Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in a world by myself. I want to deal with deep spiritual issues, but my way of dealing with them is by relating them to various pop-culture phenomena. I don’t know how many people think like I do. If you were wondering, if this blog post had no reference to the X-Men, it would have just been title the way too depressing “Prayers of the Dying.”
I’ve been around a lot of dying people over the years. There is no mistaking people who are still conflicted and people at peace. I can’t always predict who will be at peace, but I always know when I see it. I’ve met several people over the years who have had a prayer life to marvel at. I generally find those that are the least capable physically are the biggest players spiritually. It reminds me of Professor Xavier, founder of the X-Men. He is one of the most powerful telepathic mutants in that (fictional) universe, and he’s paralyzed from the waste down. It would seem that anyone with a fist, let alone laser beams would be able to defeat him easily. But his mental abilities are so powerful that he is nearly unstoppable. He can make people do whatever he wants. That poor guy with the fists is going to be hitting himself before he knows it. Ironically, his telepathy is linked to his paralysis. When Professor X can walk, he no longer has his mutant abilities. He has to choose between being able to walk and I suppose being able to take care of other aspects of daily living, and being able to save the world through leading the X-Men. I guess to the comic book reader/movie watcher, the answer’s obvious, who wouldn’t want the nearly limitless power of Professor X. (And I hope I look that cool bald one day.) But that choice would not be so easy for the person in the wheel chair. Professor Xavier struggled with wanting to walk his whole life. I get it.
I have seen the same thing in the aging Christian’s life. Your body and mind breaking down is miserable. But you gain some spiritual abilities that are as powerful as Professor Xavier’s. Your prayer life finally kicks in to super-power mode. Most people when they pray, immediately head out to take matters into their own hands. You pray for a new job, and then immediately hop on monster.com or churchjobstaffing.com and start looking. You pray for healing, but then go and get multiple opinions from multiple doctors to figure out the best course of action. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things. In fact I would give advice to do those exact things. But when you get old, and you are physically incapable of going out and getting another job, or putting on some work gloves to actually help your neighbor, you are left with one thing you are capable of doing – prayer. Prayer is by definition powerful, it’s the petitioning of the Creator of the world. But, the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous person is extraordinarily valuable. Let’s break down those 2 words – effectual and fervent.
An effectual prayer is one that truly understands what prayer is. If God is doing it, the only thing we could do is screw it up. A person who is physically incapable of actually doing anything, has a strategic advantage towards effectual prayer. They pray not for help or assistance, but for God to do it. The mere fact that they are praying reveals that they are just trusting God. That’s effectual praying.
But the disabled person also has an advantage on fervent praying. It’s fervent because they are locked in a home or stuck in a bed. They have little else to do but pray. Such people are powerful pray-ers because of these 2 aspects. God answers “yes” to such prayers. I completely understand why no one would want to be wheelchair bound, or especially bedbound. But I hope that can see a glimmer of the superhuman ability they have. They have the ear of the most powerful being in the (literal) universe. God takes the physically unable, and makes them the most spiritually capable.
But I think there may be another reason as well that God answers such a person’s prayers so consistently. It’s just speculation, but it makes sense. When a Christian reaches a certain age, and their days on earth are waning. God knows that He is about to meet His precious child face-to-face. I think He just answers prayer-after-prayer-after-prayer right before that meeting. I know when my grandmother bought kind of an ugly dress shirt, I would always wear it at least once so she could see me wearing it. I wanted her to feel good, and I didn’t want there to be any awkwardness if she asked me if I liked her present. After, she saw me wearing it, then I felt free to give it to the Salvation Army. Maybe God does the same sort of thing. He wants to take away all potential awkwardness at that first meeting. When you are nearing the end, He answers “absolutely” to the content prayers of the dying. Perhaps what is happening is that those so close to heaven are so well aligned with the desires of the Father that they are praying God’s exact will.
I new a little old lady one time, that was way past being particularly effective at her job, but no one had the heart to fire her. She used to come in to the church and Christian school she worked at and prayed over every single chair in that entire ministry. It would take her about an hour-and-a-half every day. The school had a record number of students, it was actually making money, the church was busting at the seams, new properties were being bought and built upon, and all was right in the world. But just as little old ladies tend to do, she passed away. No one else got to the building at 4:30am every morning to pray over the children and church-goers. No one else took up that mantle, and everything went into decline. And I mean everything. Was it all due to the prayers of this little old lady? I really think so. God answers prayers, and he especially answers the prayers of the effectual, fervent prayer warrior. And He certainly answered the prayers of that one little old lady that He was going to see face-to-face sooner than anyone else knew.