I have been reading Philip Yancey's book, Prayer, over the past few months (just finished) as a kind of morning devotional. Prayer is something that has always been kind of...elusive for me in a "how-to" way that made sense and made me feel like I was actually talking to someone versus out loud to the air or to some nebulous guy with a white beard wearing the Old Testament version of a onesie up on a cloud.
I so watch too much Family Guy...
The book itself is great. There are a lot of yellow highlighted pages in it and some things I will probably be pulling out over time and writing about as I mull over them some more. One of the chapters that really struck me right away was on prayer and physical healing although not for the actual topic itself. Under the sub-heading of "Checklist for Healing", Yancey talks about how Jesus' healing miracles are a sign of how the world should and someday will be. However, at the same time, the Bible also has examples of illnesses that are healed and unhealed. He says, "In search of the proper balance, when I desire and pray for a miracle I ask myself a series of questions."
1. Am I expecting a miracle as entitlement? (God does not necessarily provide a quick, dependable solution to all suffering.)
2. Am I using the benefits of God's "common grace” - the healing built into our bodies and the medical knowledge we have gained? (The best healing is when a person lives so a properly aligned soul and body can direct bodily healing prompted by good medicine.)
3. Do I wrongly blame God for causing the suffering? (God is a source of comfort, not torment.)
4. Am I prepared for the possibility that physical healing may not take place? (Jesus never said he would erase all suffering or human need; rather, he talked about a kingdom that values the needy above the self-sufficient. In other words, as Yancey writes, "God offers us a minimum of protection and a maximum of support.")
This particular part of the chapter resonated with me not due to a physical ailment that I had been wrestling with or praying over but instead a financial one. Long story short, the Spousal Unit was out of work for six weeks due to surgery. When he came back, the SU's job said, "Hey, we don't need you anymore. Here's your severance check. Goodbye."
Whoa. Yeah. Wow, SU's job. Yea, verily. You suck.
Ah, but the SU has a prodigious talent in a particular field and there shortly came an offer of a new job. Saved! Not to mention the job was in London. For $250K a year. Tax-free. To borrow from the native language of my SoCal youth: Duuuuuuuuude!
So we went to God and the conversation went something like this:
Us: "Hey, God. We've got this great new job opportunity. Isn't this cool? It's everything we wanted."
God: "Yup. That's nice. But what I really want you to do is to stay in Podunkville, Redneckland and build a coffee shop."
Us: "Beg pardon? Oh, that was a joke, right?"
God: "I do have an excellent sense of humor but, no, I was really quite serious."
Long story short, we took a deep breath, cashed in the 401K, and did what God told us to do. The idea was basically “Cheers without the alcohol”. Coffee, sandwiches, desserts and live music a couple nights a week – mostly blues but with some other stuff thrown in, using local artists, the SU and friends of the SU both locally and from Metropolis. We prayed over it constantly, had others do so, checked in with God, and always got the message that we were on the right track. It took us almost a year to get the place built, inspected, supplied and so on and so forth. Then we opened the door.
(...to be continued)