One of the things that I’ve grown weary of is de-conversion stories. De-conversion stories are the stories of people who say they were Christians and now they’re not.
There’s a very predictable pattern these stories have. First, the person extols their credentials of being a Bible-believing Christian. The more credentials the better, because it makes for a more dramatic story. Then they talk about pain or some kind of difficult thing that happened to them and how they were forced to open up their mind to other possibilities. Then they talk about how their previous Christian community turned on them, yet how they feel so much better because they’re not ignoring truth any longer like their Christian community did. They are now enlightened, and hope they can drag as many people with them as possible.
There’s another common throughline that those in the de-conversion camp don’t talk about. At the heart of why many people leave faith is that we don’t understand pain. Why does pain and suffering happen? The Bible says God created the world, and it was perfect. Then He gave us free choice, which is where it starts to go downhill. We’re in a world that’s gone awry. When we don’t have a way to understand and categorize difficulty, we’ll always be abandoning God. Some people say, “Why doesn’t God just take suffering away?” I don’t know why God does or doesn’t do things. I know this though. I wouldn’t want Him to take away my ability to choose.
Here’s some things to understand before we pray for someone to be healed.
First, no sickness is God’s will. (At least, it’s rarely His will. The Apostle Paul did come to know Christ because he was blinded. And Paul asked Jesus, “Why are you afflicting me?”) But in general, pain is a result of our fallen world. And so, when I’m praying for someone to be healed of blindness, or of cancer, or of a broken relationship, I don’t want to pray, “God if it’s your will, take this cancer away.” I want to pray boldly. “God, get rid of this cancer,” or “God, allow this marriage to continue.” Pray boldly.
What’s crazy is sometimes you pray boldly and then you forget when God has actually answered. I once had a knee issue. I was at MAN CAMP, and I asked one of the doctors there volunteering as a medic about it. He asked me some questions and said, “It’s probably nothing, but it could be bone cancer, so I would get checked when you get back home.” It could be bone cancer? I know everything is unfiltered at MAN CAMP, but I like it a little more filtered than that. So I went up to the prayer tent and people prayed for me. A week later I had forgotten about my knee issue. Now, I don’t know if I really had bone cancer. What I’m saying is that my knee was hurting for a long, long time and then all of a sudden it wasn’t. The only thing that changed was prayer.
We don’t know how often God heals us of something when we haven’t even been diagnosed with it yet. We don’t know how often God jumps in and heals things preemptively. But here’s what I know: When someone is hurting, I want to pray boldly that the pain stops and the healing comes through.
Second, prayer takes persistence. The book of Mark 8:23-25 says
And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. And when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, do you see anything? And he looked up and said, I see people, but they look like trees walking. And then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again, and he opened his eyes. His sight was restored. And he saw everything clearly.
Here we have Jesus, whose first prayer doesn’t take, so he prays for him again. And if he, who is God himself, has to pray for somebody two times before they’re healed, why would I be upset if I have to pray 200 times? Prayer takes persistence. Don’t give up.
Third, our belief makes things possible. In Mark 9:23-25, Jesus said
If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!
When you pray for someone, you’ve got to believe. Any percentage of partial belief is OK. Just recognize, if we don’t have even just the faith of a mustard seed to believe it, then this prayer is not worth praying. Something is not going to be unlocked.
A number of years ago I was asked to officiate at a prayer meeting for a young friend of ours who was paralyzed in a car accident. So we assembled a sort of the “who’s who” in Christendom across the city. I gave a little talk in a good church. Then we gathered around to pray, and after about 10 minutes I stopped.
First, some background. When I’m praying for somebody, I’m also asking if they’re seeing or feeling anything. In the story we read earlier, the man told Jesus that he saw trees. So Jesus went back and started praying for that. So if someone tells me, “Man, I feel a lot of heat here,” then I might want to put my hand there. So we were done praying, and I said, like I normally do, “Do you feel any different?” And instantaneously, half the people in the room let out a nervous laughter. Instantaneously. Now, I’ve got a lot of regrets in my life. One of my regrets in that moment is that I didn’t say, “Okay all of you people who just laughed, I need you to leave the room right now, because you don’t believe.” They didn’t even have a mustard seed of faith.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have portions of unbelief. You just have to believe enough that you want to pray. It isn’t the religious practice of how we pray, there’s something about us coming before God and believing and trusting in him. Because He’s the one who does it. It’s faith to believe that He will move.
Finally, we have to guard against orphan thinking. Whenever I tell a story about a healing that I’ve seen, there are some people who are bitter or ask, “Why didn’t that happen for me?” We have to recognize that all of us think like little orphans. Orphans expect everything to be fair, because in an orphanage, there has to be an equal portion of porridge. If somebody happens to get a watermelon, the rest of the orphans think either the orphan master is playing favorites, or they must be doing something wrong. God does not work like an orphan master. He doesn’t play fairsies.
There is no formula for a miracle.
It’s called a miracle because it doesn’t happen all the time. I pray for many, many things and still have my heart broken. We don’t know why some people get a “yes” and other people get a “no.” God can love you very much and not heal you. He can love you very much and not say “yes” to your prayer. This topic will cause us to doubt ourselves even more if we don’t first know the love of God for us.
God’s playing for eternity. He’s got a much bigger vision. The more we’re in love with this world, and the more we feel entitled to have this world work the way we want it to, the harder time we’re going to have loving God. And the harder time we’re going to have living a life of value.
Let’s pray for miracles. Let’s ask God to give us miracles. Let’s recognize there’s a spiritual realm that’s affecting us today. And let’s also recognize the greatest miracle is when you give your life to Christ. The greatest miracle is when there’s somebody who, regardless of what blessings or pains we might have, turns away from the ways of the world, and turns toward Jesus.