Monday, April 18, 2016

When my prayers are lame

Today's blog post is a follow-up to yesterday's post. It never ceases to amaze me when I have read a passage a bunch of times, then I read it again and something new pops out at me. I was reading John 5 again and saw something more that I wanted to write about so here we are. 

Yesterday I wrote about the question Jesus asked of the man who had been sick for 38 years. Today I want to look at this man's answer and Jesus' action in response to the man's answer.

So Jesus notices this man, one of many many many invalids, he knows that this man has been sick for a long time and he asks this man "do you want to be healed?" Which seems like a really weird thing to ask a guy who has been sick for so long, but I spent an entire blog post discussing this so I won't say anything more about that here because I want to take a minute to look at what this man says in reply.

Jesus asks him "Do you want to be healed?" and the sick guy replies:  "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me."
John 5:7 ESV

It wasn't a declaration of faith in Jesus' ability to heal him. It wasn't any kind of request for Jesus to heal him. It was an excuse. I wonder if in the back of his mind he was blaming someone who he thought should have been there to help him into the pool. I wonder if maybe for the first few years there actually was someone who would come sit with him. I wonder if they tried to get him into the pool a couple of times but were never fast enough, or it never worked for him.  I wonder if in the background of his reply he's thinking about that brother who hasn't come to visit him in a really long time, or a wife who gave up on him or that friend who simply got preoccupied with their own troubles. But for whatever reason his reply is one of excuses and not faith.

Now look at Jesus. See how he responds. He doesn't say anything to this guy about having faith or about explaining who he is or what he is about on the earth he simply says "Get up, pick up your bed and walk" and that is exactly what this guy does. He is healed instantly.

As I read this I was really struck by how odd all of this is. 
-Jesus approaches one sick man in a crowd of sick people
-He asks the man if he wants to be healed
-The guy makes excuses
-Jesus heals him 

I'd encourage you to look up the passage in your Bible (John 5) and read the whole story, it's really interesting. But here is my take-away from this moment with Jesus: it isn't the beauty or quality of my prayers that gets my prayers heard or answered even my lamest prayer is still heard, still received, and I am still loved even in the middle of my excuses.

Sometimes I want something or someone to blame when my life is starting to go sidewise or otherwise feel unusually harder than I'd like for it to be feeling right now. (Because if there is something to blame then there is some way to try to exercise some control.) Usually I want to blame my prayer life - if I was praying with enough faith or if I was praying the right words or if I was praying super long prayers or if I was praying several times a day - then my circumstances would shift and I would be like Elijah praying down the rain. This encounter reminds me that it isn't the ineptitude of my prayers that is keeping things from changing - the time just isn't right, or these circumstances that I'm cringing under have actually come to do me good and to prepare me for what's next. 

Jesus didn't heal this guy because of the eloquent statement of faith he made, it even looks like this guy who he healed might not even have responded in gratitude after he was healed! Jesus healed him because that is who he is and this was part of his plan. And he hasn't overlooked me because of how lame my requests have been, he loves me, and he loves it when I pray - even when my prayers are lame. And when the moment is right he will act. 

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