A Reflection on Prayer for Healing
Empty 1 bottle of red wine into a saucepan. Add to it an orange cut in half, 2oz Demerara sugar, 1 dried bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, and some grated nutmeg. Simmer gently until the sugar has dissolved. Strain into heatproof glasses and serve at once.
We know all recipes are based on the same assumption - that if we use the right ingredients, and the right quantities, in the right order, then the outcome is always guaranteed.
So I wonder if we sometimes treat prayer as though there is a recipe for it ? Do we think that if we use the right the right words, in the right way - then God is guaranteed to do what we want ?
But prayer isn't like that - it doesn't force God to do something for us. Although no prayer ever goes unheard, and our prayers are always answered, like any loving parent, God doesn't always say 'yes' to our requests. Sometimes he says 'no'. Sometimes he says 'not yet'. And sometimes when he does says 'yes' - he answers our prayers in ways that we hadn't even imagined were possible ! This is true of all prayer, not just prayers for healing. There is no special prayer recipe - nothing we can do that will twist God's arm, or force him do what we want.
Do we believe that God always hears and answers all of our prayers ? Yes ! Can miracles occur when we pray for healing ? Yes ! Some people do have a gift for healing - by which we mean, that God often works through them to heal people - but even they don't know in advance, what the outcome will be when they pray for someone.
When we ask God for healing, sometimes the person is healed instantly. But some people are not healed until after many prayers have been offered for them, perhaps over a long period of time. And some people never receive external healing. But the experience of those involved in the healing ministry here in St. Cuthbert's, is that everyone we pray for, is helped in some way.
Yes, they may be healed, or they may they find start coping better with their situation, or perhaps they are less anxious about it. They may become more aware of God's presence with them, or of his love for them, or find they are strengthened and supported in ways they had never imagined were possible.
Our experience in St. Cuthbert's is that people do receive a blessing from God when we pray for them, but that blessing is not necessarily either immediate or obvious. We believe God always hears and always answers our prayers - no prayer is ever wasted - but God is no genie in a bottle, waiting to obey our commands ! We can never dictate how or when God answers our prayers, whether they are for healing, or anything else.
Miraculous healings do still happen today. But we should perhaps also pause to consider, that many of the ways in which we now see people healed, and so much of what we simply take for granted, in Jesus' day, would only have been possible through a miracle. Think of the huge variety of diagnostic tools, medicines, and surgeries available to us. Just because these are now common, doesn't mean that God is not involved when people are healed, or that we shouldn't thank him.
I expect we are all aware too, that that there is far more to good health than just a lack of physical ailments. Our mind and emotions, our spirit and soul - any or all of these can need healing - and so we talk about holistic healing, or about people needing to be made whole. So are health and wholeness the same thing ? Can modern medicine, which heals so many physical problems, also bring us wholeness ? Sometimes God may not answer our prayers for healing, with physical healing, but he may grant wholeness.
But whatever we experience, whatever happens to us, we can always be assured of God's constant love for us, and know that he is always with us, sharing our pain and suffering, and strengthening and supporting us, even during the darkest times in our lives.
With the recipe at the beginning, it doesn't matter how many times we make it, the end result will always be the same mulled wine !
With prayer - there no magic formula, no fool-proof recipe, and no way to force God to do what we want. And for that we should give thanks, because when we allow God to be God, the end results are often more wonderful than we would ever have imagined were possible.
. . . and in my experience, that rarely happens when you follow a recipe !
For all Church or calendar related issues, please contact :