A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant.He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” (Mark 1:40-41)
I distinctly remember the large billowy clouds racing from one end of the sky to another in a sort of celestial road race on the morning of Tuesday, November 28, 2011. The day began with heavy rain, but the rain cleared out quickly and by mid-morning the sun was shining brightly – that is, whenever a cloud was not covering it up momentarily. The reason I remember so well these atmospheric conditions is because I was sitting in my kitchen right near our big picture window and my eyes were closed as my friend, Cynthia, was praying for healing for me. Through my closed eyelids I could see flashes of brilliant light followed by moments of darkness. This sensation seemed to characterize what was going on in my body and mind.
Cynthia had sent me an email the previous Tuesday to tell me she had heard about my diagnosis and was praying for me. I responded by asking her if she would be willing to come over to my house and pray for healing. I had already been thinking about contacting her when a friend wrote that same day to tell me about the remarkable recovery, with which the Lord had blessed her husband, from an illness after she and Cynthia prayed for him. Although I did not know Cynthia well, I was eager to receive such prayer for healing. These two emails were confirmation that I should ask.
When she came over that morning we first talked about healing prayer as we sat at my kitchen table drinking tea. Cynthia explained the scriptural basis for healing and told me about her training and experience. I was delighted to hear that everything she said was thoroughly orthodox and in accord with what I believed to be true. Having this discussion first was important to me because I have learned from experience that when it comes to prayer it is important to be in agreement theologically with the person who is about to engage in prayer with me or for me.
Next, as I made myself comfortable in my chair, she placed her hand on my head and began to pray. I can’t remember exactly what she prayed because I wasn’t supposed to be taking mental notes. Her instructions were clear: just sit back and relax and don’t try to direct the prayer or think that I could make the prayer more effective by attempting to participate in some way. I’m sure whatever she prayed wasn’t much different from what she later trained me, and the other members of the healing team to which I now belong, to cover when praying for healing.
After a while my kitchen chair became uncomfortable and we moved to the adjacent family room where I could sit and lay my head back upon the sofa. My neck had become stiff from trying to hold up my head. I relaxed more fully as my body slumped on the sofa. I continued to experience the sensation of alternating lightness and darkness which was filtered through the French doors near the sofa.
At some point Cynthia stopped to ask how I was feeling and then, as she began to pray again, she said, “Lord, we thank you for the healing you are doing in Claudia – and we ask for more.” I was startled by her petition and I remember my body stiffening a bit as her words registered in my brain. I had never asked God for more. I had always assumed I was just supposed to accept whatever I got. At first thought, asking for more, seemed a bit presumptuous. After all, doesn’t God already know how much to give? But what this petition uncovered was the degree to which I did not think of myself as a beloved daughter of God. Children of a generous God may ask “for more” because all that God has is ours, as the parable of the prodigal son demonstrates for us (Luke 15:31) and as Paul states in Ephesians (1:18-19). We need not be afraid of God’s reaction to such a request. In fact, now I’ve come to the conclusion that he wants us to ask for more – especially of anything that will bring glory to his name.
Cynthia continued to pray. Suddenly, I began to sense what I can only describe as a kind of electric current running through my head as something she said (but I can’t now remember) struck me profoundly. Whatever it was, it led to an immediate shift in my outlook. While I had believed all along that God could heal me, suddenly I had the conviction that he would heal me. This was a new thought – that God had both the power and the will to heal me. In that moment I felt as though some kind of barrier I had to receiving God’s healing was now gone: I could accept that he wanted to heal me. Asking “for more” seemed to open my heart to receive more fully his gifts and blessings.
Tears of joy began to trickle down my face. The pattern of light and darkness coming through the windows of the French doors became even more dramatic, with brilliant sensations of light bursting forth through my eyelids. Inwardly, I sensed the Father’s radiant love coursing through my body. Cynthia concluded our time of prayer by giving me a few testimonies about people for whom she had prayed recently who were healed by God. I was greatly encouraged by hearing these stories. When she finished, I thanked her profusely because I knew the Lord had done a mighty work through her. Even though I did not fully understand what had just taken place within my body, soul and spirit, this much I knew – a significant transformation had occurred.
The next day Gil and I decided that the bandage covering the tumor should be removed and a clean one applied. Dr. Weissler had placed a bandage over the tumor during our second visit because it had begun to “weep” from the site of the needle biopsy. The amount of fluid was negligible but it just looked better covered up. I sat on a small stool in the bathroom so that Gil could remove the old bandage and apply a new one. (I was too squeamish to do it myself.) As Gil uncovered the tumor, he gasped: it was smaller than it had been two days before! I jumped up and looked in the bathroom mirror: it was smaller – not considerably, but enough to be noticeable. We immediately offered praise to the Lord and we gave thanks for his answer to prayer for healing. Although we were not sure what it would mean for my upcoming surgery, we knew it was evidence that God was at work defeating the cancer.
Cynthia was overjoyed when I reported the news about the tumor shrinking and she offered to return on Saturday to pray again. By the time Saturday arrived the paralysis on the right side of my face had greatly diminished. I could open my mouth fully and I no longer felt a tingling sensation when I did so. I could also close my right eye completely and wink successfully. This turnabout had occurred gradually beginning less than twenty-four hours after Cynthia first prayed with me. This time she spent more time in prayer for my family, asking for blessings upon all of us. I was practically asleep when she finished and she let herself out as I sat on the sofa soaking in what seemed like a warm bath of God’s love.
In prayer later that day, the Holy Spirit uncovered another pocket of fear and brought it to my attention: I was most concerned about what it would be like to wake up in the recovery room – what if I discovered that my face was permanently paralyzed? I wasn’t sure I wanted to wake up if that was going to be the news which awaited me. I prayed about this fear, because I didn’t want it to become an “idol” and listened carefully for God’s word back to me. What I sensed him telling me was that I should trust it all to him. It was a matter of obedience – I was to be willing to go through with the surgery having his assurance that he would be with me and that all would be well. The Lord gave me no specific promise about the outcome, just a sense that he would be sovereign over the situation. As I recalled what he had just done in answer to prayer already and how he had assured me he had both the power and the will to heal me, I said, “OK, I give it all to you. I trust you.”
Before I went to bed that night Gil offered to change the bandage covering the tumor – and to our amazement, it had shrunk a bit more. On the previous Monday morning it appeared to be about the size of a golf ball, but now, on Saturday evening, it was no larger than an average walnut. As we grinned at one another and offered thanks and praise to the Lord I realized that the paralysis on the right side of my face was now completely gone. I recalled the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary, “Nothing is impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)
Next time: In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before surgery.