I believe in miracles. Sometimes I forget that I believe in miracles and pray weak, cowardly prayers. I do this either because I fear being presumptuous or I fear being disappointed. I also push back against the belief held by those who insist we can command God and demand miracles.
Once when I was in Malawi, Africa, I attended a conference featuring an American “celebrity prophet.” I went out of curiosity but left early, before the healing lines formed, with a heavy heart. As the celebrity waxed eloquent about his many successes without one verse of scripture or anything pointing to Christ, a desperate woman paced the aisle next to me with a limp, barely breathing child in her arms. When he advertised the cost of the Saturday morning workshop entitled How to Raise the Dead, I was done. I realize now that I have allowed experiences like this to drive me too far in the other direction to where I have stopped expecting miracles.
This morning, as I read the story of blind Bartimaeus in the gospel of Mark, the Spirit reminds me of the times I have prayed for and witnessed God’s supernatural intervention. I have seen divine deliverance and miraculous healing. One dramatic event happened here, many years ago, in a local ICU ward.
A friend called one morning to plead with me to come to the hospital; her ex-husband was dying in ICU. The family had been called, and the doctors awaited arrival to say their last goodbyes. I told my friend to call one of the pastors, but she assured me that she had been praying, and God told her it had to be me. She explained that whenever she brought her husband to church, he would run from the room as soon as I started to sing worship. I didn’t consider this a qualifier, but she was so desperate and sure that I had to sing over her ex-husband before he died that I agreed.
When we entered the cubicle, he lay unconscious, hooked up to several machines. The children hadn’t arrived yet, so it was just my friend and me. She explained that he had terminal cancer and his kidneys and liver had failed, but she was most concerned about his soul. He had struggled through the years, making a mess of his life and hurting his family – and yet she loved him. I drew close to him and began to sing softly. Suddenly he started to writhe in the bed, kicking his legs. Startled into silence, I stepped back as machines beeped and medical staff rushed into the room.
As they worked, I prayed. In my spirit, I heard the words; you missed a step.
What do you want me to tell him?, I asked.
Tell him my mercy has chased him to the edge of eternity. Tell him I love him.
The doctors shot me what I interpreted as a warning glance but left the room without saying a word. I leaned down and whispered into the man’s ear while my friend prayed quietly beside me. I told him of God’s unfailing love and tenacious mercy. I told him of the beautiful Christ who, even now, wanted to give him life. I prayed with him and, as peace filled the room, began to sing again.
I don’t know how long I sang. When I turned around to leave, several doctors and nurses were standing at the entrance and moved aside quietly to let me pass. Embarrassed, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I returned home humbled but confident that Jesus loved and accepted this dying, broken man. Not because of anything I did – I had made a mess of things – but because this is just who God is.
Hours later, as I was praying for his precious, grieving family, my friend called to tell me that, to everyone’s shock, he had woken up. The next day he sat up. Several days later, he went home. My friend said no one could explain it.
Here’s the thing, I didn’t even ask for miraculous healing. I didn’t have that kind of faith. I just showed up to be the hands and heart and voice of Christ and release God’s love and mercy. He did what he wanted to do, and it was a miracle.
I never saw that man again, but I met his grown children at my friend’s hospice bedside years later. They told me of the remarkable change in their father’s life before he eventually died a year later of something else entirely. He had met Jesus and was a different man.
I want to recount this story today to remind myself who God is and pray accordingly. I have beloved friends and family members who need miraculous healing. Instead of crying behind closed doors for my beautiful grandgirl with a one-in-a-million rare and incurable disorder, I need to cry out like Bartimaeus and not stop until I hear Jesus ask, What do you want me to do for you? What God chooses to do next is up to him. As Brian Zahnd writes in his book Unvarnished Jesus: I can live in a world where not all of my prayers are answered. But I cannot live in a world where a prayer-answering God is never called upon and thus absent. My part is to pray and believe that what God says is true: nothing is impossible with him.
I scribbled these words from Hudson Taylor on the flyleaf of my bible many years ago. It’s time to remember who God is and expect the impossible.
We are supernatural people, born again by a supernatural birth, kept by a supernatural power, sustained on supernatural food, taught by a supernatural Teacher from a supernatural Book. We are led by a supernatural Captain in right paths to assured victories. The risen Savior, ere He ascended on high, said: ‘All power is given unto Me. Go ye therefore.” Hudson Taylor
Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him.
A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road.
When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout,
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder,
“Son of David, have mercy on me!”
When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”
So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!”
Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”
And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.”
Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road – Mark 10:46-52