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Yesterday I visited a stranger in the hospital - though now I would call him friend. Funny how things happen - I went to a girls' soccer game and while on the sidelines learned about the Friday night heart attack. (His wife is a member of Women of Passion, my Bible study). How I wish I could get a video transcript of our ICU bedside conversation!
Honestly, our back and forth was so real, so raw and so meaningful. Please understand, he was in no danger of dying - these were not deathbed confessions. However, at one point as he was describing his thoughts during the heart attack, I asked 'Tom'1 a question: 'While it was happening, did you pray?' He cocked his head just slightly, looked at me and said, 'No, no I didn't.' [His answer shocked me because almost everyone prays when they are scared - even if they are not sure to whom they are praying. A month or so back, I had a strange conversation with a makeup counter girl 'freshening' my makeup with contouring lines and highlights (didn't turn out so well, but that's another story), and in our talk the lovely Ukrainian girl told me she prays, and it does not matter who gets her prayers, she just feels better having prayed. Wait, what?]
When I asked Tom why he did not pray, he told me of a time, decades ago, when he told God if he would save his tiny son, he would raise him to know him. Tom looked over at me and said, 'I didn't really do that...'' and he choked up ... 'how could I ask God for anything now?'
Perhaps that fits you or someone close to you in some fashion. Friend, God is merciful and he is kind. He does not walk around with a big stick, ready to whack you. I got to wipe a few errant tears from Tom's cheek while telling him God has long ago forgiven him. There was so much more, but don't you see what a sweet time it was, Friends? We talked of prayer, of faith, of doubts, of hypocritical Christians - all stuff God gets, all stuff God can handle.
A fitting preamble to the last of James' fine letter: "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 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. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.'2
I truly believe we-underestimate-the-power-of-the-prayer of Elijah, who asked God to shut down the false prophet Ba'al by demonstration.3 Elijah asked in faith, and God answered--first, with no rain, and then a downpour of RAIN! I wonder . . .
for what have you failed to ask God? James said earlier, "You do not have, because you do not ask God."4 God wants to answer your prayers; he loves you.
I had a friend when I was in my late 20s who believed he could only count on 'X' number of prayers being answered, so he was careful how he used them. He used one of his precious prayers on me once . . . 'sweet . . . but kinda' messed up theology/thinking. You and I don't serve a God who keeps score . . . thank goodness! He does not have tally marks next to your name or mine, nor is he about to 'cut us off' from the supply line of his power.
Okay, maybe we will take one more day with James, as I want to stop here and emphasize that NOTHING underscore NOTHING should keep you from reaching out in prayer to the God who knows everything about you and loves you.
That's because God is good . . . all the time.
Oh, and my new friend who had the heart attack? Well, he got a stint and was released from the hospital in less than 48 hours! Yes, God is good . . . all the time.
1 - not the name of my new friend
2- James 5.13-18
3 - 1 Kings 17 and 18: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+17-18&version=NIV
4 - James 4.2