Tuesday, November 23, 2010

About Being a Deacon: Miracles & Prayers

I've been thinking about miracles lately. Do real miracles still happen today? What is the connection between miracles and prayers? Quite frankly, I'd become a bit indifferent about miracles as there have been a lot of celebration of miracles as well as prayers asking for miracles in my community of faith.  I knew that my blasé attitude was wrong and sure enough, God brought another modern-day miracle to my attention and totally changed my attitude. Just like all the other miracles I've heard of, in my community of faith, I had been touched the very first time fellow deacon, Ingga, shared her miracle story, but I'd also managed to forget it. Ingga shared the story again, at our Deacon Retreat this saturday, briefly, and with no drama whatsoever.

Some years ago, Ingga's daughter who had been suffering from migraines was diagnosed with a brain tumor. One of the first things Ingga did was to call her deacon and ask for prayer. Her deacons prayed and a prayer request was also emailed to the prayer chain so that others could pray for the young girl. The next day, when another scan was done, there was no sign of the tumor. Ingga still has the pictures that show the tumor in the first scan and the crystal clear scan from the second. The symptoms her daughter had been experiencing were also gone and have never come back since then. Ingga is a scientist and she is at a loss to explain this other than as a miracle healing. She has shared the scans with other scientists. No one can explain it to her scientifically.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a miracle as "an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs." Jesus, we know from the Bible, did many miracles. In his Gospel, John calls them signs and chooses specific miracles to record for a number of reasons. John wants to show how people came to belief or unbelief about the Christ when they saw Jesus' miracles.  John also wants to bring people in the future, people who did not live in the time of Christ, to belief and ever greater belief about the divinity of Jesus.  

The miracle healing, in Ingga's case, was an answer to prayer. Here's how I define prayer: Prayer is God and me talking together about the people, places, and things he's gifted into my life. Prayer is also me listening for what he would like me to do, how, where, when & why. Finally, prayer is also waiting for God to act. Eugene Peterson describes it eloquently: In prayer, we are aware that God is in action, and that when the circumstances are ready, when others are in the right place, and when our hearts are prepared he will call us into action. Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts. This sunday, as my pastor preached on Jesus' eighth sign when he shows himself to the unbelieving Thomas, I suddenly realized in a deeper way than I had before that miracles, of all kinds, are signs of God's existence and active presence in our lives too, not just his awesome glory and power. In fact, as my pastor pointed out, signs/miracles show me the areas where I still doubt. Miracles, now as then, deepen belief and strengthen the desire to serve him - My Lord and My God - just as Thomas did. I still have questions but my indifference to miracles (rooted at it was in discouragement about seemingly unanswered prayers) is gone. Where Jesus is, prayers and miracles will abound! Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. I Peter 1: 3-4a (emphasis is mine).

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