Today I learned that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with cancer, the big C. This friend is a mighty prayer warrior, a remarkable Christian woman. In the course of our conversation, she said some profound things I feel compelled to share.
Do you remember the story in the Bible of the crippled man who was lowered through the roof of a crowded house so Jesus could heal him? The man was literally dropped at Jesus’ feet, graciously healed, and then left through the front door, walking on two sturdy legs. My friend said that story reminded her of two things.
One: It was the faith of his friends that propelled him to the only person who could help him.
Two: It was the strength of his friends the crippled man had to rely on to get him to Jesus.
In times of crisis, we need our friends of faith to gather round us, if not literally, then spiritually. We need to draw on their strength, their optimism, their hope, and their faith, because when we are in the thick of it–pain, illness, grief, or even the valley of the shadow of death, we feel as helpless as that crippled man on the pallet. We feel like grasshoppers facing giants.
My friend corrolated that thought with the story of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. It happened early on in the young Church’s history and is recorded in the book of Acts. An angel released the relatively new apostle from his shackles and opened the prison gates for him. The Bible makes a point of including the fact that Peter was asleep between his guards. The angel had to wake him to get him moving. Yet, Peter hadn’t even been praying for his release. He’d been sound asleep.
However, in another part of town, in the wee hours of the night, his friends, the new believers, had been praying. Fervently, desperately, relentlessly, they had been storming heaven’s gates, imploring God for their leader’s freedom.
The lesson my friend saw in that event was that when we can’t pray for ourselves, the prayers of others carry us to the One who can help us. And friends, if we are fortunate enough not to be in the need of prayer at this particular moment, then we’d better be praying for someone else who does need it. Because when our need for help arises—and as sure as the sparks fly upwards, it will—we’ll want friends whose prayers release angels on high to break apart our shackles and lead us out of whatever prison we’ve landed in that day.