Changing What We Pray For

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mfree6464
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Joined: 23 Feb 2016, 17:07

Changing What We Pray For

Post by mfree6464 » 07 Oct 2019, 11:41

Sadly, a young family in our stake recently lost a father to cancer. They have 5 children ages 5 - 15. It was and still is terribly heartbreaking. Needless to say a lot of fasting, priesthood blessings and prayers were offered on their behalf. Prayer has sort of been a focus of my spiritual journey lately. I am in the process of trying to reconcile my old views on prayer with experiences that have given me new perspective on life, religion and spirituality in general. I couldn't help but notice how many different things we were all asked to pray for during the approximately 2 years this man was ill. My father-in-law is this family's Bishop and he kept us closely informed throughout the ordeal. Here is a general idea of how it went:

The initial 0 to 3 months
Prognosis: This brother has been diagnosed with stage-4 cancer.
Prayer Effort: There was ward fasting stake-wide for him to be healed and priesthood blessings from many men all over the stake to heal him.

3 to 6 months
Prognosis: Things haven't gotten worse but they aren't better either - it's still stage-4 cancer.
Prayer effort: Priesthood blessings for full health recovery continued but the ward fasting stopped.

6 months to 18 months
Prognosis: He is deteriorating slowly. Cancer is spreading to other organs. He has a 10% chance of being alive in 5 years. He tells my father-in-law he just hopes to make it 5 more years.
Prayer Effort: Priesthood blessings continue but are no longer asking for healing by the 18 month mark. Most blessings are simply for comfort. Focus of prayer has turned to asking God to allow this man to make it 5 more years.

18 months to death
Prognosis: Cancer continues on its terrible path, he slowly loses weight, becomes unrecognizable and passes away. His final wish is to go on one final vacation with his family to Mexico.
Prayer effort: Priesthood blessings of comfort continue for him and also extend to his wife and children. Blessings and prayer requests for healing are non-existent during this time. Focus of prayer becomes comfort and asking God to allow this man the strength to make it out of the country for a weekend with his family (which I'm happy to report he was able to do.)

I don't really want to address the idea of whether or not prayers were answered but rather I'd like to take a look at why the focus of the prayers changed as his prognosis changed. If someone believes enough in a God who can hear them and grant a request, why not stay the course and pray for healing until the bitter end? Why did everyone ask only for comfort in this man's final days when they could have continued to ask that same omnipotent being for full health?

I have thoughts but I'm curious to hear some of yours.

Roy
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Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Changing What We Pray For

Post by Roy » 07 Oct 2019, 15:01

The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.
It is possible that this represents a form of modified stages of grief. It is almost like we go through a sense of communal Denial, Bargaining, and finally Acceptance.

I love how the LDS community (and other communities) can rally around members in a time of need. This can be a huge lifeline in a period of relative darkness.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

nibbler
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Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Changing What We Pray For

Post by nibbler » 07 Oct 2019, 19:13

When we go through difficult trials, feeling like we're in it alone compounds the hardships. Maybe the benefit is knowing there are other people out there that care about you?

Roy
Posts: 5809
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Changing What We Pray For

Post by Roy » 14 Oct 2019, 09:51

In the book, "Why bad things happen to good people" the author talks about an adult child of a person calling in to have their parent prayed for in some organized way. The author wanted to know more than simply the name of the person to be prayed for. They wanted to know what was afflicting them, where they were, and could they receive visits. I remember thinking of the prayer rolls on the altars of LDS temples. Yes, I believe that many can find comfort knowing that their names are being prayed for in that way. However, I believe the true power of this principle lies in the community wrapping around hurting individuals in more tangible ways.

I suppose it would be appropriate to let the person or people most affected take the lead. If the man wants the church community to pray for a miraculous healing than that's what you do. If the man and his family want you to pray for him to live long enough to take one last vacation - then that is also what you do.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Heber13
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Re: Changing What We Pray For

Post by Heber13 » 17 Oct 2019, 13:39

It's an interesting topic. I think we teach that part of prayer is knowing what to ask for, and seeking God's will. So prayers can change when we feel that is the right thing to do to align ourselves to accepting God's will.

That, of course, is always the struggle...knowing God's will vs having faith enough to move mountains.

Maybe for some of us, that comes with experience.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Changing What We Pray For

Post by Curt Sunshine » 19 Oct 2019, 13:04

My prayers now, generally not vocalized, are essentially, "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me" - or, more simply, "Help me and others continue to draw closer to being like you, whatever that takes."
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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QuestionAbound
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Re: Changing What We Pray For

Post by QuestionAbound » 03 Nov 2019, 14:05

I don't have much to add except that our ward experienced this similar situation years ago.

Husband diagnosed with rare cancer in February.
Ward prayers, fasting, blessings that promised healing, etc.
Two trips out of state to 1 of only 2 worldwide specialists for this type of cancer.
Chemo, radiation, etc.
He passed away in November.

This hit our ward family hard.

I remember hearing the bishopric request that our ward fast and pray. I could see the outcome even then and worried that we were putting too much stock in prayer this way. It was awkward for many of us to go through the motions with the intent that we somehow change heaven's mind, but knowing our prayers really wouldn't do much good in that regard.

I think that in those situations, it is always more appropriate to pray for acceptance and peace ... instead of asking for a miracle.

But, that's just me.

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