I’ve always been drawn to the story in Acts 3 about the disabled man who is healed after an encounter with James and John. When I read the stories in the Bible, I like to try and put myself in the mind of the characters in the story. I like to try and imagine the days, months and years leading up to that point in order to build some sort of idea of what they would have expected, and how they would react as events unfolded.
I love this story because it is on one hand mundane, three people crossing paths as they go about their day, but on the other it is miraculous. At the point where their paths cross there is a divine intervention that goes beyond what any of the three could have expected.
I am fortunate to have lived my life without a long term or permanent disability. I have little concept of what that is like. I have even less idea of what that would be like in first century Judea where the pervading theology equated disability with sin. I imagine I would have lived in a very dark emotional state, hopeless and without any sense of self worth as the religious judgement piled up on me. I, like the man in the story would have only been able to hope for the bare minimum; loose change. Healing would not even be on my radar.
It is easy to fall into hopelessness. When we face ill health, loneliness, addiction, stress etc. often the best we can imagine is making it until bedtime. I’ve been there, where being awake is barely manageable and sleep feels like release. Yet, in this story, in spite of the man’s low hope, God intervenes.
Christians often make the mistake, of feeling that they must convince God to bless them by praying enough or sinning less or having just a little more faith but in this story, the man who has his life transformed had none of those, he just reached out his hand for money. Adding guilt to an already painful situation only amplifies the pain and drives us down even further. If we don’t see the result we want, this belief will crush us. This belief only multiplies our turmoil.
I’m by no means a wise, old man, but in the things I’ve been through in my life, both painful and wonderful, I’ve learned that God always intervenes. When I’ve prayed for something to change, either he has changed my situation of changed how I think and feel about it. God has always transformed the details of my life or transformed my heart to strengthen me enough to live it.
People have told me many times that prayer doesn’t work. At times, if I am honest, I’ve agreed with them. I’m becoming convinced, however, that prayer does work when we understand what it is for. It is much less about detecting God’s hand and more about transforming my mind and heart. Prayer changes me 100% of the time. It changes me in small ways, for example, by calming my mood, or in large ways by changing my desire for what I was reaching for.
If you don’t pray, try it for 6 weeks, my faith isn’t dependent on the results, this isn’t a social experiment, but you might benefit from it. If you do pray, when you pray, expect Him to intervene. Expect Him to change your situation or change your heart. You may not realise until later but I believe He will do it. Look for the crossing of His path with yours.