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The tumor turns out to be benign, the fever was only that, the much-feared firing never happened, the troubled child grew up to be a responsible citizen. For this very reason many people keep prayer journals: to remind themselves that they once prayed for the good things to happen that happen.
Last week I was praying for a friend who was in truly desperate straits. He was at his wit's end dealing with an urgent family health crisis. “You’re a praying guy,” he said to me. “Could you say a prayer?” “Sure,” I said, “and I’ll ask some others to pray for you too.” I did. We did.
The good news? The health issue is still there but it’s definitely not in crisis mode anymore. He’s breathing freer and sleeping a little better, as are the rest of us. But talking to him, I could feel myself thinking, even after praying, Of course it would all work out. Isn’t that the way with most of the things we worry about? Our worst fears don’t come to pass.
There is a story in the Bible where Jesus heals ten lepers who begged to be healed. “They lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ ” But after they were healed only one turned back, praising God, thanking Jesus with as much passion as he begged for healing: “He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” And Jesus famously asked, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” (Luke 17: 11-19).
Note to self: When my worst fears don’t come to pass, when my worries aren’t confirmed, when the outrageous prayer I said (not sure it would ever be heard) gets answered, remember that. Be like the one in ten. Outrageously thankful. As passionate and importunate as I would be and am when I’m asking desperately for help. There’s a new goal for prayer.