I want a prayer that will undo disease—one that will cause sickness itself to weaken and wither and die. I want a prayer that will knit together vigorous strength and vibrant energy in a celebration of restored health. I want a prayer that will make the tears retreat and banish the pain and the grief and the fear.
I want a prayer that will make real in our experience the power of the stories we tell— that will effectively transform circumstance. I want a prayer that will make manifest today the truth of those ancient stories of the blind who came to see and the lame to walk, the unclean who were made clean and whole, and even the dead brought to life again. I want to live those stories I tell. I want to know—experientially know that power I preach.
I want a potent prayer that will make a difference. I want a prayer to which I can point and say, “That changed things. I prayed—” though it wouldn’t have to be me— “someone—anyone, really—prayed, and thereafter, nothing was the same.” I want a prayer to become a word made incarnate.
It’s really not that I want a prayer that would make me God. Sure, yes, of course, it’s a pleasant daydream, to contemplate being the one to unleash the authority of God on earth. But I’d be fine if it were someone else making the prayer and making the difference. And yes, I know, it wouldn’t be them either, would it?—making the difference, but God. Not the prayer. Not the pray-er. That’s not saying I don’t think prayer makes a difference, is it? Because I don’t believe that.
So I guess what I want is a God who answers the prayers I want answered the way I want them answered when I want them answered. I have condemned others for wanting that! But I’m not talking about prayers for success—prayers for material gain. Would not a prayer for wellness—another’s wellness—be one that could be prayed in God’s own name—in the name of the God who created us to be whole and healthy—the God who works always toward abundance and fullness of life—the God who loves us?
So right now, I want a prayer that will make God ignore, in this case, cause and effect, consequence and process, the laws of science. I want a prayer that will make God abandon the wonderful and terrible freedom in which God created us to live—entrusted us to live.
That’s a problem though, isn’t it: to want a prayer that will make God …. Not my place to make God—to make God do anything—to make God in my image—to want a prayer that would make me or anyone else God.
I’m just tired of praying and not knowing what difference (if any) it makes. I’m angry that I pray without necessarily expecting what I pray for—angry that my justifications are already in place for prayer that doesn’t undo—doesn’t heal—doesn’t … doesn’t … doesn’t. I’m tired of thinking in terms of attitudes being transformed instead of circumstances—of making an emotional difference instead of a physical one—of the pyschological benefit of naming what it is I most want. Not that those aren’t all important.
So I want a prayer to do what I don’t believe it will do. And I’m just not concerned right now, about the dilemma—the theological and experiential problem of why God might intervene now in this situation and not in some other. I’m not interested in developing or defending the affirmation that God doesn’t actually ever intervene because God is always in the midst of everything doing all God can. I actually believe that, but it’s not what I want right now. I want more—even if it’s just what I think is more.
And so it is within all the deep anger and frustration of the honest truth of loving relationships (with God and within community) that I celebrate the mystery that is prayer—prayer that is, I affirm, more than just an expression of wishful thinking—a request for things to be other than they are—that is also an affirmation of vulnerability in relationship—an affirmation of significance and involvement, commitment and care—that is also the affirmation that something is being accomplished far more than we know—maybe far more than we can know—the affirmation that the prayer, the pray-er does make a difference—that God does make a difference. I don’t know what that difference is. I know it’s rarely what I want it to be. But I believe in that difference—believe in it whole-heartedly—and believe it is of the utmost profound importance.
I still want a prayer that will undo disease ….
This I pray in the name of God-with-us … always loving … always ….