“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
While in the Upper Room, shortly before heading to the Garden of Gethsemene and His subsequent arrest, Jesus prayed what is often referred to as the “Highly Priestly Prayer” (John 17). It is certainly the greatest prayer chronicled in the Word of God. And what do we know with certainty about this prayer? It was a prayer uttered by God the Son to God the Father. Therefore, the prayer was perfect in its theology, perfect in truth, and prayed with and from a perfect heart. It was a perfect prayer.
Among many matters about which Jesus prayed in this prayer, Jesus asked the Father that every Christian would be with Him where He is. He prayed this knowing the death He would soon die, as well as the resurrection and ascension He would not long after experience. He made this request of the Father while perfectly knowing His Father’s will. He communicated His petition to His Father knowing–and having always known–His Father would answer in the affirmative.
Jesus prayed that all of His people would come home and be with Him, forever.
When faced with affliction, especially the kind of affliction that comes with illness or other forms of physical trauma, the prayers most often prayed by professing Christians are prayers for relief, healing, and the preservation and extension of their physical lives. Most Christians pray similarly for others who find themselves thusly afflicted. Is it wrong to pray this way? Not necessarily. How can it be wrong to pray for others to be or get well? Isn’t it loving and other-minded to pray such prayers? It can be.
Although Scripture nowhere affirms the false teachings of guaranteed healing found in the counterfeit prosperity and Word of Faith movements, it may very well be the Father’s will to heal the person for whom you are praying. While God gives no guarantees of health, wealth, and prosperity, He is more than able, if He so desires, to bless His children however He sees fit.
That being understood, and in light of that for which the Son asked the Father in the garden, might our prayers in times of affliction, whether it’s our affliction or the affliction of others, run contrary to the will of God? Might our prayers for the restoration of health and well-being be seen by the Lord as a desire and preference to remain in this world instead of desire and preference for that which is better–to be absent from the body and in the presence of the Lord? I don’t know. Maybe.
So then, how should the Christian pray in times of affliction as a result of illness or injury? Is there more to be prayed than “Thy will be done, Lord?” Yes, there is.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
In times of affliction, the Christian would do well to pray the promises of God–promises like the one expressed in the above verse.
God has promised the crown of life to every genuine follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus has asked the Father to bring every follower of Christ to His side. It will happen. Nothing can separate the Christian from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). Christian, you will be in His immediate, forever presence someday.
If you find yourself in the midst of affliction, now or someday, then ask the Lord to give you the strength to persevere in the midst of the trial. He will do it. Ask Him to grant you the grace to remain steadfast, no matter how difficult your circumstances. He will do it.
Christian, you will persevere to the end (Matthew 24:13), no matter how difficult your circumstances, whether or not your present physical affliction is one that will lead to the end of your mortal life. Why? Jesus has asked the Father to bring you to Him.
Before you pray to stay, beseech the Lord to allow and enable you to faithfully endure the afflictions He has ordained for you. Pray this way knowing that the worst thing that can happen to you in this temporal life (if life merely constisted of that which is temporal) is the best thing that could every happen to you, in light of eternity.
Jesus said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am.”