Jimmy Carter is cured of cancer. I read with interest the news stories that broke yesterday where the former President had announced his miracle to his Sunday school class. This 91 year old gentleman had been diagnosed with melanoma, a vicious, aggressive form of skin cancer, he had lost part of his liver to the disease and 4 spots of cancer had been found on his brain. To the general public, his prognosis did not appear hopeful. Yet, he did not give in to despair and sit back waiting to die. He continued his admirable work with Habitat for Humanity and diligently taught his class at his family church. And, he prayed. President Carter once said, “God always answers prayers. Sometimes it’s “yes.” Sometimes the answer is “no.” Sometimes it’s “you gotta be kidding.” In his case, God said “yes”.
Prayer has been mocked in the news lately and saying you are praying for someone has been deemed a “meaningless platitude”. I would have to disagree. I believe prayer is powerful, energetic, dynamic, and relevant. But, I have also come to believe the act of prayer itself is ineffective unless it is coupled with positive activity. Many Christian denominations utilize the Lord’s Prayer as their example for intercession and in this illustration we find prayer joined with action. “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Just recently, I heard a story which proves my point. A woman I know personally has been selflessly giving her time, her home and her finances in an attempt to help a family member with children get on their feet. She has been investing herself completely in bringing about a positive conclusion to the situation. She believes God has asked her to do this. Several years ago she took out a loan for $50,000, against her home, to help a family member with unexpected funeral expenses. She has been faithfully paying on the loan but with the increased expenses, resulting from her current situation, she was finding it difficult to maintain her payment. She contacted the bank and requested a temporary reduction in her payment amount.
At night, she lay in bed running the finances over and over in her head. She didn’t know how she would be able to meet her obligations and she prayed. “God, I need help here. If there is a solution help me find it.”
A few days later, a letter from the bank arrived in the mail stamped with the words “Time Sensitive”. Fearing bad news, she hesitated to open it but knew she needed to find out what the letter said. As she opened the letter, and read it, she was astonished. The Justice Department had filed charges against the bank and due to bad loan practices the government required them to forgive numerous loans. She was on the list of loans to be forgiven. Her remaining balance of over $48,000 was completely wiped out. She was no longer obligated to repay the loan.
James 5:16 says, “The effectual prayer of the righteous is very powerful.” When people request answers from God it is appropriately called “the act of prayer”. Prayer is not passive or unassertive or docile. When we pray we should also be involved in giving of ourselves to others in a positive way. This could mean involvement in charitable causes or it could be interacting with people who need help. It could be lending a shoulder to someone who needs a friend or it could be offering a kind, comforting word to a broken heart. The next time you pray, then, consider your contribution to the answer.