Nov 16th 2006

Essay: A Response to voiceofthesheep.wordpress.com’s “How Shall I Pray?”

I posted this essay – in response to a post that can be found at http://voiceofthesheep.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/how-now-shall-i-pray/ intitled “How Now Shall I Pray” in which Brian Thornton writes of a close freind, Gigi Locke, a mother of 4, who has recently been diagnosed with late stage colon cancer. You can read more about her and those praying, interceeding, and encouraging her at http://www.caringbridge.org/cb/inputSiteName.do?method=search&siteName=gigilocke I encourage those few of you who actually read what I put up here to really pray the blood of Christ over her and that God would heal her and use this trial to expand the faith of all those involved.

Dear Brian –

I wanted to thank you for posting your reaction and thoughts regarding your friend’s sudden illness; I can feel your transparency and honesty as well as your struggle to ‘find your feet’ in light of the revelation of your friend’s sudden illness. I want to be open and honest in these regards lest anything I say appear to imply anything else other then that; for who amoung us would not be literally thrown to the floor emotionally and not feel like we were also cast down there theologically as well – were we to find out any such prognosis had been cast over any dear loved ones of our own. Let no one say they would react any differently then you have in this present situation. I want to be open and honest with you myself, though – at the risk of being overly transparent – and admit that when I first read your words, I took on the expression that is best characterized by the proverbial picture of a pooch – who having heard a command that it did not quite understand, tilted it’s head to the side and furrowed it’s brow, as if to anthromorphologically express it’s state of canine confusion.

My reaction may have been eccentuated by the fact that several days prior, I had had a discussion with a Church of Christ friend who openly stated that he found the belief in supernatural healing in the modern day to be absurd and stated with annoying repetition, as a rebuttal to everything I said, “how many people have you ever seen raised from the dead?” This put me into a deep, contemplative if not reactionary mood wherein I mulled over this fact; as I have done in the past: the difference between I and many of my fellow brothers in Christ; having been raised in a church where – unlike Boice stated he believed – we believe in supernatural healing, Holy Ghost empowered prayer, and that miracles are all around us and take place everyday – whether we believe in them or acknowledge their existence or not. In the midst of this “mood” I came across your blog. I confess this to you – in hopes that my words are not sharp but rather, hopefully, give you some firm step upon which you may plant you feet theologically in this present journey you are upon – if not just firmly – but perhaps – radically. I have, on many occasions, to the dismay of my friends; who would rather gloss over and marginalize theological differences – thinking them not to be all that important; aggressively ‘locked horns’ with those of a ‘hyper-faith’ or “name-it-and-claim-it’ persuasion – because I see the whole idea of those who get sick and find no healing “because they are in sin” or “don’t have enough faith” to be deeply heretical notions, offensive to the cross of Christ. Having stated thus – I reserve equal desire to rebuke anyone that would marginalize or question the idea of a God who heals or a Gospel that has just as much power to turn the world upside down with Holy Ghost-empowered believers as it did in the opening days of the church.

I have always struggled with a sense of dismay when my “cessationist” friends just seem to throw their hands up and say “oh, well – we guess it’s just whatever God wants to do” and offer up token prayers to earth-shattering events. It is true that we seem to so easily forget that death really is our ultimate healing – and that that which might seem to be on it’s face a loss, for the believer, is really unimaginable, inexpressible gain; but may we never forget that our ferverent prayers and the power of a risen Christ give us more hope then any other belief system/false religion can ever offer. Buddha never had stripes for my healing put across his back; Confucius never took the keys of death and hell from the Devil – our God did. May we never reach a place in our lives where we fail to have radical belief in the power of prayer to affect radical results. If your friend enters into Glory – then I am sure that it is for God’s gain both here and in heaven: there is no way to fully know how many decisions for Christ might be made – how many souls might have their eternal destiny changed because of her testimony and life. We have all heard of people who came forward at altar calls given at funerals; and never thought twice that such additions to the kingdom came at too great a cost. But don’t allow that to somehow counteract a belief and desire to believe for God to radically heal your friend no matter how grave or bleak the prognosis.

It is my hope and prayer for you that in light of this dark despair and agony that you would, with clear resolution, have no doubt that you can and rightfully should believe and pray for your friends healing – that you can boldly go before the Throne of God and intercede for your friend with ferverent and effectual prayer. That though the Holy Ghost in Holy Ghost led and empowered prayer you can wrestle with the forces of darkness in both this situation and others as well. Yes, doctors – are used of God – but I believe that it is absurd to spend your time praying for doctors – that to me just seems to be a distraction if it is offered up as a core concern; rather pray the blood of Jesus Christ over your friend and know in your heart that healing is there and freely available! Believe with a radical faith for a radical outcome! Our God is a healing God. May we never tire of proclaiming His healing power in our lives; that the Cross is a source of healing – not just to our souls – but our bodies as well. It is ok to be “thrown for a loop” and wonder how to pray. But when you get back up on your feet know in your heart that you serve a living, radical God and be radical in your faith and in what you both believe and trust God for. Walk in the belief that He can and desires to radically impact both your world and your lives in radical ways that can Radically demonstrate the Gospel. Don’t allow yourself to mope about in a despair that “everything is eventual” and “come what may” – don’t allow your faith to degenerate into a formulaic ritual that you just trod through life with. God is real and His power in our lives is real!

I hope that my tone is not too harsh – it is my desire to encourage you and I hope that if you do come from a theological ‘cessationist’ background that you might be encouraged to believe in something more radically then you have ever believed or thought possible. I hope that regardless of the outcome of your friend’s trial, that the faith of all involved is expanded, strengthened, and affirmed in ways that can only be accomplished through such a present experience. You have struggled and wondered how to pray in this present situation. It is my prayer for you and all those touched by this situation that as a result your faith is made radical and your trust complete; that your vision for what God can do and be trusted for is expanded and the foundations of it’s affirmation deepened.

The whole issue of “despair” is one that I have spent a lot of time reading/praying/meditating on. I wrote a two part essay on it; and it is unforgivably verbose and long-winded and I originally wrote it with no intention of even ever having anybody else read it. After some arm twisting by some friends who said that they really enjoyed and gained from it (though I have the same before mentioned puzzled-dog expression when they say that) I put it online. It’s at my myspace account if you are interested in it.

Thank you for sharing your heart with transparency, Brian; as well as the other words spoken here as well by others. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to offer what I hope is strong encouragement to you. I will pray for both you and your friend.

In Christ,

matthew