answer, a little four year old cancer victim named Noah would still be here today.

    I don't know why God does the things He does (or doesn't do)...and I've asked the very same question, "Why pray?" over the years and again very recently. And I don't really have an answer. I do know there's no "formula" for prayer. It's faith, and it's His grace. And we are to trust Him. It can be a hard pill to swallow, I know.

    What I do know is that His ways are not our ways, and He does know best. What if...when Joshua is 16 years old, he makes a free will decision to do (or not do) something that saves his life based on the fact that he only has sight in one eye? There must be a real reason God has allowed this to happen, just as it was for Noah, but I surely do not understand.

    I don't think God minds if we ask Him why, Mike. He already knows you have the questions. Ask with an open heart and an open Bible, and let Him lead you to some answers.

    I wish I could help.

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    1. Your words are encouraging, TBR. I will continue to act in faith -- and go against my every inclination -- and continue to pound on the gates of heaven with my requests. Does the squeaky wheel get the grease?? lol!

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    2. According to Luke 18, it does most definitely. ☺

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