This time last year I was praying for people with the confidence of knowing that all I prayed for were healed or at least whose conditions didn’t worsen. I’m not exaggerating. When God healed me He left me with a powerful faith and, I suppose, ordained my steps to come in contact with those He wanted to heal. Maybe He was protecting me from seeing the sad side while He strengthened and prepared me for that. Either way, it sure is easy to believe your prayers matter when He answers them all.
It’s a lot harder to pray with serious, passionate faith when you know it might not matter. You might look like an idiot. They might die anyway. You might have given someone false hope or become a stumbling block. You wonder if you overstated God. Maybe they’ll blame you for getting the miracle they would have preferred to go to someone else. All people of faith likely encounter at least one of these issues, even if it doesn’t bother them like it does me.
I’ve told you before how lonely it can be as a miracle recipient. Your friends are in (appropriate) awe of what He did for you, but few can relate. The enemy doesn’t stop attacking just because God’s hand touched us so perfectly, and we don’t magically turn into superstars of faith who need only a moment of prayer to face hard times. We mira-cured (yup, I just created a word, like it? As in “miracle” and “cured” combined. How many believers do you think it would take to share the good news about His miracles to get that word used into mainstream use?) struggle with fears that the miracle will come “untrue/undone” in some way, or that something worse will happen that overshadows the goodness. Some of us feel so shocked about having been mira-cured that we “know” God wouldn’t give us another awesome miracle down the road. When pondering this today, I realized I’m in that camp. If something really bad happened to me, my immediate response would not be, “Wow, what a great opportunity to commune with God! I can’t wait to see how He fixes it this time!”. Nope. If I got really bad news again I would paste a smile on my face (like I always do, what’s that about? I start thanking every staff member profusely, and apologize for taking up space), and by the time I got to my car I would have my whole funeral planned.
I do not say this as a prophecy, just as an embarrassing truth. I decided it’s better to face now than to have to learn the lesson the hard way. Because the tragedy of that scenario wouldn’t be that I died, but that I lost faith, which is the primary requirement for glorifying God. The lesson shouldn’t be that God maxes out on miracles. It should be that our faith is ever-growing and stretching. Despite what we know about people dying. No matter how many times we have prayed and seen the opposite of what we’re asking for happen, we must try again. We will not grow weary of doing good. We will not fall away and lean on our own understanding when times are tough. We will not discount God because it’s easier to use human terms and expectations. It was true yesterday that all things that are impossible with men are possible with God. And tomorrow, the same will be true.
In Mark 9:14-29 there is an awesome story about a man whose son was possessed with an evil spirit. The disciples had the authority to cast it out, but even though they did tons of great works, they could not cast it out. Did the man go home and complain about the wasted trip? Nope. He took his son to the leaders and asked Jesus for help. Did he have faith that Jesus would heal him? Not much. He said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (v. 22).
So, this guy wasn’t certain Jesus would or could fix it, but he was desperate enough to stick around.
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He was like, “IF you can!” Can’t you hear the indignation there? The man should have had faith, because he knew enough about Jesus to bring the boy there in the first place! But, like me, this guy struggled a bit. The man responded, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Think about that. He said he believed, but acknowledged the difficulty. He knew that Jesus could help his unbelief in the first place. It seems weird, to ask the guy you want to believe in for help believing in Him. But he was being honest. It’s hard stuff. I’m sure his faith had been destroyed bit by bit when each disciple had failed at their attempts to cast the demon out.
Eventually Jesus cast it out and the disciples were confused about why they couldn’t do it themselves. Jesus said that kind had to be driven out by prayer (many versions say ‘and fasting’). Maybe if the disciples could do endless works without stumbling they would have gotten big heads. Maybe their training was sort of like my year of everyone being healed. And no matter what your equivalent of that training time is, it’s on to the next phase and we all have to step it up a notch. Pray more. Fast more. Focus more on God, His kingdom, righteousness, and sovereignty, and less on how we can pray and intervene on behalf of other people.
Romans 8:5, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires”