Editor’s note: On June 13, we said goodbye to our friend and colleague Rev. Jena Roy, who died after a long battle with cancer. Two weeks prior to her passing, Lisa Loughlin offered this courageous testimony on the necessity of hope and faith.
A couple of weeks ago, I e-mailed the Ministry Team about the prayer list that’s included in the bulletin. I asked if they would consider changing the word healing to the word miracle, in regards to how we pray for Jena. Acknowledging that this word could be problematic, I said if the word miracle is too scary, how about using the word cure? Because that’s really what she needs: a cure.
This request has been on my mind for a couple of months. So, first, I emailed Jena to ask what she thought about it and graciously she said, “Let’s go for it.”
I have a hard time praying for healing. It’s too generic for me. I’m okay to pray for healing when someone breaks a bone. In a case like that, I understand that healing needs to happen and that the bone needs time to become whole again. In Jena’s case, she’s not broken. She is a whole being. Her wounds cannot be healed, they need to be eradicated!
It also occurred to me that the weekly prayer list could be just another piece of information in the bulletin and since the information doesn’t change much week to week, it may be something that people skim past. I find this disheartening because for me, prayer that’s become rote is not helpful either. I understand that some people may be uncomfortable seeing the words miraculous cure, but my hope is that it might lead to a great conversation within the church about how we pray.
Or just maybe, someone might so want to refute me that they turn to the Scriptures to see what it has to say about being in conversation with God, then as a result they’ll be reminded that the Lord rewards those who are bold in conversation with him. This is the same God that Abraham negotiated with, right (Genesis 16:17-33)? And remember Jacob? He wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome (Genesis 32:24-29 & Bono, “Bullet the Blue Sky,” 1987). These Hebrew Bible stories, the lessons from the Torah, that were written on the heart of Jesus, are a part of our faith history. They’re meant to empower us as they empowered him.
And what about the New Testament? Isn’t it filled with miracle stories? What about the one in which Jesus tell the crowd that we must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3)? I don’t know about you but I like to hear the prayers of children, whether they’re my own kids or someone else’s. I find that children don’t seem to be bogged down by rules and logic when they pray. Another beautiful thing is that they don’t seem to hold any resentment toward God if their prayer doesn’t get answered. For a child prayer is just another tool in their kit. It’s just like wishing, hoping, and dreaming.
Maybe that’s the problem that adults might have about praying for a miracle. We don’t want to get our hopes up, because that’d really be painful if we don’t get what we want. But isn’t that faith? Isn’t that the kind of faith that we’re called to live as Christians? Isn’t that the type of hope that Paul calls us to have? We’re supposed to set our hope on God (1 Timothy 4:10).
Christian hope is not betting on a sure thing. Christian hope is believing that a baby born into poverty in Palestine over two thousand years ago could reconcile human beings with God. Christian hope is saying Lord, it looks pretty bleak and I’m feeling pretty helpless, please help me.
These are the things that define us as followers of Christ. We are called to have hope. We are called to believe that God is Merciful and Powerful. Therefore it’s not naïve to believe in miracles. It’s a fundamental and crucial tenet of our faith.
By the way, how come it’s noble to pray for peace in Palestine, or an end to hunger or racism, and not a cure for someone we love? If you ask me, these are the things that are going to take a miracle. In fact, I’m going to step out even further on this limb and suggest, that it’s probably easier for God to cure one person’s cancer than it is to bring about world peace.
In our church’s purpose statement we declare that we are growing in faith. Perhaps that’s not always how you feel about your faith journey. I know that sometimes, I feel as if I could benefit from a little spiritual growth.
When that happens I try to be more deliberate in the way that I pray. It’s not always easy, but I have to trust that God wants to be in communication with me, and I have to believe that God will hear my pleas. When I humble myself to be reliant on God, it strengthens our relationship and keeps me growing in faith. I have the same hope regarding my thoughts this morning, I’ve boldly confessed to you things that are important to me and even if you don’t agree, may there be a way that we can continue on this journey and grow in faith together.
I thank you for listening.