In today's news came a report from Weston, Wisconsin that an eleven year old girl, Madeline Neumann, died Sunday after a month-long illness. Her parents, Dale and Leilani, chose to pray for her recovery rather than take her to a doctor. An autopsy of the girl's body revealed that she died from a condition which debilitates the body by not producing enough insulin.
When our friends and family are ill, we pray for them and ask others to do so as well. One need only listen to the Prayers of the People during a Sunday Eucharist as evidence of this fact. The list tends to be long...very, very long.
Coincidentally (?) I have been asked four times in the last week some version of the following question: "If whatever is going to happen to people happens no matter what, why do we bother praying?".
We pray because it is our own interaction with God. We pray together because prayer draws us closer to one another and closer to God. In praying together we acknowledge our interdependence and build community. We pray because it bolsters our hope and bolsters the hope of the person in distress. That byproduct of prayer is incredibly powerful. Prayer can assist in the healing process. If there is a glitch in our perception of prayer it may well be that we know precisely what the person in distress needs and wants to be healed. There are many things beyond the outside physical body that may be far more tormented, diseased and failing.
Medicine -- whether conventional or alternative -- has its place in our lives. Read the Bible and note that Jesus is never reported to have advised people to avoid physicians. Reflect on the actions of Christ in the Gospels when faced with someone who begged or longed for healing. More often than not - although He could see into the very heart and soul of each individual who pleaded to Him - He would ask them what and if they wanted to be healed. In my younger days, reading of the healing of the paralytic, I was stupefied that Jesus asked him what the man wanted. Duh, the guy can't walk, can't move. Of course he wants to walk!
After missteps in my journey of faith to be a conduit for God's healing I have grown keenly aware that I must ask: How are you? Would you care to share anything with me? What in you (or your life) would you like to pray for? Do you want this (condition or relationship) to change and be healed? I have also learned that it is arrogant of me to presume to know all the answers or even half of the questions.
As Christians we live in hope. Yes, God can and does heal!! God has also given us reason and intelligence in order that we may do our part, drawing on all the tools and resources available to us, combining our various gifts on the healing team. Some of those resources are medical, some emotional, some psychological, some spiritual.
Prayer, the intimate, essential, connective conversation we have with God allows us to see what we might not see otherwise: that we all must work in tandem with God for the common Good.
Peace be with you, Madeline, as you make your transition from this side of life to the next. We know that God will welcome you to paradise. We pray that God will hold your family and all of us gently in loving hands, providing what is best for each of us, those things which God alone knows. Amen.
p.s. Friends who answered the "Change" request: I got over 250! Each day I plug moving your replies to word documents under categories (ex.)'Methodist to Episcopalian'and so on. I'm getting computer callouses on other than my fingers. Please be patient. When they've been sent to Matt, he'll post them. Each will be entitled "The Results are IN!" followed by the change.
Next weekend I'll be with the Daughters of the King from Bethlehem, PA. Check out the website for retreats on www.geraniumfarm.org under 'News and Events'.