‘Prayer – We Don’t Always Get The Answer We Asked For’

Those of you that read my previous blog, ‘School Minbus Mystery Mayhem’, will know that we’ve been having some significant issues recently supporting and helping James to get into school…  Once he’s there he has a great time, does really well, and comes home happily, but getting him there is proving harder and harder…

Yesterday, I had some important meetings in the office, which is a 250-mile round trip from home.  I needed to be there and that meant needing James to be in school.  I turned to prayer, asking God to help me to get James to school happily and well so that I could then drive to the office…  I seem to remember I might also have said something about “not minding if the rest of the week was a mess, as long as today works!”  Be careful what you pray for!!

James was happy to go into school yesterday, had a great day there, and came home on the school mini bus easily and joyfully…  A great answer to prayer…  That was yesterday…

Today is my day off…  I had lots of plans, needing to go out to the shops to get some things, go to the bank, a list of errands to run…  All that came crashing down when James point blank refused to budge from his sofa, either when the school minibus came for him (that’s not unusual), or later when I tried to take him in myself (more unusual)…  The throw away words of my prayer yesterday came back into my mind!

We don’t always get what we think we prayed for…  or at least what we want and think we need.  My main focus yesterday was to get to the office and that happened, today is a day off and so isn’t so critical.  If James was going to pick a day to refuse to go to school, today was the better one…  although I still would have preferred him to go in anyway!

Sometimes we get exactly what we prayed for…  my throwaway comment about not minding if the rest of the week was a mess was also answered!

Whatever answers to prayer we get will help us and teach us something if we are really prepared to accept that prayer isn’t a one-way communication, us talking to God…  He answers!  It’s just that sometimes we’re so caught up in our own lives that we’re not listening…

Yesterday evening I was thinking about what this week’s blog might be about…  I had no ideas, but remember saying something about how I’ll know by the time I need to write something!  I got an answer to prayer with that, but not the one I was expecting…

We might pray all sorts of things about our child with additional needs…  Praying for their day, praying about their future, bringing them into God’s presence…  Some people pray about healing…  I don’t pray that for James, his Autism is an important part of who he is and he wouldn’t be James if that changed, but I do pray for some of the things he finds hard to be a little easier, such as communication, and more recently for transitions!

Whatever we pray, knowing that God hears us and answers us, giving us what is best for us, and having confidence that even when the answer isn’t what we expected or hoped for it is the very best answer, is important.  I don’t know why God’s answer to my prayer was for James to refuse to go to school today, I don’t understand it (although I suppose I did suggest it, and it has led to this blog!), but I trust in God and I trust in his very best for me and my family.  If that means I get to share my day off with James today then so be it!  That’s not really a hardship, it’s a joy!  I’d better not make it too much fun though…  there is still school tomorrow!!

Mark
13th July 2017

Image rights:  Mark Arnold

‘Faith More Important Than Healing?’

I sometimes get asked what my views are on divine healing; whether I believe that God heals people, why he might heal one person and not another, even whether I’ve ever prayed for healing for James.  At a recent conference that I was speaking at I was asked this again, in the context of whether it is right to pray for the healing of someone else, someone who may not have even given their consent to be prayed for, in this case a child.

A lot of questions here; big questions, big implications for them… So, here we go…

Can God heal?  Yes, there are many examples in the Bible, particularly but not restricted to the Gospels, where people are healed of a wide range of conditions. The blind see, the deaf hear, those that cannot walk are able to walk again and many more, often witnessed by crowds of people. Some of us will also have contemporary accounts of healing that we have witnessed. Not the fake healing of the TV evangelist, but genuine divine healing of someone brought about through earnest prayer.  God can and does heal.

So why some and not others? Isn’t that unfair?  Of course none of us can know the mind of God… that’s not a cheap cop-out, it’s reality.  Perhaps God heals some and not others because in eternal terms this is the wisest, best outcome.  Perhaps by healing someone, the opportunity for others to be reached with the good news of Jesus might be lessened.

Let me give you an example of this, while at the same time answering the question about whether I’ve ever prayed for James to be healed of his Autism…

James, now 14, was 2½ when he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) and associated Learning Disability.  It came as an enormous shock, and at that time of course we asked many questions; “Why our son?”, “Why our family?”, and yes, I did at that time ask God that James be ‘healed’ of his Autism.  Looking back, I think that prayer was as much a selfish act as being a plea on behalf of James… Life with a son with significant additional needs was going to be hard; at that time I could only see all of the challenges and difficulties that lay ahead.

I soon learned, however, not only to accept James for who he is, but to love his differences, to celebrate the changes that he brought to our family, to our worldview, to our faith journey, and to how God started to use us.  I stopped praying for James to be ‘healed’; if James didn’t have ASC, he wouldn’t be James, he wouldn’t be the same boy, he wouldn’t be the same inspiration to me that gets me up every morning excited at the opportunities ahead.  If James had been ‘healed’ of ASC, I doubt I would have the same motivation and drive to lead an additional needs ministry at Urban Saints, to have co-founded the Additional Needs Alliance, to work hard to make life better for the one-in-five children in the UK who journey with additional needs or disability. There could have been significant negative impact if James had been ‘healed’ of ASC.

When I pray for James now, I pray also for myself; I pray that I might understand his world better, to be able to support and help him more effectively, to be able to understand and help him to develop his limited communication.  I don’t pray for James to be ‘healed’ so that he can fit neatly into my world, I pray that I might be able to join him in his world and appreciate it, and him, better. And in praying in this way, perhaps it is me that receives the healing…

In Luke 5:17-26, a man who couldn’t walk was brought to Jesus by his friends. There was quite a crowd and they couldn’t get near to Jesus, so they went up to the roof, made a hole in it and lowered their friend through.  What happened next is significant… Jesus saw the man, recognised his faith and that of his friends, and… forgave him for the wrong things he had done.  The man’s faith, his eternal salvation, these were the things that were important to Jesus.  He subsequently did heal the man’s legs, but only to prove his authority on earth…

So what does all of this say to us about what our attitude to healing should be?  Well, perhaps there are three things for us to think about from what we’ve explored together:

  1. God is more interested in our eternal future than our current physical or mental situation. Perhaps we should focus more on how we reach everyone, including those with additional needs or disability, with the good news of Jesus Christ, than whether God is going to heal us, or our loved ones, in this life.
  2. Maybe we should think about our own motivation for praying for healing for others; is there a risk that we are praying for healing for a loved one because that might make our life a little easier? Would healing actually be the best thing for our loved one? What should we really be praying for?
  3. We should celebrate all that is different for us because of our journey with someone with additional needs or disability. Think about all the positive ways that our lives, our worldviews, have changed. How can we use these changes to help others, to be God’s blessing to others on a similar journey, to see God turn what we might have seen as a negative into a positive? And in doing this, perhaps it is us that receives the healing…

We’ve grappled with some big questions here, and pondered on some big answers… You may not agree with all I’ve said, and that’s fine, we’re all different; but keep asking, keep praying, keep searching for your answers, and let’s keep walking on the journey together…

 Mark
17th February 2017

Image rights: Free