Category Archives: Prayer

When Jesus Does Not Heal

It seems like a pretty insensitive question. The disciples come across a person who had been blind from birth, and ask Jesus,

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus, of course, sets them straight. This guy isn’t blind because he sinned. He is blind so that the work of God might be made manifest in him. And then — BOOM– Jesus heals him.

Blindness, disease, misfortune–when we encounter these things it is not God sending down his wrath because we’ve been bad. God doesn’t work that way. Jesus comes to bring life, to breathe healing. In this fallen and imperfect world, God allows us to experience trials and misfortune so that His work might be made manifest in us.

But what about when Jesus does not heal?

Redemptive suffering, you say. And yeah, it’s the correct answer. But it’s not an easy one.

The whole point of This Christianity Thing is that the path to Heaven is the Cross. We will all come to Calvary. We will all suffer. Yet, because of the Cross—because of Jesus— our suffering can have meaning. Our suffering is a part of our sanctification, and is meant to be offered up to Jesus in order to “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24).

Knowledge of this fact may not make the chemo easier or the grief hurt less, but at least, because of Jesus, we can do something with our suffering. We can give our hurt to Jesus. Not to make it hurt less, but to allow it to be used for good.

Still, it is a bit difficult grappling with the fact that the same Jesus who healed the blind man sometimes allows me to continue in my blindness, or my sickness, or my pain, without manifesting His power through a miraculous healing. Yet I also know that Jesus doesn’t owe me anything. I know that on this side of Heaven, there will always be suffering. I really don’t presume God to grant me miracles to reward my good behavior, and I know my struggles are not Jesus punishing me for bad behavior.

Sometimes bad things just happen.

But if I’m being totally honest, sometimes my “God doesn’t owe me anything” attitude has less to do with faith than it does with just not trusting God all that much. I spout off fancy, two-dollar phrases like, “Redemptive Suffering,” while on the inside, I’m asking with the disciples, “Jesus, who sinned? Why did this have to happen?”

After all, God causes it to rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike, right? So then what is even the point in praying? Is it all just essentially “points” and chugging along so that I can end up in the right place when I die?

When my knee-jerk reaction to suffering or trials is, “Well, God doesn’t owe me anything,” I think there’s something sort of “off” in my relationship with God. The statement itself is true. God doesn’t owe me anything. He has already given me everything and then some. Yet God loves me with the love of the Father. When I am crushed in spirit, His response is never simply, “Well, remember, I don’t owe you anything, Mary.”

It might not be in His perfect will to take my suffering away in the way that I am praying for, but it is not out of contempt or forgetfulness on God’s part that miracles appear to not come. It is out of love.

God understands my pain. He wants me to draw near to Him in times of trial, not as some kind of test of my love for Him, but because He has a plan and  purpose for every moment of my life. God causes all things to work together for my good–my ultimate good, yes, but the seldom-spoken truth is that my ultimate good and my immediate good are actually not in opposition to one another.

I once heard a priest (I think it was Fr. John Riccardo) say that the only thing that is going to happen at the end of our lives/ at the end of time is that the veil separating us from seeing things as they truly are will be pulled away. It won’t be that we suddenly won’t remember the events in our lives that caused us great pain, we will just finally see them in their fullness. We will see where God was and what He was doing in our lives’ greatest trials. We will see that God never abandoned us, and even in our weakest moments, He was drawing us closer to Himself.

We will finally see all the ways in which God has made His work manifest in us, even in those times in which it seemed He left us in our blindness.

So we should never tire of praying for miracles; and we can be assured that God is always, always at work within us.

“The Praying Type” isn’t a thing.

“I’m headed out to take a big test.  If you’re the praying type…”

“If you’re the praying type, I could really use some prayers for this job interview…”

“Feeling anxious/stressed out lately.  If you’re the praying type…”

Maybe this is overly nit-picky of me, but this phrase, “If you’re the praying type,” bugs me.

In fairness, I think we say it without even thinking about it. It’s just the go-to polite way to ask others to pray for you, without feeling needy or demanding. Plus, it acknowledges that not everyone prays and, for some reason, we seem to think that those who don’t pray need us to say that we’re not asking them to.

But, if you think about it, it’s sort of a dumb thing to say.

First of all, it doesn’t even really make sense. Personally, when I hear “the praying type,” I picture someone with a Bible kneeling in a church. But of course, there isn’t just one “type” of person who prays. Lots of different types of people pray. Regular church-goers, habitual sinners, people who haven’t darkened the door of a church in years. There isn’t a specific mold you have to fit in order to address your prayers to God. This phrase makes it sound like there is, and that’s just annoying.

More importantly, though, if you identify as the praying “type,” you should probably believe that everyone–even those who don’t actually pray–are in fact “the praying type,” too.

Do you have hopes, dreams, longings, fears, and just general thoughts that you often feel the need to express to another person?

Then, my friend, you are the praying type.

Prayer is a conversation.  A conversation in which we share our hearts with God in the belief that doing so might bring about a change within us or a specific situation. Those of us who believe in prayer believe in a God who listens to us and wants to answer us when we cry out to Him. This is a God who wants to take an active part in our lives. Either this God is real or He is not. His willingness to listen to us or to answer our prayers does not depend on whether we have prayed every day, or never prayed; and it certainly does not depend on what “type” of person we are.

Now I’m not saying we should demand or ask that non-believers address prayers to a God they don’t believe in on our behalf.  I just hate that our most commonly used invitation to prayer is so lame and wimpy sounding. Why would we ever limit the invitation to pray to specific “type” of person?

We wouldn’t add this sort of caveat to any other request grounded in reality.  At dinner time, we would never say something like, “I’m hungry.  If you’re the type who believes humans need to eat, you’re welcome to join me for dinner.”  That would be silly. The fact is that hunger is a real human experience and dinner is a real solution to it!  Those who wanted to eat dinner with us would join, and I have a hard time believing that those who did not want to join us–for whatever reason– would be offended by the invitation.

So too with prayer.  We have problems, and, as believers, we believe our Creator can help us with those problems.

Why not invite everyone to dinner?

Just something to think about. I mean, if you’re the thinking type 🙂

mary-sig

Can Catholics “Pray Over” People? Answering 3 Objections to the “Laying On Of Hands”

I grew up in a very “charismatic” family. To me, though, we were just Catholic.

As far as I was concerned, everybody who was Catholic went to mass on Sundays, listened to Scott Hahn tapes (yes, TAPES) on long car rides, and had grandfathers who would pray over people, receive words of prophecy, and experience God manifesting physical healings through the laying on of hands.

It wasn’t until I grew up and met other devout Catholics that I learned that there are some within the Church who are not on board with the “style” of prayer on which I was raised. There are those who view laypeople praying over one another as maybe not-totally-ok or perhaps even not in line with Church teaching.

Well listen here, y’all. There is nothing in Scripture or in Church teaching that prohibits laypeople from laying hands on one another and asking for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Not a thing. I promise.

When you look this up, the closest “objection” from any official Church teaching you’ll find is to point out that praying over someone is not the same thing as a sacrament. There is a difference between a layperson praying over someone and a bishop conferring the sacrament of confirmation, or a priest giving absolution. Of course, those in the Charismatic Renewal will be the first to tell you this. We need the sacraments. Praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is something we should all be doing regularly as Christians, in addition to receiving the sacraments.

But because praying over people is still sometimes seen as “weird” or “not ok” in some Catholic circles, I wanted to write to answer some common objections I’ve encountered over the years.

 “God Doesn’t *Need* You To Lay Your Hands On Someone”

This is absolutely true. God can work miracles in whichever way He pleases, and He is certainly not bound to our physical actions. There is nothing *magical* about physically laying your hands on someone to pray for them.

Still, there is no denying that throughout Salvation History, God employs physical means to carry out His Divine power. We see this from the very beginning. Adam is formed from the dust of the ground, Eve is taken from his rib. In Exodus, Moses must hold his arms in the air in order for the Israelites to defeat the Amalekites in battle. When his arms inevitably grow tired, Aaron and Hur have to come to his side to hold his arms for him, because when they drop, the Amalekites begin to win the battle. It seems so arbitrary (and how foolish they must have looked!). Surely God could’ve told Moses that all He needed to do was pray fervently and silently for the duration of the battle—but for whatever reason, that’s not what God wanted. Even in Jesus’ ministry, He heals a blind man with spittle and dirt. Surely He didn’t need either, but for some reason, Jesus used physical matter to do His Father’s work.

Of course God doesn’t need us to lay our hands over every person we pray for, but if He asks you to, will you?

“It’s ‘Too Showy’”

This one goes with the previous objection, and perhaps even gives some context for it. Yes, praying over someone makes a bit of a scene. And to some extent that’s probably the point.

Laying your hands on someone to pray for them is a physical witness to your belief in the power of God. When you lay your hands on someone and ask for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, you’re saying that you believe that God will answer when He is called upon. You’re counting on Him to show up, right then and there. You’re not demanding for Him to do so, of course, but as Christians we believe our God is faithful, good, and loving to His children. Why wouldn’t we expect Him to show up?

This is not presumption. It’s faith. God may not answer our prayers in the way we expect or want Him to, but God answers the prayers of His children.

“It Ought To Be About The Giver, Not The Gifts”

I agree with this. And I think most people I’ve met who pray over others agree with it, too.

The thing is, the Giver wants to bestow His gifts on us. Sometimes we’d prefer that He did not, as His gifts are often heavy crosses that seem impossible to bear. But as we progress in holiness, we learn that it is when we embrace these crosses that we come closest to Jesus.

Ironically, many who raise this objection of “Giver and not Gifts” to those in the Charismatic Renewal are among the first to point out that we should not reject the gifts of God when they are crosses, but for whatever reason these same people struggle to accept that God also might have sweet gifts of charisms of the Spirit to bestow on His children, too. Well, just as “charismatic” Catholics must be cautious of not becoming distracted by gifts of the Spirit, so should “traditional” Catholics be cautious of rejecting the gifts God wants to bestow on them in the name of fear masquerading as a kind of false piety.

To be honest, I’ve found myself leaning towards both directions at different points in my life. The fact is that we need to embrace all the gifts God has for us, simply because He wants us to have them.

Conclusion

So rest assured, my friends. There is nothing “unCatholic” about praying over one another! It is completely in keeping with Scripture and with Church teaching.

By the way, if you’re new to this “style” of prayer–or even if you’re not!– I highly encourage you to check out “The Wild Goose Is Loose” produced by 4PM media. It is a great overview and introduction to praying to and with the Holy Spirit!

A Contemporary(ish) Playlist For Holy Week

I put together a playlist of some more contemporary(ish) songs to pray along with during this Holy Week! There is soo much out there to choose from so I obviously couldn’t include everything, but below is what I came up with.

Anything you’d add?

Hosanna – Hillsong

“I see His love and mercy washing over all our sin / The people sing, “Hosanna!”

Come As You Are – Crowder

“Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been / Come broken hearted, let rescue begin / Come find your mercy, O sinner come near / Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal”

Jesus – Chris Tomlin

“There is one born for our salvation, Jesus”

Letting Go – Matt Maher

“I stand in awe of You, and everything You’ve done for me.”

Dry Bones – Gungor 

“My soul cries out for you … Jesus you’re the one who saves us / Constantly creates us…Surely our Messiah will make all things new”

Love Has Come – Matt Maher

“Love has come to show the way”

Lead Me To The Cross – Hillsong

“Lead me to the Cross, where your love poured out”

Cry Out To Jesus – Third Day

“There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary, and love for the broken heart / There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing / He’ll meet you wherever you are / Cry out to Jesus”

Watch The Lamb – Ray Boltz

“‘Daddy, Daddy, what will we see there? There’s so much that we don’t understand.’ So I told them of Moses and Father Abraham. And /i said, ‘Dear children, watch the Lamb'”

The Old Rugged Cross – Alan Jackson

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down / And I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown”

Thy Will – Hillary Scott

“Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is, ‘Thy Will Be Done’ “

Amazing Love – The Newsboys

“I’m forgiven because you were forsaken. / I’m accepted because you were condemned”

Were You There – feat. Andrea Thomas

“O, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

 

When Good Friday Comes

Why me? Why now? Why is this happening?!

That’s what we do when things go wrong. We ask, “Why?” We look for the reason. We search for answers to, “Why?” because we desperately hope that knowing the why will somehow help us begin to put things back the right way.

And sometimes we tell ourselves that if we just knew how things would turn out in the end, we would be able to relax a little bit. This struggle wouldn’t be so hard if we knew the outcome.

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” 

(Matthew 20:18-19)

It’s easy to forget that Jesus told the disciples exactly what was going to happen to Him, before it happened. Good Friday was laid out in clear terms: I will be handed over, mocked, scourged, and crucified.

I am going to be killed. Brutally tortured, in fact.

But—on the third day, I will rise.

And of course, it happens. The agony, the betrayal, the torture, the death.

The disciples witness Good Friday, just as Jesus promised. –And most of them run in terror.

Did they forget what Jesus said? Did they forget that this was all part of the plan? Did they forget that He would rise?

I seriously doubt it. When things go wrong, we ask, “Why?” Surely as Good Friday is happening each of the disciples remembered: Jesus told us this would happen.

So why did most of them run?

Well, we can’t say for sure. But I can venture a guess.

If I put myself in the disciples’ shoes, my reaction to Jesus’ prediction of the Passion is probably going to be like Peter’s: “Jesus, no! I won’t let this happen.”

No, Peter. You’re not thinking as God does. This is happening. And you’re not supposed to do anything about it.

Well that would certainly shut me up, and confuse me a bit. But upon learning that I’m not supposed to try and stop it, my personal reaction would probably be mostly to comfort myself with the fact that, when it was all over, Jesus said He would rise.

Pray that you will not enter into temptation.

Of course I’ll pray, Jesus. But at the end of this you’re still going to rise, right? I got this. I can hold strong for Sunday.

Stay up and pray with me. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Sure, sure. I’ll pray. I’m praying, ok? Just gonna lay here and rest my eyes some while I pray.

My hour is at hand.

Good Friday came as Jesus promised. And, even though the disciples knew what was going to happen three days later, most of them still ran in terror.

They had the knowledge that this was all “part of the plan,” but when your friend and Savior and Lord is being tortured…who cares about the plan? Why is this part of the plan?! This is awful. Just awful. Make it stop.

…Sound familiar?

Good Friday is coming. {Maybe it’s already here.}

Yes, Jesus has conquered death and we can, and do, live in that victory. But Jesus promised that we would undergo trials and suffering, too.

This is all part of the plan.

“Do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you; But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly”

(1 Peter 4:12)

So, when you encounter the Cross, don’t run. It won’t make it go away.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are called to do something to fix it.

Pray. Cry. Sweat. Embrace. 

Victory will come. Indeed, victory has already come.

Take up your cross, and follow Him.