The other day I was playing contemporary Christian music on Pandora and a song by Laura Story came on that knocked my socks off.
It’s called Blessings, and offers a rich and lovely reflection on the mystery of prayer, suffering and healing.
What I love most about it is that it eschews a vision of prayer and healing that sidelines the mystery of God’s paschal Providence. In other words, the truth revealed in Jesus is that God’s grace does not save us by extracting us from suffering in this life but by transforming us in the midst of suffering that we might freely and joyfully embrace the crosses that befall us for the glory of God and for the life of the world. The rising of the Next World dawns from the smoldering ashes of the Present; the joyous glory of Heaven germinates in a tear-drenched Earth. This must not be confused with a joyless vision of this life, since the truly redeemed person, defined by the Beatitudes, finds a cause for joy, thanksgiving and praise everywhere; even in life’s darkest valleys.
All-too-often, Christians (i.e. me) think that a ‘successful’ answer to prayer is only one that frees me from all troubles, sorrows, pain. While not minimizing the true grace found in such deliverance when it does happen, a Christian theology rooted in the New Testament sees that the supreme goal of healing is heroic virtue and absolute trust in God.
Fr Tom Hopko once quoted St John Chrysostom as saying, ‘I seek healing only that I might again rise from the dust to shoulder my cross more bravely…Lazarus was raised from the dead only that he might later wear the crown of martyrdom.’
If our prayer rests on the premise that the Cross is a curse to be shunned and avoided at all costs, then we will miss our taste of the richest and costliest grace poured from the opened side of Christ: sacrificial love offered on the altar of surrendered trust.
Okay Laura, tell us the Story….