Summary: Prayer can open up for us insight into God's will when the way seems dark and uncertain.
Surprised By Prayer!
The popularity of prayer has skyrocketed in recent months. Prayer, talking about prayer, writing about prayer, exploring patterns of prayers and the like have become more prevalent than Tiger Woods' fans at a golf tournament. Prayer has truly come to the forefront of our society today as more and more people are talking about seeking God's intervention in their lives. There are newspaper articles on the topic of prayer. We see images of people praying to God on television shows like "Touched By An Angel." We hear folks who have gone through tragedies talking about how they prayed for God's help. Prayer has become such a hot topic that there are now folks who are talking and writing about the personal benefits of prayer.
In a recent article in Christianity Today magazine there was an articled titled, "Doctors Who Pray," in which several medical doctors expounded upon the medical benefits of prayer for their patients. Dr. Dale Matthews, an internist and associate professor of medicine at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is one of a growing number of medical professionals who are discovering the medical benefits of faith and prayer. Dr. Matthews and other doctors are beginning to scientifically study the effects of prayer on illnesses and injuries. In the article, Dr. Matthews says, "Scientific knowledge has demonstrated the positive benefits of religion. I can say, as a physician and scientist--not just as a Christian--that, scientifically, prayer is good for you. The medical effects of faith on health are not a matter of faith, but of science." (Christian Today, January 6, 1997)
Because of the way we are as people, anytime we learn of something that is going to benefit us personally in some way, you can bet there will be many who will jump on the bandwagon. I am deeply concerned about how prayer is being portrayed and about how God is being reduced into some kind of celestial Santa Claus whose primary function is to dole out what we want when we want it. If we understand prayer as simply a means to get what we want and to align ourselves with the "Man upstairs" who can work the system for us then we are totally missing out on the true purpose of prayer. The consequences of this type of understanding of prayer are catastrophic.
Imagine with me for a minute as we go the Intensive Care Unit of Children's Hospital where a mom and dad are anxiously awaiting news on their precious child whose life is hanging in the balance. The little boy is fighting for his life. The doctors are doing everything humanly possible to save the little boy's life. People are praying all over town for the child's health to be restored. Suddenly, the doctor appears from behind the door with his head hanging down and discouragement written all over his face. He walks over to the mother and father, sits down and takes mom's hand, and say's, "I'm so sorry. We did everything we could, but we weren't able to keep your son alive."