“Tan!” “I like it on the hook by the door!” “I’m going to Kalamazoo for 32 days!” These are some tame samples of some of the nonsensical things you might have seen on Facebook over the past few years, all coming back to breast cancer awareness. Other diseases have their specific “awareness” advocates as well.
I mused on someone else’s status that I wish I needed a game to make me aware of cancer. In the past few years, I have known people who have had to fight breast, liver, kidney, prostate, lung, and bladder cancer; some have won, some did not, and others are still fighting. There are two big reasons that I’m so aware of cancer at this point. The first is that some of these have hit close to home, striking friends and co-workers. The second is through praying for those who have these terrible diseases. While I don’t recommend the first, the second is where we’ll focus today. Let’s start in Philippians.
6 …do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.— Philippians 4:6
Here, Paul sets us up with a negative and a positive instruction. The negative instruction, “do not be anxious about anything,” is a necessary reminder. When we humans are dealing with troubling times among friends and family, we tend to worry for them, on their behalf; when we deal with troubling times in the world at large, our anxiety tends to be more focused on ourselves. Neither of these are acceptable, and Paul continues by giving a solution that works in both cases – tell God about it. However, this is not a heavenly-directed spleen-venting session. Paul uses “prayer and supplication” to describe how we are to take everything to God. Prayer is a reverent request, not a vent and not a demand; supplication carries the idea of a fervent, urgent request. We are to reverently, but fervently, bring our requests to God.
However, there’s another piece – “with thanksgiving.” Even in the most dire of circumstances, there are things for which we can be thankful. We can be thankful that we have the ability to pray. We can be thankful for our knowledge of the people for whom we are praying, and for the benefits we have seen in our lives from them. We can be thankful for things that God has done in the past, and the opportunity to see what He will do this time. Being thankful has two benefits. First, it lets God know that we remember His blessings. Second, it helps us; it’s very difficult to be worried or angry over something for which we are giving thanks.
This brings us to one of the most curious things about prayer that I’ve learned over the past few years. Yes, prayer is important, and can lead to big changes in circumstances. But, more than changing God’s mind, prayer changes the one who prays. God, though prayer, can reveal His will, and give peace when His will is not the result we are expecting. I think that the best example of this type of prayer was Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane.
39 And going a little farther He fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.“— Matthew 26:39 (emphasis mine)
My suggestion, given the above, is two-fold. First, if you are not aware of anyone with cancer, or whatever disease has your attention, remedy that; find someone (at least one, but more if the Lord leads) and start praying for them, and see if you don’t see the difference. Then, instead of playing games that can be zany at best, and offensive at worst, post the details of the people for whom you are praying. You’ll raise awareness, and you’ll be encouraging others to pray as well. That sounds like win-win to me.