NEW ORLEANS (BP)–I still remember the day Marta walked into my office, plopped herself down and asked me to pray that she and Ward would be able to have children. I promised to pray, and did, regularly. In time, they had three of the brightest, sweetest children you’ve ever seen. They are young adults now and barely know me, but I take special joy in having prayed them into the world.
For Mack, I prayed that God would send him a wife. I said, “Lord, Mack is a truly fine person. He has kept himself faithful to you all these years. You must have a godly woman out there somewhere who would be right for him.” He did. I performed Mack and Kathleen’s wedding last winter.
My son Neil was on an outing with his three children. The day before, he had suggested they pray for good weather. On their way to the park, he asked 10-year-old Grant if he had prayed for this beautiful day. “No,” he said. “I forgot.” He asked 7-year-old Abby. “I forgot too,” she said.
“Oh, good,” said her twin Erin from the back seat. “Then it was my miracle.”
I pray for Graham, the 8-year-old son of Ed and Sherry. Over two years ago, he had surgery for a brain tumor which was followed by various complications. Eventually, Graham came home from the hospital normal in every way except one: He had lost his eyesight.
The medical team could find no reason for the blindness. In time, Ed and Sherry enrolled Graham in special classes for the newly blind here in New Orleans, and he was even featured on the evening news. He has adapted well, and the family has been an incredible witness to the rest of us on how to handle life’s setbacks. We all continue, however, to pray for God to restore Graham’s vision.
“One of these days,” I tell Ed and Sherry, “Graham is going to open his eyes and see. When he does, I want to be one of the many who prayed for that miracle.”
In Erin’s words, I want it to be my miracle. Put another way, I do not want to miss the blessing of having asked the Father for this miracle.
Ed asked me one day, “What if it happens in the middle of a worship service? Is it all right with you if Graham comes walking down the aisle of the church?” We both laughed at such a precious picture. I assured him a revival would break out in the congregation.
When tennis star Arthur Ashe came down with cancer, the world took notice. Struck down in the prime of his life, Ashe demonstrated great courage and faith. He said one thing, however, that has troubled me all these years.
“I have not prayed for my own healing. That would be selfish.”
Is it selfish to pray for your own healing, for a special blessing from the Heavenly Father? Perhaps. It probably depends on your heart. Arthur Ashe was the father of some children he dearly loved. From here, it seems he could have prayed for healing for their sake. As a recovered cancer victim, he would have been given a megaphone, so to speak, to direct the world’s attention to cancer research, to the power of prayer, and to the special concerns of patients. He could have asked for healing for their sake.
Is it possible God does not heal (or fill other needs) because we do not ask? How we answer says volumes about what we believe concerning prayer.
James 4:2 answers our question. “You have not,” we read, “because you ask not.”
We all remember the famous prayer of Jabez, from 1 Chronicles 4:10: “Oh, that thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that thy hand might be with me, and that thou wouldst keep me from evil that it may not pain me.” Over the past decade, millions have debated whether Jabez’ prayer was selfish. But it’s worth noting that God answered it. Plainly, the Lord decided this man could be trusted with the blessing he desired.
Give God credit for blessing, but give Jabez credit for asking.
I encourage people to go ahead and pray for their healing or that special need. Let God sort it out as to who gets the miracle. It’s not like my little prayer is going to upset the balance of the universe. Ask Him! To those who asks, “But what if it’s not God’s will?” I say, “Then He won’t do it.”
In the late 19th century, American evangelist Dwight L. Moody was vacationing in England. His ministry schedule had exhausted him and friends thought the voyage to Britain would do him good. One day, a pastor read in the newspaper that the well-known American evangelist was due to arrive in London on such-and-such a ship. He contacted Moody and invited him to preach in his church. The sermon was so well-received that they agreed to continue holding services indefinitely. Word spread and crowds gathered. Lives were being changed as people turned to Jesus Christ at the preaching of this unlettered American layman.
One morning, the host pastor asked Mr. Moody to accompany him on a house call. An invalid woman in his church would welcome their visit.
That day, in a humble cottage, these two men of God received the shock of their lives. The sickly woman showed them newspaper clippings of the ministry of Dwight L. Moody which she had cut out over the previous several years and saved. She said, “For a long time, I have prayed that God would send you to England, Mr. Moody. We need the touch of God in our land, too.”
The religious awakening that swept over much of England through the preaching of Dwight Moody was her miracle.
Joe McKeever is director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans whose cartoons are feature on BP Lighter Side. He is the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenner, La.