When you see someone who is visibly disabled, do you see them as an open target for prayer?
Do you want them to be healed through your prayers so that you can have another notch on your glory belt? Are you looking for a potential testimony to add to your next book or resume? If so, I would prefer you just pass me by. I’d prefer not to be a target.
As I recently mentioned, I am disabled. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God heals today. I witnessed others be healed through my prayer and the prayers of others. I have experienced healing in my body as the result of others praying for me through the laying on of hands. I no longer deal with chronic eye infections, extreme gastro reactions to legumes and turkey, and a painful skin condition on my thigh. I believe the prayer has played a huge part in my ability to continue to walk and to type.
However, I am still disabled, and my disability happens to be a visible one. I use a cane, a walker, or a power wheelchair depending on the circumstances. I wear leg braces whenever I leave my apartment. My hands are visibly deformed, and my facial muscles are weak. As a result, I have been the unfortunate target of opportunistic, overly eager Christians on more than one occasion. It is quickly apparent that they don’t see me as a person; they only see me as potential plunder, a yet-to-be-written testimony to their great healing powers.
Several years before the following encounter, I decided to stop asking for prayer for healing, and I refused to respond to invitations to receive prayer for healing. I had grown weary of dealing with the aftermath. During those years of self-imposed exile, I didn’t receive any healing either. Coincidence? I think not. The Holy Spirit gently convicted me, pointing out that my resentment and lack of forgiveness toward those who saw me as target practice was not helping me at all. I forgave and I repented, and I was set free. I allowed people to pray for me and actively sought after prayer for healing, and I saw healing take place because of my obedience.
A couple of years ago, I attended a School of Healing at a local church. I was there as a student; I was not there as a case study. I was looking forward to sitting under the teaching of a learned man who possesses a profound theological understanding of healing principles laid out in the Bible. I also knew he would have amazing testimonies to tell. I also knew he had a pastoral heart.
On the first night of the conference, my traveling companion experienced a spontaneous healing during worship, but that story is for another time. My friend had been in chronic pain for two years because of a sports injury. As worship continued, my friend continued to test out the healing. Who the Son sets free is free indeed, and she was set free indeed! I noticed a young man looking our way with pointed interest, but I dismissed his interest as mere curiosity as to why my friend and I were so excited.
As the teaching began, I noticed him looking our way more than once. My spidey senses were tingling, and my traveling companion was on alert as well. We were not yet released to pray for one another that evening, and after the teaching had ended, I reached for my cane and purse. I was ready to head home. The young man tried to step past my friend to get to me, but my friend headed him off at the pass. She knew he was viewing me as target practice. She excitedly told him of the healing in her shoulder and demonstrated her full range of motion, accompanied by wild gesturing. I got out of Dodge as quickly as I could. When we met at her car, she confirmed that he wasn’t very interested in her testimony; he wanted to pray for me. He had the ‘bounty hunter’ look in his eye that we both came to recognize over the years. He was looking for a healing notch on his belt. I knew I hadn’t seen the last of him.
The next day, we were released to pray for one another, and I swear that if he could have climbed over pews to get to me, he would have done so. He explained that he wanted to see something dramatic happen so he could tell all his friends about it. Now, before you judge this young man too harshly, he was recently saved and had just recently been filled with the Holy Spirit. We had been given five points to follow during this exercise, and he forgot them all. I prompted him along the process. I explained the disease I live with destroys nerves. It is not a brain disorder like Multiple Sclerosis. I made a point to mention that this disease is genetic in nature and that it begins in the hands and feet and slowly spreads upward. He immediately laid two hands firmly on my head and began to pray against brain trauma. He was having a great old time of it. I just let him pray. I didn’t feel safe; I didn’t feel heard, and I was too busy dodging bullets to be in a receptive mode.
A young man from my church came alongside me and asked if he could join in. I quietly explained what we were praying for. He nodded, looked me in the eyes, and then smiled. He held my hands as gently and tenderly as he would hold a newborn chick. I felt loved; I felt seen, and I felt hope. I was not healed that day. The young man from my church crouched beside me after we prayed just to make sure I was okay. I assured him that I was fine and invited him to pray for me anytime he wanted.
By the bounty hunter’s expression, I could tell he was terribly disappointed. I asked him if he had a few minutes, as I felt led to tell him exactly how I felt by his approach. I explained I felt uncomfortable. I kept the conversation short as I could tell he did not understand why his approach was not successful. I confessed how I felt diminished as a person and I asked him if he saw me as a target for prayer or if he saw me as a sister in Christ. Hopefully, one day, he’ll look back on our conversation as an ah-ha moment. I’m sure he’ll figure it out one day. It’s all about the person and God’s love for that person; it’s not about us looking like great women and men of faith.
1 Corinthians 13:1-5 (MSG) – “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”
“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first.”
All bible verses, unless otherwise stated, are taken from the English Standard Version translation.