One of the amazing things about my 'job' is the privilege that I have of spending time with such a wide range of people. Almost always this includes praying with people, and today has been no different.
With one person who I spent some time with today we were praying for physical healing, with another person we were rejoicing and thanking God for the answered prayer of a much improved health situation.
When I was thinking about what I would write today I flicked my bible open at John 12. In the NIV, verses 37-50 are given the heading 'The Jews Continue in Their Unbelief' and verse 37 says this: "Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him."
I find that incredible! The ministry of Jesus as recorded in the gospels includes: raising the dead; healing cripples; giving sight to the blind; and healing people of hideous skin diseases. "Surely", I find myself saying, "this should be enough to make anyone believe?"
But the biblical evidence is that it isn't! And even for us at times it can be very easy to either doubt when we hear of God's miraculous intervention, put 'rational' explanations in place to explain it away, or not believe at all. Sometimes even as we ask God in prayer for His supernatural touch, transformation, and healing we may find ourselves filled with doubt and/or disbelief.
And yet the incredible thing that focussing in on the ministry of Jesus reveals to us (as well as the experience of the church throughout history) is that God is in the business of doing the miraculous. Now, of course, as I once heard it said, "Miracles are by nature rare." And once again a brief look at the bible and church experience would also confirm this: not everyone in the bible is healed, even by Jesus (see Mark 6:5); not even those of immense faith live forever in this lifetime (or we would still have the early church and many Christians from all eras still with us!); and today we continue to see some healed instantaneously, some gradually, and some not at all.
But the point, I think, is this: the miraculous and supernatural intervention of God that we witness in the ministry of Jesus, and the same things we see today as He continues to work through the church in the power of the Spirit, are signs of a kingdom that is both now and not yet. It is a kingdom that has been ushered in through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection; but it is also a kingdom for which we are still awaiting its full consummation.
Because the resurrection of Jesus shows us what that kingdom will look like: death defeated (and with it sickness, crying, mourning etc. - see Revelation 21:1-4). But right now we live as sign posts to that kingdom, whatever our circumstances may be, even as we wait with hopeful expectation of answered prayer and kingdom signs breaking out amongst us.
And so when it all seems too daunting; or when our faith feels like wavering; I find it useful to turn to the words of a father who was desperately pleading for the healing of his son: "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."
And so, with those words ringing in our ears, may we never give up on praying...