Why pray?

7. May '10

My friend, Heiner, has been battling what appears might be a losing fight against cancer for the past two years. We have walked day by day with him and Christa and their three girls through this valley of the shadow of death, have stood with them in prayer. We have engaged many of our friends and supporters in regular prayer for his healing. Yesterday we visited Heiner and Christa and received the news that the cancer has now spread to his pancreas. According to his doctors he now has 10-12 weeks to live. What do I tell all our folks that have prayed regularly for Heiner’s healing? That their prayers were not heard? Should I spiritualize the whole thing by saying that God wants to heal him completely by taking him home? 

It has caused me to rethink my whole theology of prayer. Subconsciously I undoubtedly took for granted that the more people I involved in prayer for him, the better his chances would be of being healed. Can God be lobbied?

The conclusion that I’m coming to is this: How arrogant of me to use prayer as simply a means to get what I want, or perhaps even think that I deserve! Is prayer not much more a conduit for fellowship with the God who wants my fellowship? How often have I gone to Him with my agenda: “Lord, you are great and merciful. Thank you for all your blessings. Now…. here’s my list of things I want you to do for me…” Why do I tend to talk so much in prayer? Why do I listen so little? Heiner and I sat together yesterday and for extended periods there was nothing said. I just sat next to him as he lay on the couch. And it was good. Why don’t I do that with God? Perhaps THIS is the primary purpose of prayer… just being with the One who finds me valuable enough to give His life for and after all He did, to want to BE with me.

So is this then resignation? Have I lost faith that God can heal him and resigned myself to giving up on his life? I don’t think so. It’s not resignation, but more relinquishing control of life and death… a control that neither I nor any of us has ever had anyway. Life, in all of it’s unfairness, is all about submission to Him… giving up, letting go, surrendering to Him, who is wiser, more loving and gracious than I am sometimes willing to believe.

But God also wants us to come to Him with our needs and desires, if we'll come like a child, with humility, honesty and heart. There are many evidences of this kind of prayer being directly answered in scripture. Here's just one:

2 Kings 20:1-6: 1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover. 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes. And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life.