In many of the conversations that I have with my husband, we talk about healing, especially as it relates to our Christian faith. We are both in a two year practicum in which we are learning about healing prayer and intercession. It has been a growth experience for the both of us, and we are challenged and stretched by what we have learned and experienced. We have both had moments of great clarity of our damaged and scarred selves, and the realization that only Jesus can heal that which is broken within us. It takes a laying down of one’s pride to admit to being fractured, and it takes even greater trust to hand that over to another, allowing them to pray for us, asking them to intercede to the Father on our behalf. The more we journey through this healing process, the more we realize the layer upon layer of hurt and damage within our souls, wounds that have been internalized for years, sometimes decades, and how we have covered them up, over and over, hiding them from the world, hiding them from ourselves.
I have always been willing to pray for someone, in the privacy of my home, within the confines of my own head. A prayer chain from church? Put me on it. You are sick? Yep, got ya covered. Just between me and God, I can throw those prayers out there, beg Him for His healing, His mercy, His provisions. I have been known to fall to my knees or lie prostrate on the floor, crying out to the Lord.
But always in private.
Part of being on the Healing Academy is the willingness to pray for another and intercede on their behalf. But that can mean doing it right then.
Right at the moment when they ask.
For me, this is one of the greatest challenges. I have to leave the comfortable, safe space that I have within my own thoughts, my own private world with God. In a way, I have to “check out” of my own head, free myself from the constraints of judging myself and the words I am using, and pray for the Holy Spirit to fill me, to use prayers, words that are His, not mine. There isn’t a way to edit, to make pretty, the words that come. It usually isn’t deep, theological thoughts, but the murmurs of the heart, spoken aloud, sent to the heavens.
In the environment where we are, within the safety of a seminary and surrounded by believers, this is much easier to do, to be open, to claim the power and mercy of God. But what about when we are with friends and family who are not believers? Who do not yet know of the mercy of God? For me, it becomes even harder to say that I will pray for them, for their situation. I want them to know that I am thinking about them, that I care, and so I tell them that I will keep them in my thoughts and prayers. But I have never, right at that moment, cried out to God to intercede, to heal, to show mercy. Is it that I am trying to protect God, or at least my image of God as healer, as One who loves His people, all of His people? Because, what if He doesn’t heal them? What if we don’t get our hearts desire? Then is that disproving His existence? His power?
I know that many of my personal cries to God have not been answered in the time or the way that I have asked for. Perhaps It is the way He has grown me in faith, taught me patience. Sometimes, His answers to our pleas are “no” or “not yet.” As one who has seen the fruits of faith, I have an easier time with waiting on the Lord. Not always, but at least I have the past miracles of my life to lean my faith on.
But what about those who do not have that? Those who have never had prayers answered, those who do not know what to believe in? If we don’t share with others what our prayers are for, then if the answer is “no” or “wait”, then they can’t hold that against God. It is so much easier to keep our prayers silent, hidden, tucked away, just between us and God.
My father-in-law passed away from cancer three years ago. During the time he was sick, he had multitudes praying for him. Our church covered him in prayer. Friends and family prayed for healing, for a miracle, for a cure. And yet, our cries were not answered. Our prayers for healing did not happen in the way we were hoping. It is so easy in times like that to question, to doubt. And I will tell you right now, I don’t know the mind of God, nor do I ever aspire to. I do not know why some are healed and some are not, why some prayers are answered clearly and others aren’t. All I know is that there is an answer, though it may not be the answer we are hoping for. And that is the very difficult truth when trying to tell others of His mercy and love, especially when it just creates more doubt in those struggling to believe.
Are we really protecting our tiny, human-warped image of God by boxing Him in, by not allowing others to know when we cry out to Him, when we ache for Him? Are we negating who He is when we don’t allow for the miraculous to be seen by the world? In my small mind, can I ever begin to imagine or understand the power and glory of One who is omnipotent and omnipresent? In my brokenness, have I diminished the wonder and awe by not allowing others to see what I cry out for, what I ask for?
Am I truly living into my faith if I hide it in this way, trying to protect my personal image of God?
Am I really so vain as to think that I can protect God from what other think of Him? My mind is too small, and my God is too big, to be contained in this way.
I can’t imagine that I am the only person who has thought this way, the only one who worries about what those around me will think of God. Or am I? Perhaps it is in my own pride, my own vanity, that I want others to know MY God, to experience Him in the way that I do. I want you to know just why I love Him, why I believe. I want you to KNOW, just as I do. And yet, I know that each and every one of us has the opportunity to know Him in our own personal way, that each of our experiences are unique, and that is what is so beautiful about this life of faith, the way He chooses to reveal Himself to us.
And it is wonderful.
And I can’t protect you from that.
And I wouldn’t want to try.