The last time pastor and author James Montgomery Boice addressed his church before succumbing to cancer he spoke these words:
A relevant question, when you pray is, pray for what? Should you pray for a miracle? Well you are free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles – and he certainly can – is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition. A miracle has to be an unusual thing.
…Pray for wisdom for the doctors…Pray also for the effectiveness of the treatment.
Above all I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t be delivering Jesus from the cross, though he could have. Jesus said, ‘Don’t you think I could call down from my Father ten legions of angels for my defense?’ But he didn’t do that. And yet that’s were God is most glorified…
When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by…God does everything according to his will…
But what I’ve been impressed with most is something in addition to that. It’s possible, isn’t it, to conceive of God as sovereign and yet indifferent? God’s in charge, but he doesn’t care. But it’s not that. God is not only the one who is in charge. God is also good. Everything he does is good.
…If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good. So that’s the way we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do?
‘Sing to the Lord, all the earth, proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among the peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise…’
Along similar lines Bryan Chapell encourages all who will listen with these words:
With faith in God’s sovereignty over eternity undergirding our prayers, I have often encouraged others not to pray for God to heal if it is his will – as though maybe he will heal and maybe not. Instead, I encourage my friends and family to pray for God to heal according to his will. Then, whether he answer with the temporary healing that keeps a loved one with us longer, or whether he answers with the perfect healing of taking that one into Jesus’ arms, we remain confident that he has blessed. We have faith that our God’s blessings will be according to a sovereign plan that is as beautiful and boundless as he.
Disease and suffering are inevitable in our fallen world. Yet amid the hurt and confusion, we can pray without doubting that these afflictions are not the ultimate reality or the final chapter of King Jesus’ response to the prayers of his people. Our Lord Jesus will use our prayer in his name to extend his rule through this world and the next. He is able because he is sovereign over all things for all time.
God is sovereign.
Do you pray that way or do you pray as if you are?