Francis MacNutt, who has more than thirty years of experience in praying for people and seeing dramatic healings and conversions, tells a story about his father-in-law, Joe. On numerous occasions, Joe became critically ill and was on the verge of death. But Francis and his wife, Judith, would persist in praying for him, and each time Joe would recover. This pattern continued for nearly ten years before Joe finally succumbed to his sickness and died. Francis is convinced that Joe lived so much longer because of their persistent prayer for him. This, and many other experiences like it, is why Francis urges people never to give up praying for healing until the moment of death, when God finally brings the person to be with him forever.
Bob, who is in his sixties, has had heart trouble for years. A few years ago, friends from church offered to intercede for Bob and pray with him for healing. He agreed, and they placed their hands on his shoulders and prayed. It lasted only about five minutes, but the effect was amazing. Bob could feel the love flowing from his friends, and he felt better physically as well. It was such a positive experience that Bob asked his friends to pray with him on a regular basis. He believes that the prayers have helped him both physically and spiritually. The medical results were also positive. Bob’s doctor reports that not only is his heart holding its own, it is even showing signs of improvement!
If you are praying for a particular intention, whether it is for a friend’s healing, for an end to abortion, or even for a job for yourself, don’t stop until you know that God has answered you. Don’t give up, thinking that your prayers are unimportant or “wrong.” Keep it up, and see how God acts. He may not give you exactly what you want, but watch and see: He will give you something very, very good.
Bargaining with God. In the Book of Genesis, there is a story about Abraham trying to bargain with God (Genesis 18:16-33). God came to visit Abraham in the form of angels and revealed his plan to destroy Sodom because of the wickedness of the people there. Abraham immediately thought of his kinsman, Lot, who lived there with his wife and daughters. Trying to turn the Lord’s hand, Abraham asked: “Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it?” (18:24). God agreed to spare the city for the sake of the fifty. But Abraham wanted to do everything he could for Lot, so he bargained with God: What about forty people? Thirty? Finally, he settled on ten, and with that, the angels left him.
God did not answer Abraham’s prayer in precisely the way Abraham asked, but he did spare Lot and his children. Genesis tells us, in fact, that God “was mindful of Abraham by sending Lot away from the upheaval by which God overthrew the cities where Lot had been living” (Genesis 19:29). This story tells us that we may not always get the answer we pray for but that God still hears our prayers and keeps us in his mind and heart as he unfolds his plan.
Don’t be afraid to bargain with the Lord. Many a soldier in battle has told God: “Keep me alive, and I will never miss Mass again for the rest of my life.” And they have kept their promise. Another fellow, a New York police officer who was on duty on September 11, 2001, told God: “Let me live through this catastrophe, Lord, and I will serve you.” Today he is running the RCIA program in his parish, is the president of the men’s club, and volunteers at the local food bank. Did these bargains really work? We will never know. But we do know one thing: They all believe that God answered their prayers, and it has profoundly affected their lives.
No Petition Is Too Small! Through intercessory prayer, we can touch people all over the world. We should feel free to ask God for anything, at any time, in any situation. Our prayers can penetrate geographical, cultural, and political barriers, bringing the healing, saving touch of the Lord into countless lives and situations. Through prayer, we can reach the men and women who are fighting in war as well as the children in the womb whose lives are at risk. We can help our children and care for our elderly parents. We can change the climate in a home and the relationship between alienated friends-all through intercessory prayer.
As we pray, let’s take up the attitude of the “watchmen” described in the Book of Isaiah. In fact, let’s paraphrase this passage and apply it to us: “Upon your walls the Lord has stationed watchmen. Never, by day or by night, should you be silent in your intercessions. No, keep reminding the Lord. Take no time to rest for yourself, and don’t give God any rest either. Keep praying until the Lord answers all your prayers and makes his church the pride of the earth” (Isaiah 62:6-7).
No petition is too small for God, not even asking for a parking space on a crowded street or seeking relief from a little cold. Just be persistent. Ask your heavenly Father, and never stop asking.
(Joe Difato is the publisher of “The Word Among Us” devotional magazine. To contact him, go to his website at www.joedifato.com. Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to use his articles from their October 2009 issue. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. The article begins with two stories of men who experienced healing through the power of persistent prayer. Do you believe God can heal a person through prayer? Does the frequency and persistency with which you pray for and with people for healing match your faith in the power of prayer? If not, how can you change it?
2. Genesis 18:16-33 tells the story of Abraham trying to bargain with God on the fate of Sodom. The article also gives the examples of other men who did the same. Share a time when you tried to “bargain” with God. What were the results and what affect did it have on your life?
3. In the article, we hear these words: “Through intercessory prayer, we can touch people all over the world. We should feel free to ask God for anything, at any time, in any situation. Our prayers can penetrate geographical, cultural, and political barriers, bringing the healing, saving touch of the Lord into countless lives and situations. Through prayer, we can reach the men and women who are fighting in war as well as the children in the womb whose lives are at risk. We can help our children and care for our elderly parents. We can change the climate in a home and the relationship between alienated friends-all through intercessory prayer.” What steps can you take to put into practice these moving words?
4. The article calls us to be “watchmen” and exhorts us to “Keep praying until the Lord answers all your prayers and makes his church the pride of the earth.” During this grace-filled Advent Season, what are some ways you can answer this call to be a watchmen through “persistent” prayers?
5. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another for the grace to be watchmen who are never “silent in your intercessions.”
(The discussion questions were created by Maurice Blumberg, a Trustee of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/), and currently the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry of The Word Among Us to the Military and Prisoners. Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)