18 January 2014

A Few Thoughts on Healing Prayer

Heads up - I'm way out in the weeds here today, just speculating, but some thoughts I didn't want to forget.

I was thinking about the way I, and lots of folks I know, pray for the sick. Specifically the way that I tend to see one specific problem and pray to that point. You have a pain in your leg? Let's pray for that. You have arthritis? We can pray about that. And I reckon that's largely what I see modeled in the Bible too. It's prayer for a blind man's vision, a lame man's legs, a sick woman's sickness.

But we don't really exist like that. At any given moment there are probably several things going on in my physical body that are off. It's not just that I'm coughing but I also have a sore back and high blood pressure and this and that and whatnot. As we get older, that list of things just gets longer. Similarly, there are things that I'd never consider praying for, even though they are clearly things that are out of warranty on the human body - baldness, obesity, allergies, or the need for reading glasses.

There's an assumption that lays behind most of my prayers for healing and it could be summed up in Jesus' prayer "on earth as it is in heaven" I often start from a mental space that asks what I think it'd be like in heaven and pray for that truth to override the local earthly truth. Ergo, if there's no cancer in heaven, which seems like a reasonable assumption, then it's legal to pray that cancer gets lost here.

Starting from there though I see a few things that I need to chew on.
1. I don't pray for folks "holistically" I pray for them symptomatically. It's not that I pray for their health, I pray for a particular symptom or ailment to end. There's a lot to be said for praying with specificity and I admit that a general prayer for "health" seems vague but I suspect that it's more about my mental model than anything else. I want to try to get a firm thought about divine health that is comprehensive and specific.

2. I suppose I don't generally think to pray for things that my mind might place blame for - which sounds terribly judgmental but I think this is what happens. Obesity, as an example, is something that my mind attributes to bad choices. I think of it less as a condition or ailment and more of a consequence. And somehow in a way that I'm not fully conscious of, that changes things. But then look at, say, lung cancer. I wouldn't stop to ask a lung cancer patient if they were a smoker and pray differently based on their answer. So something is off in my head here.

3. And this one has me really wondering...can we legally pray for youth? I mentioned things like baldness or myopia as things I wouldn't think to pray for but it's deeper than that. My prayers for a young person tend to be more...not sure how to say it...incensed than praying for older people. Fair or not, a baby with cancer seems more unfair than a 90 year old with cancer. I sense injustice more and pray from that awareness that a thing isn't "right" But somehow my brain crosses a line where cancer seems less unjust and more...what? Unfortunate? I see that in me is a whole scale that works on age. I expect older people to be sicker and it feels normal so prayers have less energy on my part.

But what if age itself is properly understood as an ailment, and all that other stuff is a list of symptoms?

Hear me out - on earth as it is in heaven right? Don't we expect that heaven is full of young men and women? People in the prime of life? We don't expect spry folks with gray hair and reading glasses we expect 20-30somethings or maybe even teens. If there's anything too that would it be fair that "age" at least in the sense of a steadily declining body, doesn't exist in heaven?

I was thinking about this on Friday when the guy leading morning prayer bust out Psalm 103. We know v 3 pretty well because "he heals all your diseases" but v5 also says "your youth is restored like the eagle's" - well now...perhaps there is some scriptural meat to this idea too.

Is anybody of aware of any literature on this idea? Praying for youth to be restored? I'd be curious to hear what other folks have thought on this topic.

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