praying through pain, illness and suffering

Many of us have acrostics (ex: ACTS – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) and other patterns that guide our prayers … our structured prayers. Most of those to one degree or another have their basis in the Lord’s Prayer as revealed in Matthew 6 or Luke 11.

However; IMHO most of these patterns … and the associated teachings … lack room for the emotion inherent for one in the midst of pain, illness and suffering who is seeking divine intervention through prayer.

For the last month or so, I have been dealing with the pain and discomfort of epididymitis … antibiotics didn’t work and from a medical perspective the next step appears to be surgery … something I am not so anxious to embrace.

Last week, this tweet came across my twitter account, “Prayer changes more than things, it changes you.”  And that does a pretty good job of describing the prayer journey I have been on for the last six weeks or so … if not the last three and a half years.

It’s probably safe to say that very few sermons on prayer have been taught from the following passage … but I think there is much to be learned here.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.  Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”  And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”  And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?  Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.  Matthew 26:36-44 (NASB)

The next time you are struggling with pain, illness or suffering, remember that when Jesus went to Gethsemane to pray, He was grieved (feel grief) and distressed (suffering severe physical strain or distress; afflicted by or marked with anxious trouble or grief). That emotional moment you find yourself in … as a man, Jesus has been there.

And it is absolutely AOK in that moment to pray for healing and/or relief … Jesus did just that at Gethsemane … while fully understanding that it would be the Father’s will that would be done. Asking for healing and/or relief is personal affirmation that ‘God is able’ … while ‘Your will be done’ is affirmation of your trust in His sovereignty regardless of outcome.

Repeating that request for healing/relief with the understanding that God’s will be done … is perfectly acceptable … Jesus said it three times. And personally, if the mob had not arrived to arrest Him, I can’t help but wonder if He would have continued. Don’t forget the parable of the persistent widow found in Luke 18.

Based on the prayer of Jesus above, it would also seem that we should be seeking the wisdom and discernment of the Holy Spirit … revealing God’s will. And that may indeed come about as a result of the repetitive prayers. Note how Jesus’ prayer changed between the first request and the second/third request. He moved from requesting ‘let this cup pass from me’ to ‘if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done’.

As you read the Gospel accounts from Gethsemane to the cross, you can’t help but realize how Jesus persevered (be persistent; refuse to stop) and endured (the power to withstand hardship or stress) until ALL things had been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, and He could victoriously declare “It is finished!” (John 19:28, 30). While I don’t see any place in Scripture where Jesus prayed for perseverance and endurance, yet personally praying for perseverance and endurance in the midst of personal pain, illness and suffering seems like a wise and equipping thing to do.

You may be saying, “Well Bernie, I can tell you why nobody teaches prayer from this passage … it ends in crucifixion!”

Based on Jesus’ words, there are indeed a few degrees of truth in that. And probably a good reminder for our prayer life … if Our heavenly Father would not in agreement answer the prayer of His only begotten and perfect Son, “Let this cup pass from me” then why oh why do we believe He should in agreement answer every prayer His sinful children are lifting up.

At the same time, believing the response to Jesus’ prayer ended on the cross, is a bit short-sighted don’t you think?

The cross was but a stop … an oh-so-critical stop … in the God ordained plan. Jesus arose, ascended and is ALIVE … living IN me and living IN you and living IN ALL His children. And one day soon He will be returning. And apart from that truth, there would be no reason for this post …

Now that may not be what Jesus prayed for at Gethsemane … but I am so thankful for how the Father did answer that prayer!



About bwebbjr

A grandfather, father, husband, man, and a child of God who is following Christ Jesus and working out his salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work IN me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). I dodged my first bullet with cancer when a cancerous polyp was removed in a sigmoid colectomy surgery in August 2007. Four years later, in the midst of a second colectomy surgery we discovered I had Stage IV metastatic colon cancer. Rather than colectomy surgery I had colostomy surgery, which now means the colostomy bag is a part of my everyday life ... with the emphasis on life. God has given us a peace beyond understanding as my wife and I have traveled this journey. By the grace of God I am blessed to be a 6 plus year cancer survivor aka warrior. In writing, I am often wrestling with my own personal struggles and beliefs and in the midst God leads me to a lesson He wants me to learn ... or sometimes He simply touches me in the revelation of Himself. My hope is that the result you see here might touch your heart and glorify God. And let me be clear ... I am not the only one with something to say. Please join in the conversation sharing your faith, your cancer experiences, etc. I would love to hear from you. Bernie
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2 Responses to praying through pain, illness and suffering

  1. The cross led to a crown. Praying for you right now, brother.

    • bwebbjr says:

      I like that … “The cross led to a crown.” … So true, so true! Thanks so much for your prayers both now and thru the years Richard … God blesses me through you! Bernie

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