How often do we sell God short? How often do we presume that he can’t or won’t act in a given situation?
In the Gospel of Mark, this happened with the friends of Jairus, a synagogue ruler whose twelve-year-old daughter was dying. Jairus had come to Jesus pleading for him to come and lay hands on his daughter and heal her. Shortly thereafter, Jairus’ friends who had been at his house came to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Jesus ignored the friends and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Jesus then went with Jairus to his house, and found people crying and wailing loudly. He said, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. He put everyone out of the house, except for Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John. He went to where the daughter was, took her hand, and said, “Little girl, I say to you get!” Immediately the daughter stood up and everyone was completely astonished. (Mark 5:45-56)
Like the friends of Jairus, we too, may sell God short and presume that he can’t do something or won’t act in response to our prayers. Therefore, we forgo praying for a loved one with a serious or terminal illness; we observe the actions of a friend and presume that our prayers for conversion will have no effect; we refrain from praying that God will change the heart of an adversary, or the course of a hurricane; we neglect to ask God to give us the right words to diffuse a controversy.
Dr. Sheri Donaldson, who specializes in physical therapy at an outpatient rehabilitation center in Phoenix, tells the following story of Ashley, a co-worker. Ashley has to have an MRI every two years in connection with brain tumor surgery she had a few years ago. It is always a time of anxiety for her because there was a piece of the tumor that could not be reached in the surgery and continues to be seen on the MRI. She always fears that a new MRI may show the tumor growing.
When the time came for Ashley to have another MRI, Sheri asked a small group of women that she meets with every Wednesday to pray in the name of Jesus that the tumor would be gone. It just so happened that Sheri got to see Ashley just before she left for her appointment. “I kept asking the Lord,” Sheri said, “if the he really wanted me to share our prayer with her and literally put my hand on her forehead. I didn’t want to hurt her with an incorrect word. Well, there she was, all by herself, telling me it was time and looking very nervous. I shared with her that our group had prayed that the MRI would show that the tumor would be gone. Then I placed my hand on her forehead and blessed her. She gave me a hug and went out the door.
“The next time we saw each other, I was walking down the hallway past her office when she yelled, ‘Sheri, the tumor is gone!’”
Sheri concludes, “This experience has also had an impact on me. I am much more alert to whether the Lord wants me to reach out to others and be available to talk with them and to pray with them if the need arises. (Hope for the Workplace, p.105-106)
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus says. “Just believe.”