Q Would it be all right if, in the case of unwell seniors, I didn’t ask for their healing but that God would help them through what they’re going through, even if that means going home to God? Sometimes it seems focusing my prayers on praying for their unsaved family and friends to accept God’s salvation seems more appropriate than requesting for their dying loved one to stay here on earth. I believe with all my heart God is with us every step of the way back home to him.
by Pastor Matt Ritchey, Managing Editor
Estimated Time to Read: 5 Minutes
ANSWER: I think every one of us can relate to ministering to a faithful believer in failing health. It is a difficult time. As we stand by their bedside, we reflect on the powerful example they have set for us in serving the Lord. When they become bedridden with pain and confusion, we want to see them go back to healthier days. We want to keep them here with us for our benefit and comfort. Yet, that is not always what is best for them or, even, other people.
The Example Jesus Gave
I think of Jesus Who, in His humanity, was certainly not looking forward to the painful death that awaited Him. As He prayed, sweating drops of blood on Mount Olivet (Luke 22:44), for the Father to “let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39), Jesus was requesting that He be able to avoid the trial and pain that awaited Him that very night.
Jesus acknowledged to three of His disciples that night on the mount that His “soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38). Yet, His request was prefaced and reliant on two things: “if it be possible” and “nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou will” (Matt. 26:39). We can learn many things from Jesus’ actions on the night of His betrayal.
We Can Pray for Deliverance
First, specific requests for our own circumstances or intercessions on behalf of others are not wrong. It is an emotional time when a loved one is dying, both for the one physically suffering and the surrounding family and friends. We often do not know how to pray. We are broken and pleading to the Lord on behalf of our suffering loved one. Life on earth is full of disappointments and difficulties; the best we can do in these times (and all times) is pray. It is not automatically selfish to pray for someone to make it through surgery safely or to be healed of their ailment(s). The Lord cried out for Himself when he requested, “let this cup pass from Me.”
We Can Grieve
Second, grieving is not a sin. Faithful believers who have lived surrendered lives on behalf of Jesus Christ are not called to rejoice FOR suffering, even as they can rejoice DESPITE suffering (II Cor. 12:9-10; Phil. 4:4; see also John 16:20; James 1:2-3; I Pet. 4:13-14). Believers may feel helpless at times, but we are never hopeless. It is due to our position in Christ and secure eternal destination that we grieve with hope (I Thess. 4:13).
Even with our feelings of helplessness, Paul assured us that this is when God’s strength is evident (II Cor. 12:10). So, even though Jesus felt so distraught unto death, He turned to the One Who could give Him the strength and direction that was needed, God the Father. We should also turn to the Father in these times, giving our anxiety to Him (Phil. 4:6-7) and casting our cares upon Him.
God’s Will and Ultimate Healing
Finally, all this is dependent on the desire for God’s will to be done. Part of God’s will is for believers to allow the Holy Spirit to work our tribulations to bear the fruit of hope (Rom. 5:1-5). We may want our unresponsive loved one that is confined to the hospital bed to fully recover, but God knows what is best. We must recognize that the ultimate form of healing is to be absent from the body and present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8).
Death is gain for the believer (Phil. 1:21). If your loved one knows the Lord, the very best outcome is to go to the Lord in Heaven. And, yes, our attention should always be for the Lord to use the circumstances to draw unbelievers to Him, for we know their salvation is according to the desire of God (I Tim. 2:4).
Pray for Deliverance and Desire God’s Will
In direct answer to your question: No, it is not wrong to pray for a believer who is suffering to be delivered from their circumstances through death, as long our ultimate desire is not our will be done but that God’s desire is accomplished. I must admit, there have been times when I have stood by the bedside of a dear believer who was unresponsive and suffering, held their hand, and prayed that the Lord would take them home to be with Him. I still miss them and think of them often, but I can take joy in knowing my loss is their gain, and that God always knows the perfect outcome.
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