I can think of few things that are more personal than how a person prays about their struggles. While I would not want to tell anyone how to pray, I do want to share from my own personal experience with prayer, in the midst of chronic illness and pain.
One of the early struggles I faced after my diagnosis is how fervently to pray for healing, and then as the months and years rolled by, how long to keep praying for healing. If I gave up that prayer, then what? What do I pray now for concerning my illness? I’m interested in your own approach to these questions because, truthfully, I’ve never really talked about this in detail with anyone.
When the pain starts and the medical journey for answers begins, you usually pray and ask for prayers that the solution will be identified and the problem only temporary. The first time I heard a doctor mention ankylosing spondylitis I prayed that he was wrong. When the diagnosis was confirmed by a rheumatologist, I was shocked. How could I get my mind around dealing with a lifetime illness?
My prayers focused on how to deal with that new reality but soon turned to asking God to heal me completely. Already my problems had resulted in my first hip surgery and having to give up Taekwondo and running. I didn’t want to give up even more. The uncertainty of my future was bewildering and a reality check in human frailty.
I also understood there was no cure for ankylosing spondylitis and that asking God to take it away was literally asking for a miracle. True miracles, I believe, are rare by definition. I admit I struggled with asking God for something that I knew that others needed more. I asked him but I’m not sure my heart was always in it.
As time went by, I settled on praying for less pain and being able to deal with my illness. I entertained the idea of remission instead of full healing, but instead, my pain increased and completely new symptoms emerged. I began to ask God to help get me through whatever task I had that day and to just help me cope. Not only was the physical pain worsening but I became concerned about my mental health.
I want you to know that I do believe that God hears and responds to our prayers. I believe he does miracles when it suits him. However, my prayer life has changed a lot from those early days. I still ask God to lessen my symptoms and to help me cope but I now also pray for God to use my pain. I accepted, along the way, that full healing, at this point in my life, was not in God’s plans. I might one day return to a season of fervent prayer for healing, but for now, I hear God’s answer to Paul echoed in my own life, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
I don’t want my chronic illness to go to waste just because I didn’t get I what I most instinctively wanted. I can’t tell you how to pray about this very personal journey with God and your suffering. Your prayers have and will probably change over the course of your journey. Perhaps, the most important thing is that you just don’t stop praying.