“Whether I pray or not makes no difference”

A friend is dying from cancer. She has a daughter, 11 years old, about to enter the ups and downs of teenage, and her Mother won’t be there to guide her or share her joys and sorrows.

As news of this sad story spreads, appeals and petitions are made to God, full of feeling and compassion. Expectations and hopes are expressed that God will intervene and heal the mother. Some Christians talk themselves into believing God will heal her. Others, however, wonder whether their prayers make any difference. The mother’s going to die anyway, whether they pray for her, or not.

But the Bible says, “pray for each other so that you may be healed,” James 5:16. The clear purpose of prayer in that verse, then, is to get a sick person healed. “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up,” verse 15. It can’t get any clearer than that.. On the one hand, then, we have Scripture saying prayer does make a difference, but in real life it doesn’t seem to work that way at all, because Christians die from cancer, no matter how many hundreds or thousands of people are praying for them.

So why pray for healing at all? Well, we hear through the Christian grapevine of people who are healed and it fuels the flames of hope that God might just heal the person we’re praying for too. But what would make God select the person we’re praying for to be healed, and not all the others being prayed for? It’s like a lottery where we might strike lucky, because the conditions are right in God’s mind for a healing. Maybe the people praying had enough faith. But enough faith in what? That God will heal? But how can you have faith that God will heal when the weight of evidence leans to all sorts of people having faith in God who aren’t healed, or whose prayers for others’ healing aren’t answered?

But the weight of evidence in James chapter 5 points very clearly to God healing every time a prayer is offered in faith. James talks of prayer being “powerful and effective,” verse 16. When Elijah prayed he could stop and start rain falling with his prayers, verses 17-18. That’s the power of a prayer offered in faith. It makes a huge difference.

So why don’t our prayers make the same kind of difference today? And why would those verses in James 5 be part of the Bible if they aren’t true for us as well? Or is it, in context, that the prayers for healing God answers are for healing from sin?

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