Updating prayer requests at ladies’ bible study brought mentions of arthritis, shoulder shots, failing eyesight, foggy hearing, diminishing memories, knee aches, hip pains, cancer, allergies, back pain, walking problems, up-coming surgeries, etc. when Kay said, “Sheila” --a member who hadn’t been present for quite a while— “you’re next; what updates do you have?” Having finished giving a litany of ailments, she raised her arms and asked, “Are we supposed to pray for these age-related ailments? We’re about the same age, and it sounds like we’re all falling apart at the same time. How should we pray?”
We were all amused. Kay confidently assured Sheila and the rest of the group, that scripture urges us to pray about everything, including health. “We need a blog on this, Ruth,” a soft voice from the end of the table suggested. “I’ll work on it,” I promised. Easier said than done. Tons of books have been written on this subject and condensing pertinent prayer-guidelines presented a tall order for a five-minute read.
That afternoon, in describing to a friend the up-coming prayer-blog, she shared this memory: “A small group gathered to pray for our mutual friend who battled a serious medical problem. With heads bowed in silence for a long time, one of the guys finally broke the silence in a wavering voice, “I’ve never prayed. I don’t know how to pray. But God, this is what I want you to do, fix it.”
We smile, but the truth is that God hears ‘foxhole’ prayers. Yours and mine. When I consulted “Hey Google, what’s a foxhole prayer?” the reply was: Even for people who do not claim to believe in God, prayer is still a winning proposition. It centers your heart and attention on what is most important. It still focuses your eyes on the invisible rather than the visible.
As I gathered ideas on ways to approach the magnitude of praying for age-related impairments, a magnet-message on my fridge came to mind: After 50, it’s patch, patch, patch. Humorously, true. Ageing—deteriorating bodies and minds--should not surprise anyone over fifty. Recalling a comment from our bible study discussion--Before we pray for our ailments, we are responsible for taking the very best care of our bodies and minds, which begins when we are under parental care throughout adulthood.
Granted, a great deal of thought, time and money is involved in taking good care of our bodies and minds: We all know the drill: adequate water, sleep, exercise, healthy food/balanced diets, medicines, vitamins, supplements as needed; routine visits with eye, audio, dental, primary doctors, surgeons, re-haps, therapists, etc.
Discipline in optimizing what works for us and paying close attention to how we feel, is no doubt the hardest part, and especially difficult for people who dislike tracking details, especially negatives ones.
Going from the known—ailments--to the unknown--healing, and whether God actually hears and answers health prayers is best answered by experiences of others including doctors.
When discussing going from the known to the unknown in health, I’m very aware that that was Jesus’ favorite teaching method. His earthly ministry was primarily walking the dusty roads and teaching his disciples by intentionally focusing on people from all walks of life in order to heal them of fevers, blindness, hearing impairment, paralysis, diseases, demon possession--even raising several from death. He went from known-(visible) to the unknown- (invisible) -helping the healed to understand spiritual truths. Healing all kinds of diseases and raising people from death proved that He was the prophesied Messiah paving the way for personal relationship and dependence on God.
Healing varies from being comforted and calmed to outright removal of the disease or physical incapabilities. Several people who were informally polled shared that before surgeries, their surgeons prayed for them. One of the guys quipped, “I don’t know if my doctor was praying for my sake or his; giving him confidence in performing the procedure or just using his prayer to comfort me.”
The surgeon said to my sister when she came through emergency cancer surgery, “You had angels surrounding you for sure. It’s amazing that everything went so well. We were able to get every bit of cancer cells.” Many people were praying for her. D.
When I prayed for healing, my physical ailment didn’t go away, but I was helped to be calmer in facing recovery pain, and then accepting a decreased but tolerable mobility. Only God could do that. A.
My brother became so combative with dementia, that his wife, for his and her safety, transferred him into a medical facility. And when he died, we all considered that his death was healing. God’s answer. G.
After making her search for the right surgeon a matter of prayer, a client was led to a surgeon in such an unusual way, that she believes that God answered her prayers. J.
When I prayed for healing, my physical ailment didn’t go away, but prayer helped me to be calmer about facing the pain, surgery and accept a decreased but tolerable mobility. Only God could do that. L.
Dean Marek, a chaplain at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn, responding to the question regarding the part of prayer, said "You hear tons of stories about the power of prayer, and I don't doubt them."
When polled, a 78-year-old cuckoo clock ‘doctor’ responded: People are like cuckoo clocks. Cuckoo clocks dry out in four or five years. Some owners think their grandfather clocks and cuckoo wall clocks will last forever, but without care, they will not last very long. They are not constructed to last forever. But regarding praying for physical ailments, we need to keep ourselves ‘oiled’ and prayer is part of that oil-job. When we face serious physical decline, rather than expecting to be fixed ‘good as new’, we should focus on our spiritual growth during bouts of illness keeping in mind that of a diamond in the rough…. without pressure, a diamond is not cut to sparkle.
Thankfully, God never takes his eyes off his creation. Praying for friends, family and ourselves is an excellent spiritual exercise and discipline. In our bible study prayer time, we pray for people we have never met and probably never will meet, but we believe our prayers help them to recover. We know for sure that God is able to do anything that needs to be done; heal any; disease that abounds. Any healing we receive is a gift from Him. Personally, I consider having peace about any problem, as an answered prayer.
The question regarding how a person might know for sure that their healing was indeed God’s doing varies radically. Reading accounts of others in Guidepost or other devotional periodicals contributes to our spiritual growth, widening our perspective.
Please feel free to send responses and experiences using my e-mail at the top.
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Ps. 116:1-2 NIV.
Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; 8 I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. PS. 16: 5, 8 (NIV).
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.I Pet. 3:12 (NIV).
Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well… James 5:14,15 NIV.
The Apostle Paul’s experience when he asked God to heal an infirmity: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor: