May 22, 2014

The Prayers of the Righteous

As you may know, this past week a little boy in our church family (who's also part of my missional community) almost lost his life to viral meningitis. I was in the room Monday morning when the doctor (after much prodding from an exhausted father) finally gave the very grim and seemingly hopeless diagnosis: "The swelling on the left side of his brain has increased. We see no activity. And we believe the virus is spreading to the right side of his brain. The next 24 hours are crucial. If the swelling doesn't go down...I don't think he will survive this."

At this point, my friend laid over his son's body and wept. 
All that Chad and I could do was lay over Jamin and weep with him.
We wept and prayed.

For 24 hours, from Monday to Tuesday, I prayed. I asked everyone I could think of to pray. So many people prayed. Thousands of people all over the world were praying. And honestly, I don't believe I've prayed more consistently, constantly, fervently, and desperately since my Dad's accident 10 years ago. On Tuesday morning, our staff at The Brook spent our entire time together praying, asking God to do a miracle that only He could perform or provide. I saw and heard these sweet friends I lead and serve with pray with openness and brokenness that I am certain had the attention of God. We cried out, we claimed promises, and we begged the Great Physician to bring merciful healing to Ryker's brain and body, and for swelling to go down and for this vicious virus to be eradicated from him. We know that many others were praying along with us, wherever they were. The people of God were crying out for the Father to miraculously intervene. This was literally all we could do.

In retrospect, I believe that after the most gut-wrenching 24 hours I have lived in years, I said "Amen" for the first time around 11:00 on Tuesday morning.

And at 12:15, sitting in my children's school program, I received this text message from our Youth Pastor:
Great news! Swelling seems to be going down. His body is fighting the infection. Seems to be activity on left side of his brain.

I almost let out a scream and burst into tears all at once. I could hardly contain myself. God had done what we begged Him to do. All I could do was follow the example of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1-2, when her sorrow turned to praise. Only God could move, work, provide, and heal. And He did.

Over the last 48 hours, as I've reflected on all of this and continued to pray, asking God for complete healing in Ryker's life, many things have come to mind that I believe are worth us reflecting on, conversing about, and considering. Over the next week, I'd like to try and separate them out and have a conversation. Most of my thoughts, questions, and impressions have to do with PRAYER. How we pray. Why we pray. How much or often we pray. Do more people praying for one thing make a difference? If so, how many more? Do we really have any idea what it means to "labor" in prayer? Lots of thoughts. Lots of questions. I would love for you to join me in this conversation.

To begin with, one of the verses that has been incredibly prevalent in my life over the last years, and was claimed and held onto tightly this week, is James 5:16. It says, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." Let's resolve something about this verse. First off, those of us who are "in Christ" are the righteous, but only because Jesus IS our righteousness. And because of the saving work of Christ on the cross and His shed blood, we can now go directly to the Father. We don't need a mediator. We have one. His name is Jesus. (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 4:14-16)

So here's what I'm wrestling with:
If the "prayer of a righteous person has great power" - if the prayer of ONE righteous person is effective for interceding on behalf of someone else - then are the prayers of MORE THAN ONE righteous persons even more effective?

I remember when my Dad had his accident and was in a coma. At the beginning, during the first weeks, we knew that thousands of people were praying. But as weeks (and especially months) went on, and Dad's condition slowly improved, my Mom began to worry that people were going to stop praying. This might sound ridiculous, but I wondered: If the amount of people praying drops below 1000 - maybe dips down to 739 - does an alarm go off in heaven and God inform the angels and heavenly hosts, "Pay less attention to Jerry! We'll teach those 221 lazy, apathetic children to keep praying!" Again, I know that sounds absurd, but that's precisely why I ask. 

What if ONE PERSON had been on their knees, desperately crying out, interceding, weeping, and begging God to move on behalf of Ryker? 
Would God have been listening? Is one enough?

What if you were the ONE? Would your prayers be heard?
What does James 5:13-20 tell us about this?

I think this is worth our prayerful consideration. It's worth talking about.
What do you think?

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