Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Prayer by persons with severe disabilities
It might seem obvious, but a critical aspect of ministry is to teach people to pray. In assisting adults with intellectual disabilities to grow in their faith, one thing we have desired to do is to teach them to pray. Too often the prayers we hear from people are full of words, full of directions, as if God isn't really sure what to do so he needs us to tell him what to do.
I have addressed this a bit in a past post called Help Me.
The class my wife and I facilitate at our church is called the Light and Power Company. At times, we have hosted an all church prayer meeting. The meeting are sparsely attended by around 30 people, but they are always a great time.
In preparing for the event, it occurred to me that prayer would be a great leveler of persons within the church. As stated above, God is not honored by many words repeated. Our prayers are equal. For me to go on and on about the surgeon's training and hands and whatever else comes to mind does not make my prayer any more effective than that of someone who simply says, "Help Sally get better" or even more simply, “Help Sally.” At the same time, however, who knows if the faith of persons with intellectual disability may cause a qualitative difference between my and their prayers.
Perhaps consider instituting a prayer session sponsored by the persons with disabilities in your church. It gives teeth to the lesson that we really are all equal at the foot of the cross. It also should raise the esteem of persons with disabilities in the eyes of other members of the church. There are people who will literally not be prayed for if not for the prayers of persons with disabilities. We had a class member who would ask every week that his bus driver and his teacher would be prayed for. These were two very important people in his life. So we prayed for those people every week. We have no idea the ramification of those prayers, however, one has to believe that they made a difference.
Teaching persons with severe intellectual disabilities to pray is very powerful. I have often been told by someone, someone with a severe intellectual disability, that I was prayed for by them. One friend would greet me every week by saying, "I pray for you Jeff! I nice to you Jeff!" I would always express my appreciation for his prayers. He delighted in praying for me and I delighted in being prayed for by him.
In my work, I do a lot of international travel. I used to ask our class members as a group to pray for me in just a general announcement. One day a woman named Amber came up to me and said, “I pray for you Jeff.” So I sat down before her as she placed her hands on my head. She prayed, “Help Jeff. Help Jeff” several times. She then closed by saying, “I’m trying to be a good girl.” What an incredible prayer. Since that time I always seek her out to ask her to pray for me when I travel. When I am facing challenging times in my life I will also ask her to pray. Sometimes her prayers will be different. One time she actually wept as she prayed for me. Another time she suddenly said, “Devil get away from him!” That was a little frightening. I relish her prayers. At times now, now that she knows she has "permission" she will just approach me and say once again, "I pray for you Jeff." I stop what I am doing, hold her hands or she puts her hands on my head or shoulder and I submit to her ministry of praying for me.
A couple of last comments about prayer. First, when I humble myself before Amber, I honor her and provide her the opportunity to express her gifting by praying for me. Her prayers for me are real to me and valued by me. But I also demonstrate her gifting to those who are observing. Forgive me, but at times I deliberately ask her to pray for me in locations where there are other people around. I want them to see how I value her prayer. Perhaps it will cause them to reflect on who she is in God’s sight as well.