Turning to the top man: prayer

Martin Down

  • Article

You’ve been to the doctor. He has referred you to the hospital. You’ve had all the tests. You’ve seen the consultant. It appears there is not very much they can do for you. “It’s bad news, I am afraid.” Is there anyone else you could see? Is there a Top Man perhaps who could help?

Well there is a Top Man, not in quite the same sense as you might be thinking medically, but his name is Jesus. He himself said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been committed to me.” He is the only Son of God. He refers everyone and everything to his Heavenly Father, who is the Creator of the universe and who has always had a plan for your life.

It may be that you have known this Top Man personally for some time, and that you are in the habit of talking to him and taking his advice about everything. On the other hand it may be that you have only heard about him in passing. But in any case, now would seem to be a good time to call on him. There is no waiting list. He is always available, free of charge. It is called praying.

(All this may apply to you yourself, or, may be, it applies to someone else close to you: a husband, a wife, a parent or child, a friend or a neighbour. In any case when we are confronted with serious illness it is a good time to pray.)

But how do we do it?

Jesus himself taught us where to begin. It is like the preliminary consultation, a review of your general state of spiritual health:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
This is not a prayer about your specific situation or illness; it is a prayer about the whole orientation of your life. Is your life orientated towards God your heavenly Father? Is your life directed towards doing his will? Have you forgiven those who have hurt you, as you need God to forgive you? Certainly you are praying for God to deliver you from the evil of this illness and death. But you cannot separate that from all the rest.

Disease and death were not in God’s original plan for you and the human race. We have brought these things upon ourselves, either directly or indirectly, by turning away from God and rejecting his way for us and the world. So the first step we need to take in prayer is to turn back to God. It is called repentance. We need to confess our sins to him: the things that we know we have done wrong, and the times in which we have shut him out of our lives. God is merciful and kind and will forgive us, for the sake of his Son Jesus, who gave his life for our salvation.

What then? God is powerful and gracious. He can and does heal the sick, in body, mind and spirit. His Son Jesus went about doing good and healing all manner of sickness and disease. He healed all who came to him seeking his healing touch. So ask God to heal you in Jesus name. Better still, ask other Christians to come and pray with you for healing in Jesus name. Some are healed, even today in Jesus name. Perhaps you will be one.

But some are not healed, at least not here and now in this world. Why some are healed and some are not is a mystery which only God understands. But your prayer will have been heard, and you will be healed, if not in this world, then in the world to come.
It is not for this life only that God has created you, but for a life that is eternal, in a new world, a world to come. It is a world in which there is no more pain or suffering, no more sadness or death, but only love, joy and peace, for evermore. Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life”. He not only died for our sins on the Cross, but he rose again from the dead. This proves that there is Life after death with him for those who follow him, the Way, and believe in him, the Truth.

When the Apostle Paul, faced a similar crisis, hanging between life and death, he said,

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

Paul lived, and went on serving the Lord, for that was God’s will for him at that time. But one day he died, as we all will, and found the fulfillment of his deepest desire, to be with Christ, which was far better.

So yes, pray to be healed and ask your friends to pray for you to be healed. But if you are truly praying out of a love for God and a desire to be with him, then there may come a time when your payer will change, a prayer to be released from the sufferings of this world and to find the joys of the world to come:

Heavenly Father, forgive me my sins and shortcomings. Provide for, protect and comfort those whom I leave behind, but take me to be with you, without pain and without fear, for the sake of your beloved Son Jesus Christ, who died for me and rose again that I might live with you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If you have been reading this with someone else in mind and praying for them, rather than yourself, be sensitive to what is going on in the mind of the one who is suffering. Ask them what they would like you to pray for. Pray for yourself and for all those who are suffering as a result of this person’s illness, that God will uphold them and strengthen them, that you may all live the rest of your earthly lives in the love and service of God. Use this as an opportunity to remind yourself of your own mortality, and use it as an opportunity to re-orientate your own life towards God, and to live and pray the Lord’s Prayer every moment of every day, until you too come to the goal and prize of everlasting life in the name of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ.