This is my article in the Baptist Courier today.  We underestimate our prayers.


Here’s the text:

Prayer is a fire, not a flower

Never in my life have I understood, so personally, what it means to pray, and have others pray for, my family. You see, my wife Jan was recently diagnosed with a cancer in her throat. What began as a swollen lymph node, which was ‘probably nothing,’ became a terrifying diagnosis and the beginning of a journey in which we still find ourselves.

From the first doctor’s visit, to the CT scans, biopsies, surgery and other evaluations, we have learned to lean on prayer. We have cried out to God for courage, for healing, for good news, for direction, for wise physicians, for miracles, for our children, for our future and for everything in between.

Equally important, others who love us, near and far, have done the same. They have held us up before the throne of God. They have cried with us. They have cried for us. They have scheduled regular times each day to come to the Father on my wife’s behalf.

We were prayed for the day of the diagnosis. I have been prayed over at basketball games, as I discussed the situation. My mother asked for others in her church to annoint her for my wife. Wonderful ladies have prayed for my wife as they made her a shawl to wear. Our youth group, with which my wife interacts weekly, has prayed. Family members I haven’t spoken to in years have prayed. Our Sunday School Class surrounded us, lay their hands on us, and prayed. Members of our childhood churches have prayed. Friends and acquaintances on Facebook have prayed. (Don’t discount that wonderful technology as a way to spread prayer requests and convey love!)

Dear co-workers prayed for me as I melted down in the midst of ER shifts. You see, working as a physician, I found myself facing significant anxiety about treating illness and injury. (Not especially functional for a doctor!). My wife, and friends from our church, prayed for me while I was at work. The anxiety evaporated like a mist under the force of their prayers, as I will pray that Jan’s anxiety disappears during frightening treatments.

Although a long valley lies before us, it is illuminated with prayer, and with the light of God’s Word. We do not know the future, but so far we have a hopeful prognosis. We have many stories of success from others who faced the same illness. We have excellent medical care. We are blessed in so many ways, and have learned to see the remarkable transformation that is possible in a time of such terror. Best of all, we have the continued prayers of those who love us, the continued intercession of Christ for us (the most amazing prayer of all). And we have the option to pray day in, day out, for God’s will, guidance and power. Prayer gives us access to a power we cannot begin to grasp, as it brings us before the presence of God himself.

It was in light of this that I realized something about all of the cards we have received. They are sweet, gentle reminders that others are thinking of us, praying for us, hoping for our best. And they often have serene images of a countryside, or of roses, daisies or other fragrant flowers. I’m not complaining; we’ll take all the cards and prayers we can get!

But I realized, as I have asked for others to pray, as my wife and I have prayed, as we have felt the nourishment and comfort of those prayers, that perhaps we need new imagery on our cards. It may well be that our cards, the ones that say, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ or ‘You’re in my prayers,’ should have, not flowers, but bombs. Or maybe, they should be emlazoned with raging fires, rockets, mushroom-clouds, tidal waves, tornadoes, lions, stallions, warriors or other manifestations of power.

Dr. Del Tackett, who teaches the Truth Project, an intiative of Focus on the Family, asks this question: ‘Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?’ If we do, then when we pray, earnestly, fervently, faithfully, we are not showering others with flowers but call down the loving power that created the universe and raised Christ from the dead, ending the power of sin and death. The same power that we believe will give believers eternal life.

Our experiences as a family have convinced us of this reality; and our hope as a family depends on it. So send some fire our way, my friends! At this point, we’d rather smell a little like ‘Holy Smoke’ than violets.

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