SCRIPTURE: Hosea 11:1
Written by: Dr Conrade Yap
Date: February 15th, 2016.
"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." (Hosea 11:1)What do you do when a loved one gets very ill? What happens when we are helpless and totally dependent on others for a good outcome? What goes through our minds when we seek comfort and assurance in the midst of a difficult time? For Christians, one of the things is prayer.
- "I'll pray for you."
- "Keeping you in prayer."
- "Keep seeking God!"
- "Get well soon. Praying for the doctors to be attentive to details."
- "I'm praying for a miracle."
The last one is particularly poignant. Suppose I summon up all my knowledge and my determination, filled with all passion and emotion, and I boldly claim the promise of God for healing. In such a disposition, there is no room for doubt; no room for discouragement; and no room for debilitating thoughts. Surely God is Almighty Physician and Healer. He can choose to heal. If He can make the blind to see; the lame to walk; and the dead to life, surely He can do anything He wills. Some Christians, intent on seeing miracles would venture far to engage spiritualists and miracle healers, like the efforts of the woman with a tissue of blood trying to touch the tip of God's cloak and obtain healing in the process.
In her book, "A Place for Healing," Joni Eareckson Tada shared about an encounter with a visitor named David on a Sunday morning at a church parking lot. Seeing her, David said that he had been praying for Joni, a quadriplegic who had been on wheelchair for over 40 years. For all his zeal, he was trying to point out Joni's problem of sin, being the cause of her illness. Having met many people in her years of disability, Joni was familiar with them all. Patiently she listened, until David came to a passage about how the passage of Luke 5:18-19 described Jesus healing the man on a stretcher lowered down from the rooftop. All the time, David was convinced that Joni had not enough faith; not enough prayer; and not enough repentance for her sin. Gently, Joni pointed out verse 20.
"When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven.'" (Luke 5:20)Joni turned the tables around. The Luke passage that David pointed out is about the faith of the friends, not the disabled person. She then went on to say:
“Don’t you see? He didn’t require anything at all of the disabled man. What He was looking for was faith in those men who had lowered him through the roof. God doesn’t require my faith for healing. But He could require yours. The pressure’s off me, David. If God has it in His plan to lift me out of this wheelchair, He could use your faith! So keep believing, friend; the pressure’s on you!” (Tada, Joni Eareckson, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty, David C. Cook: 2010, p17)When we pray, if our focus is on healing, then we are not really focused on God. Our focus is on the outcome. In order to pray in the will of God, we need to acknowledge that we are not in charge. We are weak and powerless in ourselves. We need help. In prayer, we acknowledge that only God can do whatever we want. When we pray, we need help to come to that state of peace to be comforted by God's presence more than divine presents.
Perhaps, we can pray for strength. Strength to overcome the hard times rather than to ask God to pamper us by removing the hard times. The deepest virtues are often manifested through difficult moments of life, just how we detect who are our real friends. Will our true friends forsake us? No.
Perhaps, neither miracles or strengths should be our primary focus. Our primary focus must be Christ. Whatever it is, whether healing or strength, we give thanks. Whatever it is, whether strengthened or wearied, we submit to God's wisdom. Whatever it is, whether good news or bad, we remember that in Christ, God's answer is always yes. The passage from Hosea tells us of God's memory of Israel, that God calls Israel as a son. Even when Israel was suffering in Egypt due to the harsh enslavement, God calls out to the heart of the people, amid the pain and torment they were facing. God could have sent angels to lift each and every one of His people out, but He didn't. He could have used heavenly chariots to rescue the people, but He didn't. Instead, He called them. Many ways, He called, using Moses, Aaron, and even using many signs to assure them. Eventually, Israel was delivered. People celebrated, but only for a time.
When the going gets tough, it is not easy to say, "The tough gets going." If we wear the "miracle" hat, we would be praying with all our passion and might for the "tough" to be removed. If we put on the "strength" hat, we would press on with grit and determination to finish the race. Between the two, "strength" is almost always the preferred prayer request. This is something that enabled Joni Eareckson Tada to found her ministry of hope (Joni and Friends) for the disabled. This is something that kept Paul going even as he wrestled with the thorn (2 Cor 12:7). From Hosea 11, there is a clue that tells us of a third thing: Praying to understand the heart of God.
This is something not many people would do. It is common to pray for miracles. Next on the list is to ask for strength. Yet, asking to understand the heart and Person of God is not very common. Perhaps, it is time to do just that. Our prayers if centered on our will and desires will always be fixated on human needs and matters. If we want to pray in the will of God, we must have a spiritual breakthrough just like the words of Jesus:
27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:27-34)
It's good to pray for healing. It's better to pray for strength. It's way way better, to seek after God's heart. This is spiritual direction. As we give up our agendas for God, and to adopt God's agenda instead, strangely, we find our prayers becoming more liberating.
THOUGHT: "The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. Understanding your wounds can only be healing when that understanding is put at the service of your heart." (Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, Image books, 1998, p107)
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