ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH June 28, 2015
The Power of Prayer
A young girl of twelve raised from the dead and a women who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years both miraculously healed by the words and touch of Jesus. These two incredible healing stories show the divine power of Jesus. These accounts of healing and restoration of life are truly remarkable and emotionally moving, but are they practical or relevant for us today?
We live in a world far removed from the physical presence of Jesus. Two thousand years have passed since Christ walked the earth, preaching, teaching, and performing countless miracles. As we read the Gospels, we find Jesus bringing sight to the blind, curing the lame, healing lepers, casting out evil spirits, as well as raising the dead. These accounts emphasize and show us the true power of God and how through Jesus we are restored mentally, physically, and spiritually, but in our world of hurt, pain, and suffering these wonderful stories of Jesus’ miracles can seem so distant, so far removed from our reality.
As we read stories such as the one of Jairus and his daughter or the woman who had been suffering for years, we can find hope for ourselves and others who are suffering, but there’s always the questions that linger… “Will I be healed?” or “Will they be healed?” As we watch a loved one suffer we may even ask, “Why did this happen to them? Why do they have to hurt? Why are some healed while others are not?” It is very difficult to comprehend. This is especially true when we see young and old who are diagnosed with and fighting cancer, those amazing and good people in our lives and in the world who are battling life threatening illnesses or whose lives have been taken through disease, accidents, or other means. It is only natural to question why.
It’s normal to feel pain, hurt, anger, frustration, helplessness, and sorrow, when we see loved ones going through illnesses, and suffering. It’s normal to feel these emotions when we are going through similar situations in our own lives. When things are out of our hands and out of our control, it is very difficult. We can only do so much. Thankfully, we don’t have to go through these times alone. Despite the challenges others or we face, we can take comfort knowing that our Lord and Saviour is with us all the way. Jesus’ words to Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” apply to us as well. God calls us to have faith and to believe, because through faith in Christ we are healed. It sounds so simple, but it’s true!
Through our faith, God hears our cries for help, our cries for healing, and our cries for others. As we know, Jesus is not with us physically, but this does not mean he is not present. God calls on us to pray to him and promises that he will be there to listen. Jeremiah 29:12-14a states, “Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the LORD…” It is through prayer that our relationship with Jesus grows. It is through prayer that we come to God for many different reasons, for praise and thanksgiving, to ask for forgiveness, and to make requests. It is through prayer that we have a relationship with God.
Just as our human relationships are based on communication, so too is our relationship with God. Likewise, just as we can go to someone who is close to us at any time, God is there for us at all times of the day or night. God is there in our times of joy and in our times of sorrow. God is there when we have questions, when we are frustrated, angry, and upset. God is there when we are hurting, when we feel helpless, and when we feel alone. However we feel or whatever is on our mind, we are called to lift our prayers up to God. As it says in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we are to pray continually, or without ceasing. God never sleeps nor gets irritated by our prayers.
Prayer can take many forms and there can be many reasons or purposes for approaching God; this includes prayers for ourselves. It is okay to call upon Jesus to intervene in our lives, and help us in whatever situation or circumstance we find ourselves. The woman who suffered from years of hemorrhaging, did not pray in this story, but she did approach Jesus. In faith, despite the possible repercussions, she pushed through the large crowd, reached out, and touched Jesus’ robe. Through her faith, she was healed. The same can be true for us in prayer. In faith, we reach out to Jesus for help and healing in our lives.
When we pray, we are also to pray for others. Jairus went to Jesus seeking help for his sick daughter. Jairus was reaching out in faith to Jesus for his child’s sake. As believers, we too are to take our prayers to Jesus in faith that he will listen. Based on Scripture we can be confident that not only will Jesus hear our prayers, but he will never refuse intercessory prayers. In all the stories found in the Gospels, Jesus not once rejected an appeal to him for help from those around him. Jesus listened to the many appeals he encountered, even though many times he was amongst a large crowd or his disciples tried to protect him from all those seeking him. Jesus heard the cries of the blind, the lame, the crippled, and the mute. He helped the rich and the poor, women and children, young and old, friends and those of other nations. Jesus listened to them and he healed them. Therefore, we know that we can bring our prayers to him and that he will listen to them and heal others and us if we ask.
I believe, beside the concept of forgiveness, one of the things we find most difficult when approaching God, is the topic of healing. We all hear of, or know people who have overcome health problems, conquered cancer, or who have combated mental health issues. We celebrate these occasions. However, we continually see friends and family suffering, or we too find ourselves hurting, but we rarely see or hear of miraculous healings like the ones we find in the Gospels. Despite modern medicines and many advances in technology we have all felt the effects and know many close to us, who have suffered health problems, such as chronic diseases, cancers, etc. who have not been healed physically despite endless medical treatments and prayers to God. So does this mean prayer doesn’t work? Does this mean that Jesus isn’t listening and healing like he did while he was here on earth?
Jesus came to this world and paid the ultimate price for us all. Jesus’ death and resurrection brought us salvation. It is through Christ’s sacrifice that our sins are forgiven and that sin and death are conquered. So why do bad things still happen to good people? Why do we still suffer? Why do people still get terminal diseases and illnesses? In short, it is because we still live in a fallen world, a world where sin is still present. However, we can rejoice because even though sin remains, it no longer holds dominion over us if we believe in Jesus Christ. God’s Kingdom is here on earth, and as part of God’s family, as believers, we are redeemed. Our sins are forgiven. God’s love overshadows the darkness, and death and sin have been overcome. Interestingly enough, sin acts as a way of showing God’s ability to heal, and God’s grace. If it weren’t for sin, we could not truly see the power of God in this world, we could not know the healing and the wholeness that comes to us through God’s grace, which we receive through faith in Jesus.
Through God’s love and grace, Jesus does listen to our prayers and does give us healing. However, perhaps not the healing we have in mind or seek. Healing can come in many different ways, whether physical, mental, or spiritual. For some people, they may be healed instantly. For others, they may experience a gradual healing over time. Their illness or disease treated or cured. However, some may experience inner healing of the mind or spirit, while their physical ailments may remain. Six years ago, my grandparents moved down to the East coast. Shortly after moving, my grandfather suffered what they thought was a mild stroke. The medical professionals are not sure what happened but the result has been that my grandfather has had problems with his legs and mobility. He needs to use a walker to get around, and as he walks sometimes, his legs will just stop and he cannot control them. He will stand there trying to move his legs but they won’t respond. He must wait and then his legs will work once more. He’s been for many tests, MRI’s, scans etc. No one knows why this has happened or continues, but thankfully he is pain free and it is more of an inconvenience than anything. Many of us in the family thought this would be a very difficult situation for my grandfather. He has always been very active and we thought that this ailment would put him into deep depression. We all prayed for him and his health. Later that year, while I was visiting I was walking with him and he said something that I thought I would never hear. He turned to me and said, “Torrey I know that I’ll probably never walk without my walker again, but I’m okay with that. I don’t feel any pain and for that I’m grateful.” Then and there, I knew that our prayers had been answered! My grandfather may not have been healed physically, but mentally he was whole.
I know that many here have been hurting and suffering. Being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from experiencing pain, hurt, and loss. Jesus himself suffered. However, through Christ we can have peace and take comfort knowing that we can be healed. Jesus is here for us always. We only need to lift up our cries for help and for healing to him, because prayer works! We may not know the form of healing whether physical, mental, or spiritual, or if it will be instant or gradual, but through God’s grace and love, we can have faith that Jesus gives all who believe healing. There is power in prayer, so in faith let us approach Christ, just as Jairus and the hemorrhagic woman did, so that we too may be healed in the name of Jesus. Amen.