My mother’s best friend and prayer partner, Ruth, battled breast cancer for years. When the cancer invaded her bones, Ruth’s army of prayer warriors beseeched God to slay the dreaded disease. For many years God miraculously subdued Ruth’s cancer and pain as she continued to write, teach, counsel, and minister for His glory.
My prayers for Ruth were admittedly often fear-based rather than faith based. I could not imagine such a strong woman of God being overpowered and her ministry silenced by this horrendous cancer. As when my mother was on hospice, I frequently hesitated to pray for healing, for fear that God would answer with His ultimate healing. Our loved ones are welcomed into heaven and live eternally pain-free, but those of us left behind have to cope without them. (No, God, that’s not what I meant! I wanted you to heal her here and now – for us.) My selfish desire for them to be healthy here on earth does not always match up with God’s plan for them, and I am left to grieve the difference.
When I asked God how to pray for Ruth, He gave me a prayer mnemonic that I now use for anyone facing the end of their earthly life. These are the four Rs for Ruth:
1. Relief of pain
May God grant wisdom to everyone involved in decision-making as the focus shifts from medical cure to palliative care. May the pain be miraculously eased by God’s power and provision throughout the remaining hours/days/months of life.
2. Rest and sleep
In the midst of pain and illness, may God give sweet sleep and rest.
3. Relationship with spouse/family
In the time warp of illness and pain, may God shower this couple/family with precious intimacy as their earthly time together draws to a close.
May God orchestrate time schedules, travel arrangements, and interactions as family and friends come to say goodbye. May God’s peace and emotional healing provide closure to relationships.
Lord, teach us to pray, even when our loved one’s ultimate healing leaves us grieving.
[Originally posted March 2015]