As she helped tube-feed me this morning, Melanie groaned.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“My back hurts,” she explained.
I immediately started praying for her. She tried to stop me. “It’s just old age,” she said.
Later I would think about the moment when the woman with the issue of blood interrupted Jesus as he was heading to the house of Jairus to heal the man’s little daughter.
Mark 7:35 While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue ruler’s house saying, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?”
I wrote about this in my book The Mystery of Faith. I pointed out that Jesus did not let Jairus give up his prayer request, telling him instead to have faith. I hope that justifies the way I groused with Melanie.
I told her not to interrupt me while I was praying for her.
Recently a friend who has several medical issues told me that sometimes she has prayed, “Lord if you’re busy could just one thing be removed from me? I know You have a lot to do so I’m not asking to be healed from everything…” And she filled in a bit of her history, saying, “When I was a child I was raised to feel I was not worthy to deserve anything good.”
I don’t know if that’s Melanie’s situation. She is so strong and capable. She never wants to be thought of as a complainer. I think she is just accustomed to sucking it up and not letting anything stop her. To me it sounds like we are saying we don’t want to bother Jesus with our little problems. We can handle them, somehow! And we certainly don’t want to expose ourselves to disappointment if Jesus IS too busy to answer our prayer. Yes, I’ve sometimes avoided asking in prayer because I was afraid Jesus would ignore me or say “No.”‘
But in fact there’s no sign he ever said that to anyone. Ask, seek, and knock, he said, and it will be given to you. God won’t give you a stone when you ask for bread.
True, James warned about asking amiss, for selfish purposes. But that’s not the same as not asking Jesus because we think it might bother him. After all, by his stripes we are healed. Do we think we show appreciation by refusing to take what was purchase for us at such a cost?
A few years ago I did a study on Job. I was surprised to realize that Job never asks to be healed from his suffering. He just asks for an explanation. Eventually, he even withdraws that expectation. What Job is commended for is the way he trusts God and believes God would only ever do the right thing.
But on several occasions Jesus was ready to ask, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I think we can answer him. I think if we have to wait for the answer, it doesn’t mean we weren’t supposed to ask. And I’m not sure it wouldn’t be insulting to pretend we do Jesus a favor by not asking.