Q. My friend’s very elderly mother lost her husband last year and has now being diagnosed with lymphoma in her face. I mentioned this to my pastor and he led our congregation in prayers for her speedy recovery from this dreadful condition. It was all could do not to leap out of my seat and protest that none of her family wants her to recover. She is 86 years old and worn out with grief from caring for and then losing her lifelong partner. Recovery from this disease will only leave her waiting for another disease to take her, because, after all, no amount of prayer is going to turn the clock back and make her life span indefinite.
Is it wrong to pray for someone to die quickly from a condition, to pray that they don’t have to suffer the horrors of chemotherapy pushed upon them by ‘wellmeaning’ doctors? Are we required always to pray for people to recover from possibly terminal disease even if it means they will be left deformed and crippled? It seems so illogical – almost contrary. Why is it that even really solid Christians still seem to think that dying is the worst thing that can happen to a person, when it seems to me to be the start of REAL life?
Please put me straight before I say something and upset someone!!
A. The clearest passage on asking for prayer for healing comes from James 5:14-15. “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”
Other passages tell us that because the Lord went to the cross for us, we can be healed of our sicknesses, but James says that the sick person should initiate the request. I believe it’s the desire of the person asking and their faith to believe that moves the Holy Spirit to work. If your friend’s mother has asked for prayer for herself then the body was right to pray for her. But if she didn’t, then they acted presumptuously.
I agree with you, the perfect and permanent healing for a believer is death. All others are temporary. This was brought home to me in a dramatic way a few years ago when I visited an old and dear friend in the hospital. She had had one illness after another for years and on her behalf I had asked the Lord for healing each time. This time when I asked her what she wanted, she said, “Pray that I’ll go home to be with Jesus.” We prayed together and that night her prayers were answered.