The Fear of Praying for Others

I am scared.

It’s 1978 and I have a black cape tied ‘round my neck. A half dozen of my childhood friends have gathered in my back yard to watch me tie a magic, invisible string to a 2H pencil for the purpose of pulling it along the table and thus mesmerizing them with feats of supernatural power.

The reason I am scared is because I never really practiced the magic trick prior to this moment. I understand the principle; I am to pretend to tie a string that doesn’t exist around the centre of the pencil and at the pivotal moment of pulling the string, my breath is supposed to roll the pencil along the table. But not having actually done the trick before, my ten-year-old mind is riddled with doubt.

If I fail, two things will happen. First, I will appear to all present as a failure in magic and suffer the pain of humiliation and ridicule. Second, I will have failed in convincing them that maybe magic is something real. And since that was, in part, the goal, I do not want to lose the chance to influence my friends in this way.

What happened, you say? Three things:

1) I successfully moved the pencil using only the air in my nostrils,

2) Most of my friends figured out how I did it, and

3) They were still impressed, nonetheless.

While I managed to prevent my own scorn and humiliation, it would seem that the loftier work of convincing people of magic was a taller order than me and my pencil could manage.

When it comes to believing God for divine miracles and praying for the supernatural to occur, many of us are scared. We don’t want to build up a person’s hope for God to heal them of cerebral palsy, and as such, we don’t even ask them if they would like us to pray for healing. We don’t want to appear weak in our faith if we grab hands with someone at church to believe that God will provide them freedom from years of depression.

This fear seems commonplace, even if many refuse to admit they are crippled by it. It’s not that big a deal if six or seven gather around someone with a broken leg and pray for healing. If that leg doesn’t get healed on the spot, no one person can be blamed for their lack of faith. But by ourselves, we are afraid that if we pray for someone one on one, that nothing will happen.

It might seem like justified fear, too. Many times, people pray for healing and when nothing happens, what are they to think? That God can’t heal someone? Of course not. Maybe God doesn’t WANT to heal someone. If that is true, what do we do with the words of James:

“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15 NASB).

It would be unwise to treat these verses like a formula for healing, first of all. Otherwise, we could pray for healing to the point that no one ever died. Secondly, the thing that sticks out to me in these verses is that it doesn’t seem to suggest at all that we should only pray some of the time and not others. Just because sometimes God chooses not to heal is not an invite to pick and choose when to pray. For the record, I do believe that sometimes God chooses not to heal, but I also believe that we are constantly called to the faith-filled prayer of healing whether He chooses to heal or not.

But this article isn’t about healing, per se. It’s about fear. Something I rail against constantly. It seems the only part that matters after all I said is that obedience to fear is disobedience to God. Pastor Tony Evans is famous for saying, “Faith is acting like it is so even when it is not so, in order that it might be so, simply because God said so.” It’s an opportunity to abandon the fear that prevents us from taking God at His word.

When someone says to you, “Don’t be scared,” I understand your frustration with the childish simplicity of their advice. But hear this; not being scared has a lot more to do with acting like it is so even when it’s not so in order that it might be so, simply because God said so.

Stop being scared. That’s how you prove that magic is real.

Pastor Scott