To the Limits of Our Faith

TO PRAY FOR HEALING is to risk an encounter with the living water of God's transforming love, not knowing if it will come in a gentle stream or a tidal wave. The Israelites' demand for water in the Old Testament (Exodus 17:1-7) and Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well in the New Testament (John 4:5-26) suggest two different ways to pray for healing for ourselves and for our loved ones.

In cautious prayer, we define the healing and put God to the test. In bold, courageous prayer of faith, we allow God to define the healing and ourselves to be changed by our encounter with God.

Usually our prayers for healing are not exclusively one or the other, but a combination of both or a vacillation between the two. It is easier to understand the difference if we look at them one at a time. First are some observations on cautious prayer for healing.

Faith in God is never easy, but it sure is easier when everything is going well. When things are not going our way, faith is so much harder. When we thirst, like the Israelites wandering in the desert, we want to put God to the test. When we thirst for justice, for renewed strength, or for healing for ourselves or a loved one, we grumble among ourselves, like the Israelites, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exodus 17:7).

In our suffering and anguish, we want relief, we want things to be different, we want a cure, we want healing according to our definition. It is natural to pray, "Loving God, prove that you are with us, that you are our God, that you hear our cry and you care. Prove this by meeting our heart's desire. Answer our prayer, meet our demands, fulfill our hopes, and we will be reassured that you are a powerful God and you are with us."

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1995
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