Allow me to start by saying that I hope Yom Kippur found you closer to God than you have ever been! May you go into Sukkot with joy in your heart and complete Shalom. You and I have been made clean, what a reason to celebrate!
This post is late. It’s been a week of trying to wrap my mind around some concepts, and I like to savor the process now, instead of dread it, because I learn so much even before the “revelation” comes! Six months ago, when I first walked away from the cross, not having all the answers frustrated me. During my time in Christianity, there was a little formula to follow, neat and precise. Sinner’s prayer, invite someone into my heart and tell everyone about it. Easy peasy. Done deal. Here, on this side of that cross, there is a God who is simply uncontainable, and Who has invited me to walk in His Ways, the ones I understand and the ones I don’t. A wise sister has helped me to understand that I don’t have to know all of the answers today, and that I can trust God to reveal to me just what I need to know, when I need to know it. When my face is on Him and in His Word, I will grow in knowledge and understanding. Period. That’s how it works. This week, prayer has been on my mind.
Monday found me in the emergency room, awaiting x-rays for a physical problem I have been having for almost five years. The tests did not reveal the answers I thought they would, but I learned some things anyway that day, sitting in a wheelchair in the waiting room. I noticed that people can be mean, even to those trying to help them. I realize that no one is at their best when they are ill, but that is never a reason to be nasty and insultive to others. The main complaint, of course, was related to the wait time. A fellow came in with a chain saw kickback injury, and was escorted back to an exam room immediately. That’s what an emergency room is for. For those of us who were there because we have no other health care options, the wait will be long. Why make it worse on everyone, including ourselves, by being agitated? I made a mental note to always be aware of how I act when I’m waiting. It’s a good rule of thumb to check ourselves when we see others behaving badly.
I also got to witness something I hadn’t yet, since looking through this new lens, and it has stayed on my mind. A twenty-something guy was waiting to be seen, too, also “parked” in a wheelchair. I don’t know what he was there for, but it was obvious he was in considerable pain. His writhing was accompanied by some not so pleasant language, but that is not my point. I know all too well that some whoppers of words can come out of our mouths at a certain level of pain. We nice “religious” folk usually save those expressions for behind closed doors, don’t we? But I digress. There was a woman there who asked this guy if she could, and I quote, put her hands on him and pray. He and the lady he was with gave each other a discreet eye roll, but he answered the woman in the affirmative. Even in his pain, he was polite to her.
The prayer literally made me cringe. Calling on a name that isn’t God’s, this woman commanded the pain to be gone, and this young man to be healed, then and there. The prayer went on for about three minutes, ever praising that other name, and ever speaking authoritative statements. After the “amen” the woman went about her business, and the young man sat for an hour or so more, still writhing in pain. In the writings that call themselves the New Testament, believers are told they have the ability to heal others. I can’t help but wonder why they don’t question the results of these “commanding prayers “. I did, when I used to pray them. Do we have the authority to heal or don’t we? Torah says God is healer. Not us.
I couldn’t help but wonder what that man was thinking, too. Having been privy to the discussions he was having with the woman who escorted him into the waiting room that day, it was evident that they were not particularly religious, if at all. I have an idea what he might have thought of the prayer, though, , because I remember thinking about “healing prayers” before I was a believer, when a grandchild of mine was in the neonatal unit of a hospital, fighting for every breath. Back then I wondered why some of those children lived and some died, if prayer “really” worked. The young man might have thought, “God isn’t listening” or even that “God doesn’t care”. Did the woman who prayed also wonder why her prayer wasn’t answered? Did she wonder if her faith was too small? Or if she was asking for wrong reasons, like the passages she’s read indicate? I’m not sure what either of them thought, but I know what I was thinking. I was thinking that when we try to step into authority that belongs to God alone, we are standing in muck.
Now, I commend the praying woman for trying to walk in what she believes are God’s commands, please don’t misunderstand me! While she was praying, I was praying for her, and for God’s plan to unfold in her life, whatever that plan may be. But if she was trying to “win souls for the Kingdom” how successful do you think her attempt was? I’m thinking that man did not decide then and there to begin his own journey with The Creator (if he didn’t have a journey yet). The whole endeavor may have done nothing but affirm for him that God is unreachable and unattainable, or at the very least, ineffective. The well-meaning prayer warrior may have done more harm than good in the Name of God. Of course, I can not know this, I am pondering the incident only, thinking about how we should be praying for the strangers we encounter. Do we lay our hands on them and declare them healed? God forbid! The Torah gives specific details about health and healing, and they are all connected to obedience, and to the God who does what He wills.
I prayed for the young man, too, but he doesn’t know that. I prayed that whatever was happening to him would make him cry out to God, and that God would hear. I prayed that the man would see that there was more to life than what his eyes could see. I asked God to be merciful and compassionate, and to reveal Himself to this man in a way that would bring glory to God’s Name. Lastly, I asked God to be with the man, to strengthen him to endure what was happening physically, and to reveal any injury or illness that was happening spiritually. I ended the prayer with the same ending I always use when I pray for others, “May your will come to pass in his life, for your honor, glory and praise!” Did I do it right? I don’t know. I’m still in prayer kindergarten, standing before an omniscient God. I did the best I could with the knowledge I have today. Next year, God willing, I’ll have more.
The last lesson I have learned from this whole “Emergency Room” incident was that sometimes no news is not always good news. But with God, not good news can be the best news! Doesn’t make a lick of sense, does it? Let me clarify. My inconclusive test results indicated that something much more sinister than a malalignment was going on in my hips. The x-rays revealed great looking bones with no injury or masses pressing on them, yet I cannot walk for more than a minute without stopping to relieve the pain. The day after Yom Kippur, God gave me a huge nudge to check into some specific things, and the explanation to my angst came in less than an hour. Because I followed His prompting, I am now armed with information and a plan. The health decisions I had made in the years that I didn’t walk in obedience have manifested. I am reminded that God is not mocked, and we WILL reap what we sow. God could have delivered me from this consequence with great ease….He is God. But if He had, would I have learned anything about obedience and consequences? Probably not. I believe He is delivering me, though. By showing me the cost of my disobedience in the areas of clean eating and health care choices. As I learn to sow new seeds by making better choices, I can be sure I will see a different kind of harvest in my future! I came home sad on Monday that nobody could tell me what was wrong with me. Now I know I should have just sought God, instead, who is faithful to answer all of my questions…even the ones about hip pain!
I’ll “see” you next week! Until then, I hope you will ponder why we prayer for others, and how we should be doing it. ~Shalom!