The power (and limitations) of prayer

In recent weeks there was a story in the news of a Pentecostal couple who were sentenced to several years in prison for failing to give medical attention to their child. Their son had died after contracting bacterial pneumonia. The couple, who believed in faith healing, were already on probation following the death of their first child to diarrhea.

I am a firm believer in the power of prayer. I pray for those who are sick. But I am also a firm believer in the tremendous gift of medicine. It is a ‘both/and’ situation!

I have been pondering this week whether we apply the same kind of logic to emotional problems. Do we expect miraculous healings for things which have been deeply imprinted on our psyche? And… do we consequently fail to seek out the assistance of those equipped to help us.

Many psychological disturbances are the emotional equivalent of a cold. Give yourself a bit of break, ease up a little, and treat yourself gently and in a relatively short time the issue passes. As with a cold any medical intervention is probably inconsequential.

But occasionally we stumble across things which are truly problematic. Counselling is not a cure-all and it can be a bit hit and miss. Nonetheless, I am still surprised when I come across people who seek the healing of profound trauma simply in prayer.

I have certainly found tremendous healing for emotional issues through a combination of prayer and spiritual direction. My argument is simply that we still need to do the work. There are no short cuts. And often we cannot take ourselves on the journey we need to go on. We need a companion and a guide.

If we simply try to pray away the pain and it doesn’t go away we are left in a space where we are both broken and think we have insufficient faith. I can’t see why God would not want us to make the best use of the resources around us!

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