Healing Line

Healing Line

Do We Pray About Aging?

by Francis MacNutt
October 1992

Recently friends have been coming up and telling me how well I'm looking. Now, you might think that's a welcome compliment. What you don't know is that (according to my Dad) we go through several stages of life, concluding with Middle Age and then, "My, how well you're looking!"

So it looks as if I've finally reached that last stage. Certainly, growing older is not the same as being sick, but it can bring aches and pains that are similar to what you experience when you have the flu.

This very human condition of growing older — and the body's feeling and showing it — how does this relate to healing? Do we pray to counteract the aging process? Surprisingly, I don't remember reading any book on healing that says anything at all about whether or not we should pray about aging.

This is becoming a stronger question every year, considering that one out of every 9 Americans is now over 65 (in 1776 it was only one out of 50), and it is estimated that by the year 2050 one–half the residents of my home–state of Florida will be over 65.

In our younger days most of us didn't think about such things as praying about aging. In those days we harbored the illusion of being immortal as we sped down the highway. But next month I will have to face this question of aging in a most unsettling form: I'll be going to St. Louis to attend my 50th high school reunion — and I've been asked to say something 10 memory of the 17 classmates (out of 60) who have died. The last reunion I attended — the 40th — 1 experienced some very deep emotions. I don't know how to describe my feelings, except to say that they were a strange combination of joy (at seeing old friends), mixed with sadness (at seeing how the years had treated some of them, spiritually and physically). With such a small class we knew each other really well, so it was a shock not to be able to recognize several classmates; I had to peek at their name tags to find out who they were — so much had they changed. Our star baseball pitcher was crippled and had to hobble around on a cane (two years later, he died).

God has certainly been merciful in granting me excellent health. Aside from aspirin, I have no medicine in our medicine cabinet, nor do I wear glasses (which my friends see as remarkable). At my annual physical exam I check out healthy.

And yet, when I wake up in the morning I ache and have to walk around for a while until the pain goes away. I still jog and run (and enter Senior Olympics) but my best times today don't come near my average times as recently as five years ago. While I can still read without glasses I now have trouble making out the fine print which I could easily see five years ago.

So I'm faced with this question of getting older — and my body's feeling and showing it. (Our eleven–year–old daughter asked if I had ever thought of dying my gray hair). Clearly this all relates to healing, but how? I'm not sick — just slowing down. So should we pray to slow down the slowing down process?

Yes, I think we should Certainly we need not hesitate to pray for the alleviation of pain, and for increasing the flexibility of our joints. I believe we should hold high the ideal of always retaining the fullest use of our ability to think, to see, and to hear, so I don't hesitate to pray for God to restore my friends' faculties when they start to fail. What a beautiful display of faith it would be to see aging couples praying for each other's infirmities, or to see visitors in nursing homes praying for our senior citizens.

So here's how I answer the question that will face me with each classmate I meet.

First, we gratefully accept God's plan for our aging and eventual death. On the other hand, there are aspects of the aging process that are simply the effects of our fallen human condition and I think we should pray to change them. For example, we need not hesitate to pray for the healing of arthritis, for the alleviation of pain, and for maintaining our ability to think, to see, to hear and to move about. If, over the years, calcium deposits build up' in our joints, why not ask Jesus to dissolve them? If plaque has built up in our arteries and veins, we need to change our diets_ to include less fat, but we can also pray for Jesus to dissolve that plaque. (I have watched a nurse measure blood pressure going down in a patient even as we prayed.)

And yet, we also peacefully accept God's plan for our eventual death. (I still hope, humanly, that mine's a long way off.) Even Lazarus, as well as the others Jesus raised from the dead, eventually died a second time. For the Christian, death — hard as it is to accept on the human plane — is simply entering into a new life.

We may still not have reached that spiritual apex where we look forward in faith to our final moments on this earth and to our birthdays in heaven; but, on the slow march to that climax, we should not hesitate to ask Jesus to share with us his perfect health!

"My one hope and trust is that I shall never have to admit defeat, but that now as always I shall have the courage for Christ to be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death" (Phil. I :20).

Francis & Judith
Rachel & David

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. October 1992 Issue