Though rare, it happens – people see Paul and ask if they can pray for him.
At places like WalMart (where it has happened) I usually accept their offer after quietly and quickly assessing their motives and authenticity. People in Minnesota are so private that I recognize the courage it takes to cross both a religious and cultural barrier to approach a stranger with that question. And people are usually appropriate.
But I got the offer at Bethlehem on Sunday and came very close to responding rashly. I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit was helping me be gracious in the moment when I could feel my pride being challenged.
Here’s the story. We got to church a few minutes late. I plopped Paul down in the seats just outside the sanctuary while we got our bearings on who was going where. A gentleman noticed Paul and asked me what ‘disease’ he had. I quickly told him that Paul is blind and autistic (I only use the long list when we have more time!) and he asked if he could pray for healing, because God heals people from blindness and he’s seen it.
People pray for Paul all the time at church, but generally don’t make such bold pronouncements about healing. I accepted his offer and he proceeded to ask for Paul to be healed of his blindness and his autism right there, through the power of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name. It was very sweet, this stranger praying so fervently for my son.
But my own spirit was not seeing the sweetness and I was getting irritated. Didn’t he think God created some like Paul just the way he is? Didn’t he think I had faith? Didn’t he think I prayed for my son?
He finished and said that he believed God could heal my son and was genuinely disappointed that nothing had happened. I responded that I knew God could heal him, but sometimes God is most evident in the sustaining grace and peace he grants when he doesn’t choose to heal in this age.
And that was it. I entered the sanctuary and didn’t see him again.
Dianne helped me see what he did in its proper context: this man saw a need and his immediate reaction was to pray. He wasn’t challenging my faith or accusing me of anything, he just wanted to pray. He believed God could move.
And God answers prayers! Yet, God sometimes brings greater glory to himself, and greater help to his church, when he doesn’t do exactly what we ask of him. The one who knows the end from the beginning is in a much better place to determine how to answer the prayers of his saints. And he is always good, always just, always right, and always capable to do what he has promised.
Of course, there’s a time and place to say ‘no, I don’t want you to pray for my child’ because it is evident it is more about the person who has offered prayer than about humbly going before God. The histrionics demonstrated on television by ‘healers’ have no place around my son or anybody else.
I’ve decided that I’m glad this man prayed, even if my heart wasn’t exactly right, because I should be just as quick to pray.
And I hope he heard me and that I helped him to see that God’s sustaining grace is also a wonderful thing and not at all a lesser gift than healing in this present age. Maybe, in fact, it is a greater gift because we have less temptation to forget how weak we are and utterly dependent on his persistent, daily help.