Healing Line

Healing Line

Q & A Forum

by Francis MacNutt
Summer 1998

Q: Over a year ago, you wrote an article on aging. Could you share more about your thoughts on this subject?

A: Since I am personally going through the process myself, I cannot avoid struggling with the whole issue. First, aging isn't a sickness; you simply start to the wear out. The joints begin to wear thin after thousands of miles of use in a lifetime. You may develop osteoarthritis, the most common kind of arthritis. (Rheumatoid arthritis, the second most common variety, is a disease of the immune system.) And yet, these effects of aging act like disease, causing pain and impairment of function. • So when praying about aging, we should ask God: 1) to slow the aging process, or 2) to reverse the process by creating or supplying whatever is wearing out or no longer being produced by our bodies. Why not pray for a strengthening of our memories, a return of our sight, a restoration of hearing and anything else that might be weakening?

I find, however, that just when we need these prayers most, we tend not to ask for prayer. We feel our falling apart is inevitable, so why bother people to pray against a gradual, natural process that seems to be normal? Moreover, these aches and pains and impairments of motion don't usually change (except to grow worse}, so it's very boring to repeat to your friends the same old thing, day after day. Out of kindness and consideration we do not want to bore people with the same old complaints. "My lower back still hurts," we may say , while mentally adding, "as it has for the past 10 years!" So we shut up, grin and bear it.

But I'm coming to believe that we really should pray about these things, just as we do for sickness. From time to time, we all need prayer! In fact, I think in the ideal order, it would be wonderful to receive 10 minutes a day of soaking prayer from our spouse or prayer partner. Besides, it's the slowing of those life forces that also leads to more sickness as people grow older. The immune system slows down and may not be able to fight off disease as strongly as it did in younger days, so we may grow more sickly when we least feel like bearing up under it.

Now, having said all these dismal things, I believe we should pray against them — for life. I think we want to become younger in spirit as the years go by — more full of wonder and joy, more compassionate and loving, seeing more deeply into the beauty and awe of God's creation. We see that in some people, don't we? As their bodies age, their eyes burn yet more strongly with radiance, innocence and love.

We all know there comes a time to die. Even Lazarus and the daughter of new Jairus, raised to life by Jesus, are no longer with us.  For us death is an entrance to a new life. But here, too, we can pray. Wouldn't it be marvelous if, instead of fading out of this life, crippled by pain and sedated into unconsciousness, we left this "mortal world" with our minds alert and our bodies in comparatively good health? Perhaps our Christian ideal should be that we quietly die when our hearts stop beating.

Many believe the saints are forewarned by God as to when they are to die. Something like this did seem to happen to our dear friend and mentor, Agnes Sanford. When she reached her 80s, she felt she had completed the tasks God had given her. She was quietly living in Monrovia, Calif., just outside of Los Angeles, in a house she had purchased on the San Andreas Fault, so that she might pray directly to stop the earthquakes that threaten to devastate the California coast. Yet in her pioneering spirit, she had booked a glider flight, a dream she had always had.

One morning her companion and secretary, Edith Drury, came into her room, and Agnes said, "Edith, I am going to be taking the Big Glide." Edith caught her drift immediately and replied, "Agnes, that's wonderful; you'll soon be with the Lord!" To which Agnes retorted, "I wish you wouldn't act so happy about my going. You're supposed to be sad and say you're going to miss me!" A few mornings later Edith walked into Agnes' room to find that she had quietly passed away in her sleep.

Agnes knew she was going to die; she was ready and fully alert in her last days. That sounds like an ideal way for a Christian to die! (Unless, of course, you're martyred!)

As we live in our older days and approach the day we will come face to face with our Father, let us become filled anew with Jesus' life to counter that slow march toward physical death.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Fall 1998 Issue