“If you’re going to use the term miraculous, I guess it could be used here,” observed Dr. Andrew Deaner, of the remarkable recovery of Fabrice Muamba. When a consultant cardiologist makes such a comment, I sit up. He was there – on the pitch, in the ambulance and at the London Chest Hospital.
And yet should we be surprised given the input of prayer? Bolton club manager Owen Coyle said: “Everybody is praying for Fabrice, which is very important, and that has been a real source of strength to the family.”
I think we all were surprised by the response of the whole nation to this sudden on-pitch drama of Muamba’s cardiac arrest. “In God’s Hands” headlined the Daily Star, not the newspaper known for its good theological awareness.
And more, this outpouring of prayer characterised that section of the population we least associate with religious faith – young men. Like Chelsea defender Gary Cahill who pulled off his shirt after scoring to reveal “Pray 4 Muamba”, his former team-mate.
So has all this prayer worked? Even Fifa president Sepp Blatter has called Muamba’s recovery “a miracle!” So is Sepp for once right?
Sheila was a member of my congregation in Rochdale. A talented gardener, she won first prize for hanging baskets at the world famous Chelsea Flower Show. However, she was showing symptoms which caused her consultant to advise cancelling her holiday in Greece, at some personal cost to her friends.
But on the Sunday morning, as she stood for the opening hymn, she decided to give it her best – despite the terrible pain in her back. God was due no less. And as she sang the pain simply disappeared, never to return. She was totally convinced that God had healed her, there and then.
Some weeks later the consultant confirmed she was totally well. And then apologised. He told Sheila that he thought she had had cancer. He had made a mistake. “Sorry.”
Did God heal Sheila in response to her step of faith? You can never be totally sure, of course –it may be just one of those things. But a reasonable test is whether the relevant medic spontaneously registers surprise, especially if they are experienced. Like Dr Andrew Deaner – a member of Mill Hill Synagogue incidentally – who finds Muamba’s recovery amazing.
This Sunday evening 6.30 pm we have our healing service, an important opportunity for us to pray, anoint those who are sick. And over the last few weeks we have encountered some remarkable responses to our prayers for healing.
Only this Wednesday I bumped into the mother of someone we have been praying for at Christ Church. In January he was given a grim prognosis, but now he is making astonishing progress. I asked his mum whether the consultant was surprised. In fact, that was the very question she asked of her son – and yes, his doctor was surprised, amazed even.
Similarly, another person we have been praying for. In fact we even had a special prayer meeting for him. Again a grim prognosis and again remarkable, totally unexpected progress. So Jesus urges us to pray – and to keep on asking, seeking, knocking.
So do support our healing service. I expect several testimonies of those who have good reason to think that prayer in Jesus’ name has had a powerful result. And it is important that credit is given where credit is due.
For the question now is when Gary scores his next goal for Chelsea, will he pull off his shirt to reveal “Thank U, God?”