Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Radiotherapy, Chemo and God


So my treatment has suddenly moved up a gear.


In addition to the hormone therapy I am receiving, I start 5 days of radiotherapy later this week, and chemotherapy next month.  Like other cancer patients, I am going to have destructive beams and chemicals pumped into my body on a regular basis.  Suddenly, it has all become very real.

The hope is that these treatments will kill enough of the cancer cells to keep everything under control. 

The other hope in my life comes from prayer.  Since my last post, I have been overwhelmed by people saying they will be praying for me, and I am acutely aware that hundreds, if not thousands of people are praying for myself and Mel, Isaac and Iona.

I have to say that I have a chequered history with prayer for healing.

In my teens and twenties, I saw some remarkable answers to prayer.  I saw people healed, physically and emotionally.  I saw heroin addicts come off drugs with little or no side effects in response to prayer, when they had tried many times before and given up, because withdrawal was unbearable. 

Yet when my wife was horrifically injured in 2003 with excruciatingly painful and life threatening injuries, I sat by her hospital bed day after day for months, praying for God to ease her pain – all to no effect.

Coming on top of questions about why God let her accident happen, this daily disappointment left my prayer life scarred for years.  I became unable to reach out to others in prayer, and only began to find my own healing last year, for the scars this left on my soul.  (See Healed to Pray for more.)    As a result of that inner healing, I have felt able to pray for others again in the way I used to.  I have not seen dramatic results, but have been aware of God moving in and through those prayers.

When it comes to praying for myself however, the block still remains.  Why would God answer prayers for me, when he wouldn’t answer my prayers for Mel?

So while I have valued all the messages of prayers from friends around the world, I have found it difficult to believe that God would answer.  My name has been added to prayer lists and candles have been lit in all kinds of Christian communities, from Pentecostal intercessory prayer groups, to Convents and Abbeys, and I am deeply grateful.  I just wish I had more faith that God would answer them.

Yet when I visited Southwark Cathedral last week, around the anniversary of my ordination there, I felt drawn to light a candle and much to my surprise, found myself simply praying “Lord, in your mercy, heal me”.

As I reflect on this, it occurs to me that I don’t know how effective my radio and chemo therapy will be, but I am still going ahead with them.  I hope they will have a beneficial outcome and extend my life, but I don’t know how much good they will do.  Similarly with prayer, I don’t know how God will answer the many prayers being offered on my behalf, but why should I be any less hopeful that they will have a positive effect?

I find myself standing alongside a man who brought his child to Jesus to heal him.  When Jesus said to him that everything is possible for one who believes, he replied, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9)

Not that prayer is predictable, of course.  It does not follow clearly defined rules.  It is not like a political petition, where the greater the number of signatures, the better the chance of being noticed.  In the end we are all subject to God’s will, both active and passive.

I am reading ‘Fear No Evil’ by David Watson at the moment.  It is his story of his struggle and death from cancer at the height of his ministry.  He had seen God heal many people at services he led, and hoped for God’s healing for himself, all to no avail.  John Wimber’s story is not dissimilar.  So even if there seems to be no discernible answer to prayer, I feel that I will be in good company (if a little overshadowed!).

All things considered, I am choosing to be hopeful.

Hopeful in the radio and chemo therapies I will soon be receiving, and hopeful in God for the prayers which are being prayed for me.  They are part and parcel of my treatment and I will embrace them both, with a mixture of belief and unbelief, faith and doubt, hope and realism.


So thank you to everyone who is praying for me, and if you have time, please continue to do just that.

10 comments:

  1. Bless you Benny, standing with you and the family

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    1. Thank you Debbie - and thank you for our chats at work.

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  2. If I have time? To pray for you? Of course I have time for that Benny.

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    1. Thank you Sophie. You do live a busy life, so I appreciate that all the more.

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  3. Benny, this is a mystery. My first wife died from cancer and here am I surviving from a double dose of it myself. The healing mercy of God is in death itself where we enter into that gate of heaven where the reality of being enfolded in the loving arms of God becomes the end of all our searching and questioning, our doubting and fear. I believe, help thou my unbelief, seems to me to be a very real prayer. The healing (wholeness) of God is shown through the healing hands of this who care for us, medically and every other way. Many prayers.

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    1. Wise words indeed. I am thankful that I find myself unafraid of death itself, as I do believe that it is the final healing. My concerns remain however for my wife and family in going through what you must have gone through after your first wife died. Prayers always welcome, as are the healing hands, (and brains & dedication) of those who care for us medically.

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  4. Reminds me of the Northumbria Evening prayer that we often said in the morning when it was all we could cling on to.
    love Sarah
    In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

    My soul waits for the Lord
    more than those
    who watch for the morning,
    more than those
    who watch for the morning.

    Call: Out of the depths I have cried to You.
    Response: O Lord, hear my voice.
    Call: With my whole heart I want to praise You.
    Response: O Lord, hear my voice.
    Call: If you, Lord, should mark iniquities:
    Response: Who could stand? who could stand?

    I will wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in His word do I hope.

    Expressions of faith
    Lord, You have always given
    bread for the coming day;
    and though I am poor,
    today I believe.

    Lord, You have always given
    strength for the coming day;
    and though I am weak,
    today I believe.

    Lord, You have always given
    peace for the coming day;
    and though of anxious heart,
    today I believe.

    Lord, You have always kept
    me safe in trials;
    and now, tried as I am,
    today I believe.

    Lord, You have always marked
    the road for the coming day;
    and though it may be hidden,
    today I believe.

    Lord, You have always lightened
    this darkness of mine;
    and though the night is here,
    today I believe.

    Lord, You have always spoken
    when time was ripe;
    and though you be silent now,
    today I believe.

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    1. Hi Sarah. Yes the words of that prayer have gone through my mind to while writing this, and all the times we prayed it at lunchtime communions around the benefice. Praying it is sometimes an act of will rather than confident faith, but God hears both.

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  5. Thank you, Benny. This is good to read. Thoughtful and so honest. And plenty to think about. Good luck with the treatment.

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    1. Hi Tiggy. Thank you for this - and for the chocolates which were wonderful. Every Blessing.

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