by Name Withheld
Two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I could learn anything significant about prayer. I had been a Christian for many years. What more could I learn? You ask God for things, you thank God for things. Amen. Then you fall asleep.
But last April, I got an education about real prayer – the hard way.
After I started experiencing strange physical symptoms earlier this year, my doctor offered two possible diagnoses: Either I had a neurological illness that would eventually go away, or I had a degenerative neurological disease for which there is no cure.
Anxious thoughts raced through my mind: What’s happening to me? What about my daughter? She’s only a year old. Will I be around to see her grow up?
I felt helpless, realizing there was nothing I could do to change this course of events. My physical problems seemed totally beyond my control. Despite strong support and words of encouragement from my family, I knew I needed some supernatural assurance.
I had known friends and family members who had been healed as a result of prayer. I had also known other individuals who had sincerely walked with the Lord, but had not been healed. How would God answer my prayer?
A Prayer for Healing
Shortly after my diagnosis, I put my doubts aside and decided to obey the advice in James 5:14: “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.” Praying for God’s healing was my only hope.
During one of our church services, the elders of my church did anoint me with oil and pray for me. Although I was not instantly healed, God gave me a sense of peace. I also felt comfort knowing I had obeyed the biblical advice for anointing the sick.
But something else happened inside me that day: The Holy Spirit convicted me to pursue a closer walk with God. The bottom line was, no matter how long I had to wait for healing, I knew I had to know God better.
I began by asking my mother for some inspirational material for daily reading. One of the books she offered caught my eye: Let Prayer Change Your Life, by Becky Tirabassi.
Until this crisis in my life, my prayers had been casual and shallow. I prayed quickly for my own needs, and even less for the needs of others. But Tirabassi’s book opened my eyes to effective prayer. I would learn that prayer is a key factor in a closer walk with God.
Tirabassi highlighted scriptures that gave me comfort, emphasized God’s promises concerning prayer, and instructed me how to pray.
I was first comforted knowing that God is compassionate and faithful: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23). I also read, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). These verses certainly pertained to me.
Several of God’s promises concerning prayer gave me needed insight: “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25); “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer . . .” (1 Peter 3:12). From this verse I realized I wasn’t just talking to myself when I prayed; God was hearing everything I said.
In 1 John 5:14, I saw that John took Peter’s statement further. He said I could be confident in approaching God, knowing that He would hear anything I asked if I asked “according to his will.”
But the greatest promise concerning prayer came from Jesus himself: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).
Based on what I had learned about God’s faithfulness and compassion, I could follow the apostle Peter’s simple instruction on prayer: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
I could also follow Paul’s instruction in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
In addition to learning about God and prayer through the Bible, I followed Tirabassi’s suggestion to record my prayers in a journal. Writing down my thanks and praise to God, and praying daily over a written list of requests, helped me present to God what was foremost on my mind each day. Doing these things also kept me consistent in petitioning God about ongoing needs, not just about my burden for healing.
A New Priority
Over time, something unusual and unexpected happened to me: My relationship to God became more important than my health concerns. I saw that God was in control of my life and that He would do what was best for me.
When I talk to God now, my prayers include praise, thanks, and requests. I tell Him how I feel about things. I no longer suffer the anxiety and fear I had a few months ago, because I ask God daily for strength and the ability to trust in His timing.
Since the day of anointing and prayer last April, I have grown stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Complete physical healing may not come for a long time. In the meantime, however, I will enjoy spiritual companionship with the One who knows me best. When I’m with Him, that is enough.
Scripture quotations were taken from the New International Version.