Friday, February 23, 2007

Robert Webber and Prayer in the Face of Cancer ...

Robert Webber tells of his own experience with prayer in relationship to his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. In light of our discussion on prayer and in particular "Intercessory Prayer" this caught my attention.
(HT: Jordon)

Many of you know that I was diagnosed with advanced stage IV pancreatic cancer on August 25th, 2006. Many of you have been praying earnestly for my healing and sending me e-mails to encourage and support me. I have been overwhelmed by the numbers of people who have upheld me in prayer and I want to update you on my condition and say a special word of “Thanks.”

After months in and out of the hospital with ever possible complication (kidney failure, emergency operation for a pierced bowel, massive infections, and chemo/radiation) I was sent home on December 9th with the words “You have two to four weeks left to live). On December 9th I was a virtual invalid. My wife had to bathe me, dress me, feed me and walk me. I slept 16-18 hours a day and rarely moved any place except to my bed and couch. I even went under the care of palpable hospice. However, instead of getting worse and dying as predicted, I gradually began to improve. Now, two months later I am practically leading a normal life. I care for myself, walk without a walker, go out to eat, work out (to pound weights) and write every day. I attribute this improvement, however long it lasts, to answered prayer – yours and mine, my wife. I have literally bugged and argued with God!

So, in light of my improvement, how do you pray? I want to ask God to heal me but what if he already has. But, I’m also reluctant to be presumptuous and tell everyone I’ve been healed given the statistical downside of pancreatic cancer and the fact that we are foregoing any definite tests for now, like a MRI, CT scan or PET scan.

So, here is how Joanne and I solved our dilemma. We live and pray one day at a time. We pray each day and say, “Thank you God for the healing you gave me today. Please heal me tomorrow.” It has occurred to both of us that if we were truly spiritually sensitive, we would have prayed that way all of our lives but it took the threat of imminent death to bring us to this point.

We cannot begin to tell all of you how we have benefited from your consistent prayers. We’re convinced that God is answering those prayers and that all the improvement thus far has come from God’s healing powers and that He is the source of all grace. I am confident that God sustained me today but I’m also painfully aware that I am “terminal,” at some point, in the larger sense of the word, as we all are. Thanks be to God that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and we all face a great future.

Please continue your prayers for both of us. Joanne will see her doctor and have some tests done as her stomach tension and discomfort continues. We think it’s “caregiver’ stress but want to be sure. Also, although I’m better, my strength is fragile and I fatigue easily. Some days are better than others. We appreciate the way everyone has maintained our privacy and ask that you continue to do so.

I hope that you all know that the love and prayers you have “sent” our way are being returned to you from us. We are so deeply moved by them on our behalf.

1 comment:

chip said...

2 "follow up" thoughts on Thursday's discussion.

1) Only God is good. All goodness comes from God. I believe this is true and scriptural. If so, then any good that happens in the world comes ultimately from God. Saying this does not tie good events directly to intercessory prayers, but it seems like it might be a helpful thing to remember in this conversation. If a good event happens, we should give God the credit. If I do a good thing (happened once, I promise), I don't get the credit -- God does. If I do a good thing, then, it is because God is doing something.

2) Gratuitous evil exists. Ref. Dostoyevsky in Brothers Karamazov. Sometimes it comes via humans, sometimes via "natural causes." But, is it true that it is not only humans that are fallen, but also the creation? (Rom. 8:18ff). I, like Ivan, reject the idea that there is some "grand plan" that will make all the evil in the world ultimately "make sense," that one day we will all see the "grand tapestry" that will make all the evil seem justified. That would mean, first of all, that "evil" doesn't really exist -- it's just disguised good. Second, it makes God into a Machievellian god -- a despot who has to resort to desperate means to keep his power, and for whom all means are justified in that endeavor.

So, ultimately, I can embrace both true human freedom and quantum mechanics. Yes, Virginia, God does play dice with the universe. Or at least, true chance exists. If it didn't, there would be no human freedom. Though I believe God is "more intimate to me than I am to myself," I think that is a non-coercive presence. God acts persuasively, in other words.

3) So I lied, there's more than 2. If God acts persuasively, can God also be persuaded?

And Danny (Dannie?) now says: so why doesn't s/he always do that? To which Greg replies: God is a "she." No more need be said.

Just kidding. However, this forces me to conclude that God does not micro-manage the universe. I become almost Deist here, I suppose, except I still believe God is present to it all, and (with Aquinas) that he "feels" the pain of human beings more deeply than we feel it ourselves.

Further, I don't think this is the "best of all possible worlds." I can't answer the question of why God didn't create it that way, but I do see the promise of Scripture that the "re-creation" will indeed be that "best of all worlds." This world becomes that one. That's why this world groans in labor pains (Rom. 8 again).

So: when I pray, I become more intimate with God, and therefore more intimate with what God is working toward in his creation, and more willing to be part of it. Prayer that does not result in a change in the pray-er isn't really prayer, just as worship that doesn't create a change in the worshipper isn't really worship.

Does prayer result in a change of God's will? Not in the "cosmic" sense -- but perhaps, now and then, in some very limited sense if it does not ask God to coerce the will of some other human being.