One of the things I love about social media is the ability to communicate something quickly to a large amount of people. In this age of Facebook groups and status updates and group texts (which I hate, but they have their place), information about a crisis or need can be quickly disseminated and needs can be filled with a rapidity never before possible. Yes, the church phone calls known as the “prayer chain” have largely been replaced with a newer model, and for the most part, that’s a good thing.
My family had a rough week last week and I availed myself of this phenomenon often to ask for prayer. My 90-year-old grandmother broke her left hip, just two months after breaking her right one, and to complicate matters, my mother was already scheduled for a pretty major back surgery the same week. My mom has been in terrible pain for 10 months; she could not reschedule. So, Grandma had hip surgery on Tuesday and my mother had back surgery on Wednesday.
I turned to Facebook to ask for prayer, and received lots of encouragement. As the week went on, my grandmother did well and my mom not so well. Her pain level has been bad, even as she’s been home. So I’ve continued to keep all her Facebook friends updated and I’ve asked people to pray for her pain to be relieved. And always the response is:
“Praying for her.”
“Just said a prayer.”
And I’ve been so relieved. Not only because we NEED the prayer support, but because no one has yet said to me what I often see on Facebook when others ask for prayer.
“Sending you good vibes.”
“Sending good thoughts your way?”
You guys. I have bad news for you. The truth is that while your good vibes and positive thoughts may make me feel cared for in the moment, in reality, they are worthless.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate that you care, I do. But if you truly want to help me in my time of need, I need you to pray. There is no power in your positive thoughts, my friends, but there is POWER in the name of Jesus. There is POWER in the name of God.
If I have cancer, I need you to PRAY.
If one of my children is sick, I need you to PRAY.
If I lose my job, I need you to PRAY.
If I am battling depression, I need you to PRAY.
Pray in Jesus’ name. Invoke the Name Above All Names. Cry out to the LORD, I Am, El Roi, the God Who Sees.
John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
So please, please, pray for me.
But don’t send me your positive thoughts.
James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. I have found this to be true so many times in my life when I needed prayer—even when the answer I most desired didn’t come, I’ve felt the power of other’s prayers for me lifting me up and helping me get through a tough time.
And I have felt that this week. I have felt the power of prayer. Because God listens to His people when they call upon Him, and sends comfort and healing. He sends the strength to drag your three kids to two different hospitals multiple times, to watch your mother cry because she’s in so much pain, to hear your Alzheimers-stricken grandmother ask why her own (long dead) mom isn’t coming to see her.
I have not felt the power of positive thoughts, because positive thoughts start and end with a person. No matter how well-intentioned, they are powerless to change any circumstance.
In my parents’ house, there is a chalkboard in the kitchen. Originally meant as a functional decoration, it has been useless since December 2007, when my then 9-year-old niece wrote three words on it.
“Jesus, Please, Please”.
Above it, my mother then wrote “Do not erase” and my niece’s name and the date.
At the time, her grandfather (not my dad, my sister-in-law’s dad) was dying of leukemia. He had just been diagnosed, and during brutal treatment, a devastating bleed on the brain had started. Family was called in to say goodbye.
My niece knew there was one thing that could save him. She was only 9 but she knew what to do. And over eight years later, the evidence of her childlike faith stands in my parents’ kitchen as a reminder to us all. Jesus, Please, Please.
Her grandfather made a truly miraculous recovery and lived another two-and-a-half years. There is no medical explanation for his surviving the brain bleed that day, but I think the prayers of hundreds of people asking God in Jesus’ name, and the faith of this one child, had a lot to do with it.
And so, friends, if I ever ask you for prayer, and you are unable to call out to God and Jesus on my behalf, but still want to help? Do something practical. Make a casserole. Give my kids a ride. Offer to babysit. I’ll gladly accept any help you want to give with love and gratitude. And rest assured when your time of need comes, I will return the favor. And also? I’ll PRAY for you.
And keep my good vibes and positive thoughts to myself.