Pick and Choose

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been studying how the supernatural intersects our everyday lives via prayer. I have to admit that even typing the word ‘supernatural’ feels a little funny to me.

I don’t know why. I say I believe in God and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ–to do so I’d have to believe in this idea of supernatural events–yet I’ve noticed that the way I pray and interpret Scripture indicates exactly what I believe.

I pick and choose.

On the one hand, I say I believe that God is the ultimate healer and can perform miracles, but I’m afraid to pray that way. Even when I do pray for God’s miraculous touch, it’s as if I’m praying with one eye open, bracing myself for the reality that that person for whom I’m praying probably won’t be healed.

There were times when I really believed, or, at least, really wanted to believe. My friend was very sick, and I woke up one morning feeling in my heart that I was supposed to pray for his healing. I did; I prayed earnestly and fervently, yet he was not healed.

A couple of weeks ago, our church set aside a special time to pray for healing in view of this series on the supernatural, and I went forward and asked for prayer for my uncle. Again, I felt a strong prompt that I was supposed to pray for his healing. My uncle is a quadriplegic due to what doctors think was a blot clot that formed after back surgery, and within the last few years his health has been on a steady decline.

A couple of days after praying, my mom told me that now my uncle is struggling to breathe.

In situations like those, I begin to doubt myself. Did God really prompt me to pray, or did I just want to see a miracle myself? Did I not pray with enough faith? Does God really heal?

I know that God really heals, but I’m afraid to ask. I temper my prayers with if it’s your will so that if someone is not healed or my prayer is not answered the way I’d like, I can say that it wasn’t God’s will.

Of course, I know I’ve stated the key–God’s will–not mine, yet I can readily admit my fear to really believe beyond ordinary.

Sometimes it’s easier to believe in the power of doctors and medicine than the power of the Doctor. And yet other times, times when I need the healing, I want to grab onto the power of God instead of the resources He’s given me.

Our pastor shared a familiar passage to me, but he opened my eyes to a fuller meaning:

13Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 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. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13-16, New International Version)

I have read and heard this passage many times in regard to praying for those who are sick. I’ve seen pastors anoint individuals with oil, and I always assumed the function was symbolic. However, our pastor shared that the actual Greek text suggests that this anointing served a specific purpose. Olive oil was known for its medicinal properties, and this passage instructs sick individuals to essentially seek prayer and medicine.

After my third child was born, my mental health was on a steady decline for two years. I chalked up my emotions to a confused, hormonal body after having three kids in three years and nursing each of them. However, my daughter rounded 18 months, and I wasn’t feeling better.

I thought, perhaps, that my spiritual life was out of whack. I started waking up at five every morning so that I could pray and read the Bible and process through my feelings on my blog. However, any relief I felt was temporary, and I didn’t understand why. Eventually, I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and I cried and yelled at my children almost every day.

During my annual physical, my doctor suggested I try medication. Two years was too long for me to deal with depression. I cried as we talked about the prospect, feeling that I was mentally weak or spiritually deficient. My wise, Christian doctor offered the most comforting words:

Scripture says that it will renew the mind. Your mind is an extension of the soul, but your brain is part of the physical body. There is no indication in Scripture that by reading the Word your body will be healed. Now, God can heal you, but He would have to heal you the same way He would have to heal someone of high blood pressure. Right now, the chemical levels in your brain are out of whack, and medication will just retrain them to produce those chemicals that you need.

Looking back to the passage in James, I see that my doctor’s words were essentially the same advice I read a couple of weeks ago in church. Pray and seek medicine. God may heal me; He is mighty and able to perform miracles, but he may want to heal me through the use of the resources I have available.

The bottom line, whether I’m dealing with depression or my uncle is struggling to hold onto his life, is that I’m supposed to pray the same way. I’m supposed to pray, not with one eye open, doubting what my God can do, but believing that at this very moment my uncle could get up and walk. At this very moment, I could wake up without the need for medicine again.

While I will never understand the will of God this side of heaven, I understand my role. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. And while I’m not righteous on my own, I have Christ pleading on my behalf. God hears my prayers, and they are effective, whether God answers them with a blazing flash of lightning or a tiny pink pill.

Do you pick and choose when it comes to your understanding of prayer? Linking up today with Michelle and Jen.


12 thoughts on “Pick and Choose

  1. What a great post! I needed to read your thoughts on prayers – I have many of the same struggles! Thanks so much for visiting my blog over yonder 🙂 I love discovering new blog communities – have a wonderful day!


  2. I completely understand what you mean and have struggled with similar questions. I wrote a post about it once as well (I think it's called When I Pray For You, if you want to read it). I have come to understand that praying for other people is for my sake as much as theirs. It keeps me from being selfish, it reminds me of my need for grace, it turns my heart outward and reminds me I'm not the center of the universe. We won't understand this side of heaven how God chooses to answer prayer but we know we are called to pray. I love your honesty.


    1. I very much agree with you. I read Cold Sassy Tree when I was in high school, and I remember one of the main characters saying more or less that prayer doesn't change God; it changes him. I know that prayer is powerful–even though I don't actually 'get it'–but I can't deny that God created prayer for my benefit, as well.


  3. My daughter. Your heart is tender, your love for the Lord and your faith is so obvious. I think many of us feel as you do, for example, saying "If it be your will.." so all basis are covered in the event your prayer is not answered the way you want it. We need to have faith in our doctors and the medicine they prescribe because God gave them the wisdom to help heal and mend and prescribe. No one has the answers as to why God may seem to answer some prayers and not others. However, if our Father answered all prayers, perhaps I'm exaggerating but there would be no sicklness or famine, poverty, etc, much of what was caused by choices made through our free will. It would be a perfect world, just as if Adam and Eve didn't commit the original sin. I'm rambling but understand your feelings.


    1. Your definitely right–suffering and sickness are a result of 'the fall' and sin, and they remind us that this is not our home. But at the same time, God IS powerful and can do miracles; I want to have faith like a child to always believe that fact.


  4. This faith walk is a journey, isn't it? A process. Yes. I pick and choose. I doubt. I believe. I have faith. I throw in the towel. And always – without fail – God loves me, and THAT amazes me. I am so fickle, and He remains faithful.


    1. Faith is an interesting paradox for me; I'm supposed to have faith like a child, and faith for children is easy. Yet having that child-like faith as an adult can be so difficult!


  5. Thank you for picking and choosing to pray for me today. I feel your struggle in this post. Why do we saddle ourselves with the extra pressues of shoulds and oughts? I'm glad I came by for this.


  6. Oh dear Jennifer – you have wrestled well with these hard questions. And you have come down in the right place – a place of openness to all the possibilities in the Providence of God AND a recognition that there are lots of different ways that people can be healed. Medicine is a gift of God and if used by a caring and knowledgable practitioner, a means to healing for many. There are instances of supernatural healing – I believe that and have even seen a few here and there. But more often than not, at least in this western world in which we live, healing comes through God's gift of medicine. Also, being led to pray for someone is no guarantee that healing will happen in the way we might wish. The longer I live, the more I experience prayer as a quiet, faithful activity, more about listening, about lifting names and faces into God's presence and releasing them there, trusting that God will do what is the right and good thing to do. And God will regularly bring to mind those for whom we might pray – our role is to cultivate openness and to offer space and time for listening. Thanks for this good wrestling. And thanks for your kind comment on my blog this morning – I appreciate it more than you know.


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