How to pray for the sick and dying
From my observation over the years, here is what we tend to pray for:
- recovery of health
- relief of suffering
- prolonging of life
- wisdom on the part of doctors
And those are in fact good things to pray about. God is
sovereign even over microscopic viruses and diseases, and may in his
sovereignty intervene in the natural course of a disease to
miraculously bring about healing and prolong life.
However that’s all we seem to pray about.
And I wonder if the
content of such prayers reveals much about what it is that we have
really set our hopes on. Notice for instance that there is often no
mention in our prayers about:
- desiring to be with Jesus
- longing for our heavenly home
- looking forward to the resurrection body
- having confidence in the face of death
Why not? I wonder if it’s because really, our hopes aren’t for our
heavenly home. We don’t really desire to be with the Lord. Instead, we
want to stay here for as long as we can, so we can enjoy our nice
house, be with our family, and enjoy more of life. In other words,
what we really long for is more of this world and this life.
And so it must sometimes seem to those around us that we Christians are
just as fearful of losing our life, and have just as little to look
forward to beyond death, as they do. When in fact that is categorically not so.
Instead we look forward with tremendous eagerness to being with the
Lord and to enjoy seeing him face to face at last! We long to dwell in
the home of righteousness! We look forward to sharing in his
resurrection body! We know that the grave does not mean the end of life, but
the start of LIFE! We have heaps to look forward to, and so in
the first place our prayers over loved ones who are sick should give
thanks for the great things in store. Perhaps even giving thanks for
this reminder that this world can never satisfy.
However our feeble minds forget the awesome things set aside for us
beyond death. And what can loom greater in our minds is pain, or fear, or the natural sadness of having to be apart from loved ones for a while. And so in our prayers we should in the second place also
ask that our loved ones who are sick would have a renewed longing for
their heavenly home. That God would increase their longing to be with
Here is what Paul writes when he realised that his own end was near. Notice particularly the deep affection he has for his future heavenly home, which seeps through from every line.
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only
to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV)
Would that, when we are close to death, it is obvious what we have really longed for all these years!
[ PS: of course, non Christians won't know about this hope... ]