More than Therapeutic
Do you feel better when you pray? I do. More than once I have called out to God before delivering a sermon, asking Him to calm my nerves and help me remember the things I have studied. A few times I have apologized to God when my sermon was complete. There is no doubt about it: prayer calms us. It lowers our heart rate and helps us refocus on the task at hand. But is prayer just a form of self-talk to help us manage our stress? Absolutely not!
Please don’t think badly of me for the perception I am about to share. I am thankful many hospitals and emergency centers have spiritual guides who are trained and present in a time of need. More than once I have arrived at the bedside of a deceased church member where a family is already being ministered to by a volunteer chaplain. More times than not the chaplain is very open about his or her faith, and knows just what to say and do. I hope chaplaincy programs continue to grow and prosper and medical facilities never lose sight of their value.
However, I have noticed promotional materials in care facilities tend to focus on spiritual help as one of three dimensions in the healing process, namely “body, mind and spirit.” Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, and certainly the Bible talks about all three. The danger comes, I believe, when we view prayer as a mere therapeutic answer to anxiety. Yes, prayer is therapeutic, but it is much, much more. As well, those who pray for others are merely ambassadors drawing the hurting into the presence of the Creator. In response to prayer, God not only comforts us with His spirit, but He moved providentially through those he has gifted with medical artistry. Prayer should make us feel better, but only because we expect it to make a difference, either because it has called us back to our walk with God, or because He has acted in a tangible way.
David wrote, The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1) David never hesitated to call on God in times of trouble, not because it put his mind at ease, but because God answered.