Whenever a group gathers to pray together, inevitably some prayer requests will be for those who are ill. I guess that should not surprise us with them great emphasis in our society on having a healthy lifestyle.
Although we have wonderful medical care available in the western world, there is a limit to what the best-trained practitioners or most sophisticated medical equipment can provide until a clear diagnosis of the problem unfolds. Awaiting an accurate diagnosis is often one of the most stressful aspects of being ill. Our imaginations seem to run wild and we fear the worst until we are able to discover what is not working as it ought in our bodies. The only one who really knows all about our bodies is the Maker of them and thus it does seem logical to approach him about our worries while we wait for those who have been taught the necessary medical skills to figure it out. Thus, we bring the problem to him in prayer.
When we receive the diagnosis, we then need to discover the most appropriate treatment for the illness. Even here, many possible alternatives play a role. What is currently available is key. Also, what treatments or medications our bodies can tolerate determine what will be done given the imbalance that can arise in the whole body chemistry following the introduction of new elements to our systems. Again, divine wisdom applied to the situation will be of great benefit to the health care professionals, so it is logical to make this also a matter of prayer.
Perhaps behind these problems associated with being ill is also the base fear. Sometimes disease can lead to death and we may be forced to confront our mortality. This forces us to consider our views about eternity. For this reason we bring our fears to the one who has the final word on life and death. When our fears drive us to prayer, we can face reality.
My list of intensive care prayer requests includes those for whom I pray because of illness. One is a young mother who herself has been ill and who recently lost her husband to illness. As well as praying for her healing, I need to pray for her in her grief and for the challenge she faces trying to raise her two sons on her own, uncertain of her own future.
Another person in this group is not ill herself, but a couple of months ago a chronic disease claimed the life of her son in his forties after many years of suffering. She is currently facing the possibility of having to place her husband in a care facility because of his dementia. While I pray for her husband, I also pray for grace and strength for her to be able to deal with the challenges that have come her way.
A third friend has been battling many different forms of cancer for several years and this enemy that she has had to contend with took her only sister just last year. She wonders how long she will be able to prevail in the fight and is so grateful for the prayers of support for her in her battle with this dreaded disease.
When we take seriously the opportunity to intercede for those who are ill, we engage in a complex series of issues that can be highly charged emotionally. Where we know what specifically to pray for we can do so, but sometimes all we can do is place the suffering person in the hands of a God who loves them more than they can imagine and that is enough.