I Never Knew How to Pray Until I Faced Cancer
Hear some timely advice for how to pray to God in a crisis.
I never knew how to pray to God until I faced cancer.
One word from the doctor changed everything.
Cancer? No, not me. It can’t be.
Fear and wanting God’s help
After friends and family offered their sympathy and went on with their lives, I was stuck with mine, more alone and frightened than I’d ever been before.
The fear would come in the dark of night and I’d think about the God I’d always known or sensed is there but that I hadn’t needed until now. But I didn’t know how to talk to God, how to pray, how to ask God for help.
Asking a friend about prayer
I had a friend I respected who I knew was religious. So I asked her, “How do I pray to God? What language does God speak?”
“Do you have a Bible?” she asked.
“Get one,” she said. “It’s in there.
“Look, there are these parts of it called books, written by different people, and then there are chapters and numbered verses.
“Find the book of Matthew in the index, go to Chapter Six, And then start reading it. God tells you how to pray.”
I felt weird buying a Bible at Barnes and Noble. But I did it. Cancer makes you do strange things.
It took me a little while to understand the books and chapters thing, but I managed to find Matthew Chapter 6 and there in verse 9 were words that caught me:
“This, then is how you should pray.”
I suppose at some time in my life I’d heard of the Lord’s Prayer, but I never understood what it was and how to find it.
The Lord’s Prayer
Matthew Chapter 6 Verses 9-15
“Our father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from the evil one.”
Will this really help me pray?
I read it. It sounded lofty and out of touch. How could this help me ask God for help against cancer? How could this bring me strength and peace? Will this really show me how to pray? I called my friend and asked her to have coffee.
“It’s in there,” she said. “Let’s take Jesus’s words piece by piece and you’ll understand.
1. “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
The first thing to say or do when you pray is to acknowledge that there is a God, that he is in a place called Heaven, and that He is someone worthy of our respect and admiration.
“You may not believe that right now,” she said. “But as you reach out to God I promise he will open your eyes and heart to understand the mystery of it all.”
2. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
“When we pray, our heart must admit to God that we know He is in charge of the universe and we’re not. That might seem obvious, but He has a plan for our world and for your life. He loves you. Do you believe that?”
I didn’t. But I let her continue.
3. “Give us today our daily bread.”
“In just six words, Jesus expressed what it’s like to be human. We have needs, many needs. But he didn’t pray ‘take care of me and fulfill all my hopes and dreams in the years ahead.’ No, he was saying that we should ask for what we need this day, and let God worry about tomorrow.”
Then came the hard part.
4. “And forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors.”
“He wasn’t just talking about money. He was talking about forgiving others for what they’ve done to us. Think about this: Who do you hate? Who are you holding a grudge against?
“A prerequisite to knowing and being able to talk to God is realizing that we’ve all done wrongs. And if we want to be forgiven by the God who has power over all the universe and over our life, we need to have a forgiving heart toward others.
“Unforgiveness, thoughts of vengeance, intolerance—these are roadblocks on the pathway to prayer that gets through to God. It’s not easy, it takes time.”
5. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
“We are all tempted to do things we know we shouldn’t. More often than not, we give in. Jesus us is telling us to ask God to help us through those moments when we want to do the wrong things.”
My mind was spinning. There was so much to take in. I just wanted help with my cancer and now all this.
“It’s too much. All this churchy stuff. I just need help,” I said.
“Look, it’s simple,” she replied.
“God is there. He loves you and has a plan for your life. As we forgive others, he forgives us. And that opens the door to communication. The roadblocks are down.
Let me offer you a prayer to get started, okay? You pray it in your heart as I pray it aloud,” she offered.
Here is the prayer she told me to pray:
Oh, God, I know you’re there. I need your help. I’m afraid and I can’t find peace. Teach me how to pray to you.
Teach me how to forgive and how to live in a way that will enable me to receive your daily bread of hope, strength and peace. Amen.
My life changed after that simple prayer. Slowly, confidence and hope began to well up inside me and I found strength to
walk my cancer journey as I learned how to pray to God.
For more help with how to pray, read Asking God for Help.
For more about how to have a relationship with God read Knowing God Personally.
For more encouragement for facing cancer, check out these Hopeful Stories.
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How to know God’s hope, strength and peace
Note: This story is not based on a real person but is a compilation of many conversations the author had with people about prayer.