Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Scared to Pray in Front of New Neighbors

Suggested Reading: James 5:13-18

One summer during college, I came home to discover that new neighbors had moved in two doors down from my childhood home. The new neighbors were a Vietnamese family and the head of the household, a very old man, had been brought home to die. He had recently had a surgery which had removed a large portion of his brain and his family wanted him to be able to die at home. When  I heard they had moved in and heard the condition of the family patriarch, I felt compelled to go visit the family. I walked up to the door that first time, completely unaware of what I was supposed to do or say. When the family matriarch answered the door, knowing only four words of English, I simply asked if I could come inside and pray. She recognized the word "pray" and took me right into the room where the older gentleman lay sleeping.

For the next two weeks, I went to pray at his bedside every day and, each day, every family member who was home would crowd into the room and listen as I read scripture and prayed for this man and for his family. One day as I was sitting there praying, the idea of praying for his healing occurred to me. Up to that point, I had been praying that he wouldn't suffer and that God would be with his family during this time. But the idea of praying that this man would be healed scared me to death. What would I look like if I stood up and placed my hands on his head and asked God to heal him and nothing happened? What would the God I was sharing with these people look like if I did that? I thought about the passage in James 5 which says the sick should call for the elders of the church to come in and anoint the person with oil and pray for them, and I considered calling in some elders. But the thought of doing what Peter and John did, just praying boldly, out loud for God's miraculous healing, scared me to death.

I was reminded of that summer recently, when I was reading that same passage in James again. I thought of how scared I was at the idea of praying that prayer where everybody could hear and then I kept reading: Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops (James 5:17-18, NLT). Reading this word, I was even more ashamed at my fear. I don't know if God ever wanted me to stand up and pray for that man's healing. But I am absolutely certain that God would have wanted me to have the courage to pray for his healing, knowing that God could answer any prayer He calls me to pray.

How many times do we refuse to pray because we are scared? Scared that God might not answer? Scared that we will look like fools? Scared that we will make God look bad if He does't answer? How often do we want to stand up and pray a bold prayer but just don't have the guts to do it? How much courage did it take for Elijah to stand up and publicly pray (or announce that he had prayed) that God would stop sending rain? What would Elijah have looked like if God didn't answer? What would Peter and John look like if they pulled up the lame man in Acts chapter 3 and his legs fell out from underneath him? Or Jesus if he shouted in that loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" and nothing happened? They would have been embarrassed and humiliated. But God did answer their prayers and acts of faith!

Are you willing to pray bold prayers? Do you have the courage in front of other people to ask God to do the miraculous when you know its the right thing to do? Yes, you risk being embarrassed and looking bad. But is that risk worth missing out on seeing God perform something incredible?

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