Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I am reading Francis Chan's second book, Forgotten God, for the second time. I read it a few months ago and decided I wanted to go through it again. As I was reading I came across the following story:

Recently, a man dying of cancer asked the church elders to anoint him with oil and pray for his healing. Before we prayed, however, I asked the man a question I don't normally ask: "Why do you want to be healed? Why do you want to stay on this earth?" The man, as well as everyone else around, seemed a bit surprised that I would ask such a blunt question.

Chan goes on and expounds on this thought and it is very powerful and thought provoking.

As I have this story/thought in the back of my mind I have been looking at the numerous prayer request sent out via churches, friends, Bible study groups in a completely different light. Most of the request are sent out asking for something similar to the following: "Pray for Suzie, she just found out she has cancer. Pray that God would heal her." Or "Pray for the Jones'. They just left for South America on a missions trip. Pray that they would be safe and return home without any complications." As I hear these, Francis' questions pops into my head...Why? Why do you want to be healed? Why do you want a safe, trouble free missions trip? When we pray like this could it be that what we are really saying is that we don't believe God can work through tragedy or are we simply afraid of trials and troubles in our life. Are we more concerned with our safety our well being and our comfort than we are with allowing God to be glorified in whatever He chooses to allow us to experience?

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying pray that someone would die from their illness or that someone would be fatally injured on a missions trip. However my question is: Can God work through tragedy? Can God receive glory through someone's death. Absolutely, just look at what was accomplished at the cross some two thousand years ago!

Along these same lines, if you look at the prayers of the Apostle Paul they are very different from what I hear in church on Sunday mornings or what comes across prayer chain e-mails. Look at just a few and see how Paul prays:

Ephesians 1:17-19 - 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Philippians 1: 9 11 - 9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Colossians 1: 9 - 12 - 9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Was there pain and suffering in Ephesus, sure, were there missionaries being sent out of Philippi, absolutely were people dying in Colossi, yes. But Paul does not pray for safety or healing for any of the Believers in these churches, he does not pray for their physical well being. Paul keeps his prayers focused on the spiritual well being of these men and women. I think Paul knew first hand that God could and would be glorified through pain and suffering and through tragedy in the same way He could be glorified through healing and safety. Look at what Paul said as he headed out on his journey to Jerusalem.

Acts 20: 22 - 24 - 22"And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Notice what Paul says, not please pray for my safety or pray that I would get out of jail quickly if I cannot avoid being arrested altogether. He says I consider my life worth nothing! He reemphasizes this in Philippians 1

Philippians 1: 21 - 24 - 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

I think if the apostle Paul were here today visiting our churches and someone began to pray for his health or safety while he travels he might ask them the same question Francis asked the man in his church - "Why?"

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