Martin Tupper once said, “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.”
The first time I heard this quote we were sitting at International Justice Mission’s Global Prayer Gathering. When it comes to justice, compassion, mercy, and the like, I have no problem falling to my knees in prayer, pleading on the behalf of the oppressed.
Asking for healing is another matter.
A few days ago, Travis had gotten sick with a horrible stomachache, and I was imagining all the possible ways Eliot could get sick as well: a runny nose leading to a sore throat, ear infections, whooping cough, all of it. So I prayed. I prayed for protection over Eliot’s body. (God, please don’t let him get sick, please.)
I couldn’t shake the fear I had, though. All day long it attached itself to me and wouldn’t let go; I cried as I washed the dishes, I worried as Eliot slept in his swing.
When we were in Uganda in 2009, we prayed for a man in a wheelchair. He was dying, he was old and tired. We prayed. We laid hands. Nothing happened. We got back in the van and I fought with God, tears staining my hardened face. (Why didn’t you heal him? You could heal him in an instant. Why don’t you want to heal him?) Travis quietly reminded me that we would never know if God had healed him, this man that we would never see again. Still, I doubted and I wondered and I questioned.
So we sat in our living room and I asked Travis why. I questioned God with my husband, we talked about the possibilities of Eliot getting sick, what steps we’d take, what role God has in all of it. I admitted my fears, admitted my doubts, and let all my thoughts, good and bad, escape my mouth.
It was hard, but it was needed.
I grew up without questions. I took everything that was handed to me in my Baptist upbringing, and I let myself run with it, even when I didn’t understand. I believe God works with us in our doubts, meets us and holds us and reminds us that He is way bigger.
So before we went to bed that night, Travis asked me to lay my hand on his stomach and pray for healing. I cried. I put my hand on his stomach and prayed hard, prayed like a child would. (God, please heal Travis. Please, please please. You know my doubts, my fears. I know you are good. Papa, please. Please.)
And I prayed for Eliot. (Please let him sleep well tonight, God. Please give him rest. Please. Please.)
We woke the next morning.
Travis tenderly told me that his stomachache went away as soon as I had prayed for him.
Eliot slept far better than he has been lately.
I had to face the wonderful, tender truth that God had heard my cries.
He is not distant, He is not far off.
I will never know if the man in the wheelchair was healed. I will never know his relationship with his creator.
But I do know that despite my doubts, fears, and worries, that slender nerve worked just as it should have the night that Travis was sick. That slender nerve tugged on that muscle, and the Omnipotent one moved on our behalf. Not only to heal Travis, not only to give Eliot rest, but to remind me that He is good, He is Father and Healer, and He works beyond my understanding.
The next time Travis gets sick, God may not heal him, but I pray that my faith still reminds me that He is good. And if I doubt, I pray that my faith still reminds me of the night his stomachache went away.