Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Prayer of Desperation or Through the Roof Prayer

I can’t imagine the difficulty of life-long illness or a prolonged physical problem. My shattered finger several years ago was bad enough. I’m left-handed but, with my right hand in a cast, I had difficulty putting my hair into a ponytail, zipping pants, and buttoning shirts. It was miserable. Although it was temporary, the experience gave me considerably more compassion for those who struggle with illness or disability.

My recent cornea problems were, in a way, worse than the fractured hand. The vision problem stopped me in my tracks. It limited reading, internet use, writing, driving, and almost everything else I wanted to do. 

I felt desperate for healing. I prayed and fasted. My friends and acquaintances prayed. The pastor and elders prayed. They anointed me with oil and laid hands on me, more than once. Healing didn’t come as soon as I hoped, nor in the way I expected.

The Bible spoke to my need. 

I learned more than I wanted about physical problems and disability. In the midst of my struggle, I read the story of the paralyzed man and the four friends, all likely just as desperate for healing as I. For the first time, I identified with those five men. (Luke 5:17-26)

You probably know the story, but here’s a quick recap. Four men, determined to bring their friend to Jesus, went up on the roof of a house because it was so crowded they couldn’t get through the door to the Healer. They lowered the paralyzed man down into the middle of the crowd. 

No vandalism needed.

As a child, I believed the friends ripped the roof apart, then left the owners with a gaping hole. It seemed the worst kind of evangelism possible and I recoiled from the story. 

Two trips to the Middle East taught me a different possibility. The roof on most Middle Eastern houses is flat. In Jordan (and in Israel) the roof is used for storage, drying clothes on the line, and large water tanks. There’s room for children to play and a grill or small fire pit for cooking outside.

In some houses there’s an entrance from the roof leading directly inside. For others, there’s one door with both a street approach and a roof approach. 

Maybe it happened like this…

I now believe this story went something like this: (Leanna paraphrase coming up)

“Hey, my paralyzed friend, you need to see that teacher from Nazareth, Jesus. He gives sight to the blind and makes the lame walk again. He might heal you, too.”

“How would I get there? Doesn’t he teach out in the wilderness?”

“Mostly, but sometimes he’s in town. I’ll take you. Let me get some people together.” 

They made a plan and waited for an opportunity. One day, Jesus came to town and was teaching in a house nearby. The men quickly hauled their friend on a blanket through the street, but a huge crowd arrived before them. The door was blocked by people.

The friends refused to give up. The four buddies looked around the house, and, suddenly, the excitement began. “Hey,” someone probably said, “We could go through the roof door.” The four men hauled the paralyzed man up the stairs to the roof, then down a ladder into the house. They landed right in the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus.

“Through the roof prayer”

The most remarkable part of the entire story is what happened when they got inside the house with their friend. The men didn’t know if Jesus would heal their friend or not. They simply presented him to Jesus. No request. No description of the problem. Nothing. 

The presentation of their friend to Jesus was the request. In a way, their action was a desperate, “thy will be done” prayer.

I pray this way sometimes — I simply call out the name of the one for whom I’m praying. I know they need Jesus’s intervention, so I take them to God in prayer. It’s a prayer of desperation, a “through the roof” prayer. 

It may be the purest form of prayer because it expresses utter dependence upon and surrender to our Lord and His wisdom. 

Going through the roof brought their friend straight to Jesus and left the choice of intervention to Him. Are there people for whom you’re praying? Are you desperate and nearly without hope? Have you run out of words to pray? Maybe it’s time for “through the roof” prayer. Take them to the throne of God and leave them there. Ask God to intervene, then leave the choice of intervention to Him. He’s more than able to deliver. 

But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:19 NASB)

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