My friend Teri is in Stage 4 of a particularly deadly disease: lung cancer. Another of her friends said he is praying for her “every praying moment.” She has lots of people praying for her… individuals, prayer warriors (whatever those may be), prayer lists, prayer circles… people she has never met are praying hard that she be cured of this awful disease.
As I’ve said before, I don’t pray, except to say “thank you” for this or that. The most logical thing I’ve ever heard said about prayer was by C.S. Lewis: “Prayer doesn’t change things; it changes me.” So I say thank-you to remind myself to be grateful, not because I think anybody is listening. If prayer actually worked, I feel pretty sure there would be far fewer children dying of leukemia. The implication is always there: if you didn’t get what you want, you didn’t pray hard enough.
So, all you folks who pray, pray for my friend Teri—every praying moment. Also pray for the person that told her she hasn’t been cured yet because her faith isn’t strong enough. If that person ever says that within my earshot, he or she will need their own prayers for healing. The ironic part is that I don’t know a single person who has more faith in God and in humanity than Teri. If faith in a God that is listening and handing out goodies was a requirement for living, I’d be dead right now.
Another practical thing said about prayer was what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (z”l) said about marching with Dr. King at Selma, “I was praying with my feet.” Judaism places action above faith, which is why I chose to join that religion. Teri has the best doctors, the best therapists, the best holistic practitioners, all praying with their hands, their minds and their training. She has the best of friends doing what they can to comfort her… they raise her spirits, feed her, follow her blog, and buy her books. What they don’t do is define her by her cancer or make judgments about the amount or quality of her faith.
My mother died of the same cancer, slightly different version but just as deadly. She lived in Mexico, so I didn’t see her as often as I would have wished. When she passed away, I couldn’t be there because I had just had surgery and couldn’t fly. But she had her circle of “gringos” in her little retirement Eden who ran errands, played dominoes with her, sat with her, and were with her in the hospital the night she passed; for them, I am eternally grateful. Some people kept telling her, despite the prognosis, “You can beat this thing.” I’m convinced that added to her suffering with more and more chemo and radiation. Though she never complained, I kept thinking, “Let her go, people.”
Teri wants prayers and, by God, she should have what she wants. Pray in the way you can, every praying moment.