Prayer Ruts And Bandage Prayers
Have you ever been in a prayer rut? Let me explain.
For the past three weeks, I have been fighting pain. A lot of pain, more than anybody knows. On one particular day last week I hid in my office because I could barely walk. It was coming from one side of my hip and it was intense. I won’t be dramatic and say it was “the worst” pain I’ve ever had in my life. (That honour goes to the time I wedged my finger in a steel door frame a couple months back.) It was pretty intense though. And it was magnified because every time I moved my leg, it throbbed. Some things were more painful than others, but even walking was a chore sometimes.
So I was laying in bed this morning doing what in the last couple of weeks has become my “pre-vertical hip assessment” — the time when I lay in bed and contort myself in various different directions to see “how bad” the day is going to be. Today looked to be about a five or six out of worst-possible ten, but past experience had shown me that it could very easily get worse later in the day. I laid in bed and closed my eyes and the first thought that came to my mind was a thought of terror. Our kid’s summer day camp is coming up in three weeks and I not only have to be mobile, I have to be limber. In all seriousness, this could week could prove to be the most physically demanding music ministry I’ve ever done in my life. More resembling a cardio workout, which is not on my daily list of favourite activities either. I realized at that moment that I was in trouble.
I confess before you that my first thought was the emergency room at the local hospital, mostly because I didn’t know what it was and I figured diagnosis had to be the first step. I had a few ideas what it was, and none of them were particularly appealing.
The the little voice piped up and said “Why don’t you pray about it.” And the story would be great if it ended there, the pain left, and everybody lived happily ever after. It didn’t end that way though. For some strange reason I felt compelled to take a moment and consider what I was going to pray before I prayed it and the thought crossed my mind that so often we pray “for the pain to be gone in Jesus name” because it’s the generic fits-all healing prayer that I think sometimes we invoke mostly out of habit. But consider for a moment if I’d gone to the hospital and the doctor said to me “How can I help you today?” and I replied “Make the pain go away”, he would have given me a prescription for Tylenol or some other painkiller and sent me home and after my prescription ran out, I would have been right back at square one again.
Instead of praying for the pain to go away — which when you think of it, is an incredibly selfish prayer — I prayed for the cause of the pain to be healed. The prayer was nothing substantial. It was over in fifteen seconds. But when I was done, I swung around to get off the bed and I have to admit, I didn’t expect results as fast as they came. The knot and the tightness in that area was completely gone. There was still a little bit of residual pain, but the condition that was causing it was gone. I got to work, took an Alieve (which had zero effect last week, by the way), and I’m doing all the things I haven’t been able to do without the distraction of pain for two to three weeks.
I’m not a big believer in rituals. I don’t think there is a secret formula to prayer — or anything else in our Christian walk. Food for thought.