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Death & Prayer

Eight years ago today my mom died. And in the last eight years I have learned a few truths about life and death and a mother’s love.

If you have ever watched a loved one die from a debilitating disease, you know it is difficult from any perspective. Yes, with a Christian family member, you have the comfort of knowing there is a heaven for those who love God and accept salvation. A Christian family can also present the challenging question of “Why didn’t God answer our prayers and heal our loved one?” And when all the prayers are done and death comes, well-meaning Christian folks come and tell you things like “God answers prayer with death”, “God’s ways are not our ways,” “We can never know God’s will, He is sovereign and this was His will,” “Sometimes God doesn’t answer prayer to teach us a lesson” or my favorite “Healing isn’t for life on earth, healing happens in heaven”. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t find any of that comforting. Or Biblical. In fact, I found those comments very discomfiting. How can you serve a God who says one thing and does another? If God’s Word is true, is it so complex it can never really be known or understood? Can the Christian never truly know God’s will? So I searched for answers. And after eight years, I still miss my mom, but more importantly, I found some truths.

  1. For many people, a mother’s love is about the purest love they will ever know.My mom was my hero, confidante, advisor and best friend.She was also a prayer warrior that wore out carpets praying for me, and I saw miracles in my own life and also in mom’s life in answer to prayer.She was a spiritual giant in many ways, and she would have done anything for her children and family.She gave even when it was inconvenient, and if it was within her power to meet a need or want of mine, she would do it.But no matter how much a parent loves and sacrifices for their child, God’s love is bigger. Jesus talks about God’s love that way in Matthew 7 (and also Luke), “ “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” And there is nothing that is not within His power. It delights me to give my daughter gifts and answer her wants and needs, and it pleased my mom to do things for me. And it is my Heavenly Father’s good pleasure to give me good gifts. My mom loved me deeply and wholeheartedly, God’s love is even deeper, more encompassing and without reserve! He loves to answer my prayers!

  2. Traditions can negate God’s Word or promises.In Mark 7:13, Jesus says “Because of your traditions you have destroyed the authority of God's word.”Think about that—God’s Word created the universe, manifested a Messiah, and sets the seasons.It is the most powerful thing ever.But human traditions—words and actions—can cause that power to be ineffective!Most organized religions are steeped in traditions.Often, these traditions are more known and sacred to the believer than the truth, and so deeply ingrained that we don’t even recognize the tradition for what it is.It is all too common for a believer to think their church’s tradition is Bible-based and they are shocked to find it isn’t.I learned that the sooner I started to feed on nothing other than the Word of God, the better.Years and years of ingrained tradition are hard to reverse--I have to immerse myself in God’s unadulterated Word, not some commentator’s take on it. I can’t afford to wait until a crisis strikes to apply God’s Word to my life, faith doesn’t work that way; I have to eat, breathe and it now, every day, with every thought.It must become a way of life for me, practiced in the everyday minutiae of life.

  3. If the Bible is correct—and I believe it is—then humans are prone to make errors. And the world is all too happy to tell us that faith, the simplicity of trust in God’s Word and prayer are ineffective, silly and useless. I know the truth.I don’t care what the world, the half-way believers, the preachers or even my family members say.The Bible says the Holy Spirit will teach us all things, and I am learning daily to spend quiet time in prayer and the Word letting the Holy Spirit teach me and show me the truths.I need that time and I feel the absence of His peace and strength when I don’t get it.

  4. If you have been taught that God answers prayers for healing with death or a flat “No”, I am happy to share good news with you: He doesn’t!Nowhere in the Bible will you find Jesus refusing to heal anyone. Not even once!He healed people He didn’t even about!And Hebrews 13:8 says He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow! Now I am not going to go into a full expository about healing (see F.F. Bosworth’s Christ the Healer for a concise Biblical teaching on healing), but simply reiterate two verses.Romans 3:3-4 says, “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not! Let God be true and every man a liar.” And 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For however many are the promises of God, in him [Jesus Christ] is the "Yes." Therefore also through him is the "Amen," to the glory of God through us.”My mom’s death motivated me to search the Bible and find true answers for myself, not to rely on some well-meaning person’s interpretation and not to procrastinate.

  5. When a Christian loved one dies after praying for healing, we are left with the uncomfortable choice of a) our loved one had some failure of faith or b) God failed us or c) we just can’t understand God’s ways. Did God fail my mom, the woman who taught me so much about God just by the way she lived?No.In the perspective of time, things become clearer and much more visible.This was one of the most difficult questions I frequently threw at God.I am not going to share specifics but I will share a couple of things God impressed upon me and the lessons:

The Bible tells us repeatedly that God is jealous and won’t share his glory.Isaiah 48:11says “I am doing this for myself, only for myself. Why should my name be dishonored? I will not give my glory to anyone else.”Everyone has a ‘testimony’ of what God has done in their life—give Him credit for it.Don’t’ give the credit to your education, doctor, job, spouse or good luck.It wasn’t the mud that opened the blind man’s eyes or the Jordan River that cured Naaman’s leprosy.It was God responding to the words of a faith-filled human using what was at hand to help the recipient believe.

I was saved from a horrible motorcycle accident when I was young.It was divine intervention that the region’s best neurosurgeon was on-call that night.Even so, there were other patients in very similar conditions that the surgeon couldn’t save—they were brain dead vegetables.Why?My mom had been praying for me.I will always give God—not the neurosurgeon-- the credit and glory for that miracle.God may have given us a point of contact in which we could believe by providing the surgeon, but it was His intentional intervention that saved me in that moment and may others since then.

One other verse that often comes to mind and gives me a real sense of urgency is Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”What a blessing to know my mom is in paradise and I will see her again!But what am I doing about my family, friends and loved ones that have not accepted salvation?I have attended more funerals in the past 18 months than in the previous five years.That might be a sign of my age, but nonetheless, the bereaved families didn’t always know where the decease stood with God.Life can be uncertain, especially if you don’t have a vibrant relationship with God.Don’t wait, make the commitment today.If you have loved ones that aren’t saved, don’t “wish” they would come to Jesus, get serious in prayer and even fasting.Love deeply and wholeheartedly, and turn them over to a Heavenly Father who will not only give you the kind of love an intercessor needs (like a mom’s), but who happily answers the prayers of His children with “Yes.”

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