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How to Pray for the Sick and Disabled

-By  RACHEL LUNDY

When we know someone who is suffering from an illness or disability, our response is often to pray for healing. 

It is compassionate to desire relief for one who is suffering, and it is certainly appropriate to ask the Lord for healing.

 Our God is loving and compassionate, and He is grieved by the suffering of His children (Psalm 86:15, John 11:32-35). He is also a powerful God who is able to heal (Mark 1:29-34).

However, healing is not always God’s plan for those who are sick and disabled.

 Sometimes God chooses to heal, but sometimes instead He chooses to use a long-term illness or disability for the good of His people.
For this reason, it is good to pray for more than just physical healing. 

Let’s look to Scripture for examples of ways to pray for those who are suffering from an illness or disability.

  • Pray that God would comfort them (2 Corinthians 1:4).
  • Pray that they would “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, NIV).
  • Pray that they would trust in the Lord and not lean on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
  • Pray that they would grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • Pray that they would suffer well. Pray that they would “commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19, NIV).
  • Pray that God would grant them endurance and encouragement (Romans 15:4-6).
  • Pray that they would throw off sin and run with endurance. Pray that they would look to Jesus so that they do not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
  • Pray that the Lord would provide for all of their needs “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).
  • Pray that they would thirst for God and that they would place their hope in Him (Psalm 42:1-5).
  • Pray that God would keep them in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
  • Pray that they would “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12, NIV).
  • Pray that God would enable them to be content in whatever circumstances He places them in (Philippians 4:11-13).
  • Pray that they would hold unswervingly to the hope they have professed (Hebrews 10:23).
  • Pray that they would not lose heart, but that they would persevere and fix their eyes on what is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

It is a great privilege to bring our requests to the Lord and be a part of the work He is doing. God chooses to work through the prayers of His people. Therefore, let us lift up our brothers and sisters who are suffering from disabilities, praying not just for their physical bodies, but for their spiritual growth and strength as well.

In what other ways should we intercede for those who are suffering from an illness or disability? If you are suffering, in what ways do you appreciate people to praying for you?

 

Rachel Lundy is a wife and mother of two children. She lives with dysautonomia, a condition that leaves her mostly homebound. She writes at Cranberry Tea Time about life with a chronic illness and the hope and joy she has in Christ.

 

 



What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church

 
– by Russell Moore

[Recently], news broke that the White House officially rescinded President Obama’s executive order regarding transgenderism in public schools. This is a good decision that corrects outrageous and coercive directives. Children should not be turned into pawns of culture war experimentation. As a conservative evangelical, I’m glad to see this action.

At the same time, the cultural conversation on gender identity issues requires more than good policy. It demands a gospel-centered response from the church.

Ultimately, the transgender question is about more than just sex. It’s about what it means to be human. Poet Wendell Berry responded to techno-utopian scientism with the observation that civilization must decide whether we see persons as creatures or as machines. If we are creatures, he argued, then we have purpose and meaning, but also limits. If we see ourselves, and the world around us, as a machine, then we believe the Faustian myth of our own limitless power to recreate ourselves.

This is, it seems to me, the question at the heart of the transgender controversy. Are we created, as both the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus put it, “male and female,” from the beginning or are these categories arbitrary and self-willed? Do our bodies, and our sexes, represent something of who we were designed to be, and thus impose limits on our ability to recreate ourselves?

The Sexual Revolution has always whispered promises of this kind of godlike self-autonomy. After a generation of no-fault divorce, cohabitation, ubiquitous pornography, and the cultural unhinging of sex from marriage and marriage from childbearing, it only seems inevitable that Western culture is now decoupling sexuality from even its most basic reality: gender. If human sexuality exists solely for our self-actualization and satisfaction, then it makes no sense to impose restrictions based on something as seemingly arbitrary as gender.

This, ultimately, won’t work. There are good reasons to put boys and girls in different bathrooms and locker rooms and sometimes sports teams, reasons that don’t impugn the dignity of people but uphold it. Sex-differentiated bathrooms and sports teams and dormitories for men and women aren’t the equivalent of, say, a terrorist Jim Crow state unnaturally forcing people apart based on a fiction, useful to the powerful, that skin color is about superiority and inferiority. Every human being knows that there are important, and necessary, differences between men and women. Without such recognition, women are harmed and men are coarsened.

Moreover, the move here toward severing self-identity from biological reality will hardly stop at “gender.” If anything, there’s much more of a case to be made that one can feel to be a different age than one’s doctor’s exam or birth certificate would show. That’s relatively indifferent if all that this means is “You’re only as old as you feel” or “I’m a Millennial trapped in a Gen-X body.” It’s something else entirely if chronological self-identity is mandated for military service or the drinking age or the age of consent. People and neighborhoods and nations and cultures cannot live this way.

So how should we as Christians respond?

First of all, we should never mock or belittle those suffering gender identity disorders. These are our neighbors to be respected and served, not freaks to be despised. They feel alienated from their identities as men or women and are seeking a solution to that in self-display or in surgery or in pumping their bodies with the other sex’s hormones. In a fallen universe, all of us are alienated, in some way, from who we were designed to be. That alienation manifests itself in different ways in different people.

Christian congregations that seek to be faithful to the gospel must teach what’s been handed down to us, that our maleness and femaleness points us to an even deeper reality, to the unity and complementarity of Christ and the church. A rejection of the goodness of those creational realities then is a revolt against God’s lordship, and against the picture of the gospel that God had embedded in the creation.

But this also means that we will love and be patient with those who feel alienated from their created identities. We must recognize that some in our churches will face a long road of learning what it means to live as God created them to be, as male or female. That sort of long, slow, plodding and sometimes painful obedience is part of what Jesus said would be true of every believer: the bearing of a cross. That cross-bearing reminds us that God doesn’t receive us because of our own effort but because God reconciled us to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Second, we must bear witness to the goodness of what it means to live as creatures, not as self-defining gods and goddesses. God created us as human, and within humanity as male and female (Gen. 1:27). We are all sinners, so we chafe against having ourselves defined by a Creator, and not by ourselves or our ideologies. Our nakedness shames us, because our physical difference reminds us that we are not self-contained. Man needs woman, and woman needs man.

We must also resist the temptation to buy into the Sexual Revolution’s narrative. I don’t just mean that we accommodate ourselves to the sins and heresies of the movement, although that’s always a danger too. I mean the danger is that we assume that the Sexual Revolution will always be triumphant, progressing upward and onward. To assume such is to assume that the Sexual Revolution will be able to keep its promises. It can’t. It never has. If Christians see ourselves as people who are “losing” a culture rather than people who have been sent on a mission to a culture, we will be outraged and hopeless instead of compassionate and convictional. If we do not love our mission field, we will have nothing to say to it.

We should stand against any bullying of kids who different from other children, for whatever reason. Children with gender identity issues are often harassed and marginalized. They should be loved and protected. Schools can do this without upending all gender categories. More importantly, churches and Christians can do this. We should hate the bullying of our neighbors, especially children, even more than the outside world hates it.

We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.

_______________

Portions of this article were published previously.

 



A Meditation on Two Obscure Hymns

by Daniel Szczesniak
 
This last Sunday we sang an old hymn by John Newton – author of
Amazing Grace – written way back in 1779. It’s a great poem, but even with the updated music by Indelible Grace I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow can be a tough one to wrap your mind around at first.
 
However, if you take the time to read through it, think through it, and meditate on what the hymn is saying, I think you’ll warm up to it as you recognize the truth in your own experience.

I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow

The hymn starts off with a prayer: “I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith, and love, and every grace.” We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

“Lord, please increase my faith.”

“Help me to love You and others more.”

“God, I want to experience more of your grace.”

We recognize that prayer because we’ve all prayed it ourselves in various ways. But then (in our hymn text) we find a twist. God answered the prayer, “but it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair.”

I don’t know about you, but singing the word “despair” on a Sunday morning still gives me a bit of a shock. And especially so when I realize that I’m singing about how it is the Lord who has “driven” me to that place (verse 2).

In praying that prayer for Him to increase my faith, I was hoping (verse 3) that He would “at once” answer my request by helping me resist sin and give me peace and rest in my heart. But no; it would not be so simple. Instead of this (verse 4), He made me more aware of my sin and depravity. And to top it off, He even let the enemy with “all the angry powers of Hell” attack me!

This was not what I had wanted at all. Now, instead of some great joy-filled plateau of a spiritual Instagram-worthy sunrise, I’m feeling guilty and discouraged. I’m alone except for those who would attack and accuse me. I might even say – despite the “faith” I claim to have – that God Himself was purposefully aggravating me (verse 5), destroying the image I had in my head of my great life of faith, and basically knocking me down.

“Why is this happening to me?” I cried (verse 6). “I know You’re sovereign over my trials, but this is ridiculous!” What is going on?

Perhaps it strikes you as odd that it is at this point that God finally speaks.

Wouldn’t you think I would hear His voice when I was at my high point, praying for increased faith and love? In this hymn, God doesn’t answer there. No; at least, not in the way we typically think. He answers when I get to the point of feeling like a stupid worm being hunted to death.

An aside – this is pretty strong language for the average Sunday morning. It feels weird to sing, “Are You going to pursue me, someone who is just a worm, to death?” But the language is actually fairly typical when you compare it to the Psalms.

So how does God answer when He finally speaks? Verses 6-7: “This is how I answer these prayers, My child: I use these trials to cure you of self and pride, so that you would cast aside your schemes of earthly joy and seek Me as your all in all.”

That’s quite a lesson in seven short stanzas.

Here’s the full text:
 
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face
 
Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair
 
I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest
 
Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part
 
Yea, more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed
Cast out my feelings, laid me low
 
Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith
 
“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”
 

So this first old hymn provided an illustration for us of how God answers prayer and builds up our faith through trials. These trials teach us to lay aside our self and our pride and cling to the Lord.

But how do we do this? Where do we get the strength to endure while God does His sanctifying work? That question brings us to our next obscure hymn.

God is My Strong Salvation

Written in 1822 by James Montgomery, God is My Strong Salvation is a loose paraphrase of the twenty-seventh Psalm. The hymn’s theme is that it is God Himself who supplies our strength to endure trials: in darkness and temptation, when faint and desolate, God is our strong salvation.

The third verse describes our part in this: “Place on the Lord reliance; my soul, with courage wait.” The way this is done is presented with an archaic term – “His truth be your affiance.”

When you hear the word affiance, think “fiancé.” It means “pledge (in marriage); trust; confidence.” When we sing “His truth be your affiance,” we’re reminding ourselves that God’s Word is His pledge to us. His Word is like an engagement ring. It’s something that we can hold on to, something that promises us that in Him, in His strong arms, we find all that is good for us.

That is why the hymn concludes as it does with verse four; and that final verse is the true and full answer to our initial prayer to grow in faith and love and every grace.

God is my strong Salvation:
What foe have I to fear?
In darkness and temptation
My Light, my Help is near
 
Though hosts encamp around me
Firm to the fight I stand
What terror can confound me
With God at my right hand?
 
My soul, with courage, wait:
His truth be your affiance
When faint and desolate
 
His might your heart shall strengthen
His love your joy increase
Mercy your days shall lengthen:
The Lord shall give you peace.

Amen.