Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Praying for a Miracle... waht we want vs. what we need

Every so often, in my work, I am asked by a patient to pray for them/with them. Some times, the requests bother me because they are asking for something that can't be done. I'm not saying that miracles don't happen. Miracles exist every day. It seems to me that most people associate "miracle" with unexplained physical healing. I have heard stories from the news, and from people that I know about the unexplained disappearance of physical illness or cancer cells, and things of this nature, but I have never seen it myself.

It bothers me with some people seem to have what can be deemed , by some to be, "unrealistic hope". I have been asked to pray that God will do a miracle and restore sight, allow paralyzed people to walk, asked if someone went to heaven. I have had conversations with people who want their diseased organs to be restored, or who believe that a transplant will allow every thing to go back to how life was before they were sick...
It is hard to know what to say to some of these things. Part of the dilemma is about my understanding of prayer and the request. When I am asked to pray for healing, I do. I may not pray explicitly as the person as indicated.

My understanding about prayer is this: you don't need to pray formally, as in a formula. Prayer is like having a conversation with a good friend. Someone who cares for us, who loves us, ... in more ways than we can fathom. The second part about my understanding of prayer comes from the Lord's Prayer, the "our Father who art in heaven.... thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Specifically, the phrase about "thy Will". People seem to put conditions on their requests. "if you do this, I'll never ask you for anything again.. " (until another crisis hits.) or the unspoken condition which is "if you really love me, you'll do this thing for me." As I often have to remind myself, that what we want is not the same as what we need. What we want is also not the same as what God wants, or wills, for us. This line from the prayer says that it is "God's will to be done on earth as in heaven." This can only be done when our will is in line with God's will for this world. He wants us to be happy and healthy. He wants us to use what he has given, like our brain, and think about what we are doing and why.

So this is where my dilemma comes from.. when we ask for what we want and think it is something that they need. I need a car for graduation. I need that toy. Need that designer outfit, need that shiny thing. Hubby and I went to the movie "The Princess and the Frog". This is a story that didn't go as one would think. Usually in a fairy tale, boy meets girl, falls in love, woos her and they live happily ever after. Typically, the princess kisses the frog, he turns back in to a prince, and they get married and live happily ever after. In this movie, the girl kissed the prince but turned into a frog instead of getting her human-formed prince. In one scene of the movie, they are seeking a magical potion to return to human form from a shaman who lives in the middle of the New Orleans bayou. The woman instead explains that there is a difference between what you need and what you want. "Dig deep down inside and discover what you need." She kept emphasizing that they were to think about what they need. In the end, the girl realized that she was ok with not being human and focused on what she needed from her life as it was. This was her key to happiness. (This is the only way I can say it without spoiling the plot.)

So back to praying for a miracle. I believe that a miracle is found even in simple events, the mystery of life, birth is a miracle! the advances in technology, the advances in research, the good that has been done for health, longevity of our population and how it has grown in the past century.... so I asked one of my colleagues about his opinion and insight for when asked to pray for a miracle. His answer was that there are 3 answers to prayer: 1. Yes. 2. No. 3. Not yet.
Who is to say that a miracle won't happen in this person's lifetime? It may be that the persons gets the new heart or lungs in heaven? or in the next 3 years? but in the meantime, for the next three years, what is the person's plan of action to function with the illness until the miracle happens.
I prefer this approach/answer to the "unrealistic hope" situation. Rather than telling the person that their faith that God will heal them is stupid or unfounded, there are ways to guide them to accept what is. It is a fine line between nurturing faith, finding meaning in this awful place where they find themselves, and conveying the message of the medical team.
One doctor mentioned this about a patient of mine. I met the patient at her last admission, which was a long one. She is hoping for recovery of her organs. The doctor said that they will never recover and that she needs to accept this so that she can move on. What do you say to a woman who has faith that has gotten through these awful months of hell that doesn't squash her belief in God's love for us, or her faith in people? or the person who believes that their transplant is like a cure for the illness....

I prefer to say well in the meantime, what will you do to function while you are waiting for the miracle to occur. That is a better approach. This can help to address the "need" vs. "want" issue as well.

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