Tag Archives: prayer

Is it okay to pray for physical healing?

Of course it is! Physical sickness was not a part of God’s original creation. It’s only natural that we call out to our Creator to make us well.

The gospel accounts share numerous examples of Jesus healing people who had all sorts of illnesses and maladies.[1] Like a trailer from a highly anticipated movie, this is one of many ways Jesus gave previews of what it looks like when the power of God’s Kingdom comes to earth.

As we pray for healing today, it’s helpful to keep before us two New Testament passages that show us God will respond with healing or with grace.

On one hand, there is James writing, “Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.” (James 5:13–14)

On the other hand, there is the apostle Paul who asked Jesus to remove what he called a “thorn in my flesh.”[2]

 “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8–9)

 And in his last letter, Paul alludes to a co-worker that he left behind because of illness. “Trophimus I left sick in Miletus,” he writes.3 Sometimes God chooses not to heal His servants immediately.

The New Testament assures us that only when God’s Kingdom is fully implemented in the future will death and sickness and pain be eradicated.4 Until then, it’s good to pray for physical healing. The answer we receive won’t be healing or no healing. It’s healing now or healing later—with the grace to live faithfully and joyfully in anticipation of a full and permanent healing in God’s new heavens and new earth.

[1] Matthew 4:23

[2] 2 Corinthians 12:7

3 2 Timothy 4:20

4 Revelation 21:1-5

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Is it wrong to ask God to provide financial gain?

Jesus made it clear that the measure of a person’s value has nothing to do with their material possessions. In fact, He declared that “mammon” (Syriac for wealth or riches) is one of the most common obstacles to having a right relationship with God (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:9-13).

If we pray for improvements in our finances, we are like a child asking his father for a new bicycle. There is nothing wrong with asking, as long as we are willing to accept “no” as a possible response.

Just as a father may realize that his child isn’t mature enough to ride a bicycle on busy streets, God may realize that we aren’t ready for a financial windfall. He may know that we still need to learn discipline and self-control in order to achieve financial gain and handle it when we have achieved it. Or he may know that would be better for the development of our character if we never gained it.

If we pray for financial gain, it should be worded something like this:

“Heavenly Father, if it is Your will for me at this time, please help me financially. I have (list them) serious concerns, and don’t know how to deal with them. Please give me guidance and wisdom.”

 

 

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Why don’t Protestant Christians pray to Mary and other saints, seeking their help and intercession?

Christians who pray to Mary and saints in heaven to intercede for them sometimes say that praying to Mary and the saints is no different than asking living fellow believers to pray for them. They say that the Scriptures tell us to uphold each other and intercede for each other in prayer (Matthew 5:44; Ephesians 6:18; James 5:16).

Though Scripture doesn’t affirm it, it is conceivable that friends and loved ones who have preceded us to heaven are able to pray for us. But when Christians ask living friends and loved ones to pray for them, they don’t worship or attribute godlike qualities to them. They don’t assume they have unique intercessory abilities and special influence with the Savior. They don’t approach particular strangers and ask for their prayer support. Above all, they don’t “pray” to living friends. They ask them to share the burden of their prayer concerns with the Lord.

Christians who pray to Mary and the saints are assuming much more, believing that Mary and the saints are in a position to help in unique and specific ways: St. Anthony helps locate lost objects; St. Anne combats infertility; St. James the Greater heals arthritis; St. Jude offers hope to “lost causes”; St. Sebastian protects athletes; and many other “saints” are reputed to do specific things for many other categories of needy people.

The pagans of the Roman Empire once prayed to specific gods for help relating to the problems and challenges of life; and when Theodosius I officially outlawed pagan worship in ad 380, many people transferred their devotion from pagan gods to the saints. Thus, prayer to saints came to parallel devotion to the pagan gods of popular Roman religion.

Scripture doesn’t support the idea that “specialist” saints in heaven share with God the ability to hear thousands of prayers simultaneously. Nor does Scripture imply that particular people in heaven are able to intercede with God in a unique way in the case of particular kinds of needs. By attributing such abilities to these saints, we detract from the centrality of Jesus Christ as our divine and human mediator. We project the Savior’s unique qualities (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:26-28; Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1-2) on fellow believers who share our own sinful tendencies and frailties. Instead of honoring the Son of God who gave His life for us, we glorify the needy creatures He came to save. (See the ATQ article Why don’t Protestant Christians worship Mary and the Saints?)

 


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Why Should I Pray When it Doesn’t Seem that God Hears My Prayers?

It is part of the human condition to struggle with a sense of God’s silence—or absence. The disciples and the prophets had moments of weakness and distrust that are recorded in Scripture for all of us to read.

The silence that causes us such anxiety is not only essential to growth in faith, but needed for our expression of genuine trust in prayer. Prayer and faith are the result of a process of trusting. This process involves wonder, doubt, and worry. It enables us to grow in our ability to trust God in small ways that in time make it possible for us to trust Him through the great crises of life.

Genuine prayer isn’t mere ritual, nor is it just a productive mental habit. Prayer in the midst of doubt and feelings of abandonment is essential to realizing our need for God’s help. It isn’t that faith and hope can’t grow without prayer. They can, but without it they grow only slowly and haphazardly. This is because without prayer, faith and hope grow without our conscious support and participation.

In Luke 11:9, Jesus says: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you” (NKJV).

The order Jesus describes here is simple. We first must ask, and then it is given. We first must knock, and then the door is opened to us. If we don’t pray, we’re like people who expect to receive without asking or to have doors opened without knocking. Prayer is important because it acknowledges both our need for God’s help and our willingness to look to Him for direction. When we don’t pray, it is apparent that we consider God irrelevant and we take life, with all of its opportunities and blessings, for granted.

If we don’t consciously ask God for direction, we’ll usually lack the vision to see opportunities when they appear. Prayer nurtures vision, and vision sustains patient endurance. No wonder that Isaiah spoke of the importance of “hoping in the Lord.”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (40:28-31 NIV).

Ask the Lord to show you what and how to pray and what to expect when you do. He will respond.

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Is there Something Dangerous About Seeking Stillness in Prayer?

Some Christians are up in arms about people who advocate seeking stillness in prayer, accusing them of pantheism, heresy, sorcery, and other things. It’s true that some kinds of misnamed “prayer” involving visualization are closer to occultism than genuine prayer, but is simply seeking to achieve inner quietness in prayer unreasonable? This ministry recently received a letter in which someone described the difficulties they were having in prayer:

How do you empty your mind of the noise of your own thoughts, clamoring, jangling, huge bright pictures that never stop so you can be still? I sometimes spend hours trying to clear my head prior to prayer . . . only to never achieve stillness. Any suggestions?

We pray for lots of reasons. We bring our requests, hopes, and longings before the Lord. We ask for His direction and wisdom. We seek to express thanksgiving and adoration to Him, acknowledging and expressing our faith in His goodness, holiness, and love.

Regardless of our specific reasons, I suspect that freedom from distractions—including distracting thoughts—was a reason so many godly men spent time in desert solitude following their calling: Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Paul, and Jesus Himself (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16; John 6:15).

It’s probably impossible to completely free our minds of competing thoughts and “mental static.” Even if we were able to empty our consciousness of competing thoughts, subconscious images and memories—like the hallucinations we see and hear when we are falling asleep—would begin to appear. However, it is reasonable to seek to redirect our thoughts.

The writings of some of the ascetic saints of the early centuries of church history are interesting because of the ways they sought quietness in prayer. But achieving perfect stillness isn’t necessary. God is concerned with the intent of our heart. The apostle Paul writes:

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27 niv).

Although prayer is partially voluntary, there is also a supernatural element that is empowered by the Holy Spirit Himself. God communicates to us in prayer, but we must be willing and ready to listen. Our ability to hear His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13) may be affected by the attention we give it.

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