How to Pray for Aging

by Francis MacNutt
Mar/Apr 2006

As a practical followup to the article on aging in this newsletter, I want to share some ideas on what you can actually do about this universal problem.

In the first place, if the elderly are suffering from sickness, such as cancer, you can do what you already have learned to do: namely, you can pray for healing.

The new insight we are discovering, however, is that we can be basically healthy, yet suffer like the sick. We are not exactly sick, but the joints ache and we start to bend over as the forces of life gradually lessen. It’s like the law of entropy, which describes how energy continually sinks to a lower level. We also can compare it to driving a good used car; there always will be wear and tear no matter how well we take care of the car. Just as sludge builds up in our car’s motor, globules of fat clog up the veins and arteries, it’s just a law of nature. Our "tent," as Paul says, is eventually folded up and taken down.

What we find is that this is a battle, a struggle, that goes on every day. It’s not like praying for a disease or a tumor, which Jesus can dissolve in one prayer. When a disease is healed, it’s all over and done with, and you praise God. The forces of dissolution are at work every day: a struggle goes on all the time between the energy of life and the opposing forces of weakness and infirmity. We are reminded of that part of the Lord’s Prayer which asks God to give us this day our daily bread and deliver us from evil (or the Evil One). We pray not once but continually, every day.

So, since the possibility of an advanced and healthy old age is a blessing held out to us in the Scripture, and is a wider application of what we believe about Jesus’ general desire to heal, I propose that we pray for the elderly, with the laying on of hands, every day. We can pray to strengthen the forces of life both in our minds and our bodies. (By the way, we heard recently that a friend, whose wife has long suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and who has been praying for her for years, now tells us that his wife is recovering her mental health!)

Clearly, this kind of frequent, if not daily, prayer is not emotionally exciting. We are praying to stop the slow advance of aging, and we can't actually see this take place. If a glacier slows down, how can you tell? At the end of the year you say, "Thank God, my husband — my wife, or my friend — is still in pretty good shape." To be in the same physical and mental condition at the end of your 70th year as you were on your 69th birthday is a triumph, isn’t it? But you don’t actually see it taking place. Fidelity to this kind of prayer takes patience and resolve. It probably shows even more faith than when we pray once for someone who suffers from a terminal illness. Aging is terminal, too, but there is nothing dramatic in slowing it down.

What a wonderful thing it would be if Christians in nursing homes could learn to pray for one another. Judith and I try to pray five minutes of soaking prayer for each other every morning. It’s very quiet, very peaceful — nothing dramatic, yet we always wish it would never end. In a way, it’s a perfect beginning and the best part of our day.

Since I haven’t read anything about this kind of prayer (so I have no book to recommend), I think we are really on to something. See what you think about this kind of prayer. Try it.

Something you can tell, though, is whether or not the aches and pains you may have been suffering lessen or even disappear. Also, the swelling that some experience from the grinding of bone upon bone may gradually lessen. When that happens you should be able to tell a difference.

Another suggestion: since making up a new prayer every day can become tiresome, you might try praying in English once a week, then praying in tongues on the other days of the week. In that way you can practice the presence of God and gently rest in God’s presence.

Let us know what happens (or, perhaps it’s what doesn’t happen). The prayer may not be all that exciting, but this discovery is in itself, I think, very exciting!

— Francis

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Mar/Apr 2006 Issue