Our very good friend Steve is getting well.
Just a few weeks ago, he was at Death’s Door. His family members from the Four Corners of the Earth had gathered to say their last goodbyes. Now he is getting ready to leave the hospital for a few weeks of physical rehabilitation, and then he will go home.
Steve’s wife, Merry, calls this “a miracle.” I know that hundreds of people have been praying for Steve. He is, as Sister Alma Rose says, a “real character” — the kind of person who, when he walks into a room, the room seems a little warmer and brighter. To know him and Merry is to love them, that’s all.
Sister Alma Rose says that prayer doesn’t change God’s mind. It’s not like God is thinking, oh, well, I was going to let him pass into the Great Beyond, but since so many people are praying fervently for him, I guess I’ll let them keep him for a while.
Prayer, says Sister Alma Rose, lifts the sick person into the Realm of Spirit, where nothing ever decays or dies. Prayer strengthens the flame of the soul-candle of the heart, which burns away the illusion of evil, whatever form it takes. Or (Sister Alma Rose uses lots of metaphors), prayer immerses the pray-er and the pray-ee in a sort of baptismal sea, where they are made new and clean.
“Doesn’t God have anything to do with it?” I ask.
“God rules in the Realm of Spirit,” says Sister Alma Rose. “God lights the soul-candle of the heart. The baptismal sea is God’s eternal grace. And the rest is one of the Mysteries.”
Sister Alma Rose says that if we knew exactly how God answers prayer, then we would be as smart as God; and, as she succinctly points out, “We ain’t.” She says, “Folks spend too much time trying to understand God, as if God were something they could put in a jar and study, like a beetle.”
She tilts her head and reflects for a minute. “Maybe,” she says at last; “maybe God ain’t a noun at all. Maybe God is more like a verb.”
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