Friday, 28 October 2016

A Profound Shock, a Puzzle and Prayer for Healing. by Trevor Thorn

The Shock
Since I last posted here a month ago, our world has been upended and we are still in some degree of shock. A protracted cough with accompanying breathlessness lead to a series of scans and a diagnosis that I had Lung Cancer – treatable but not curable, said the doctor. Suddenly everything is a puzzle; everything is an anxiety. Shock abounds, made all the more baffling by the fact that I had never, ever smoked; not even an exploratory teenage puff!

However, A further investigation (bronchoschopy with biopsies) revealed that the condition is not Lung Cancer but Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. So, still a cancer necessitating chemotherapy and probably other treatment, but, we are told by the medics, and through hearing of other peoples’ experiences, that this is both treatable and curable. Treatment started within days giving a profound sense of relief, that there is hope extending beyond just a few months - or even, just weeks. What a difference!

As we have reflected on the uncertainties we still face, we have to recognize that this personal awfulness is little compared to that faced by the brutalized people of Aleppo, those desperately risking crossing the Mediterranean and literally millions of oppressed people across the globe. We are even more fortunate, in that Addenbrookes hospital, renowned for its skills and research, is only half an hour away. We are, by comparison, mightily, mightily blessed – but we are, nevertheless, inevitably anxious about what the future might hold for us.

As well as having this remarkable medical facility close by, we have been greatly comforted by the assurance of prayers of many, many friends, both here in the UK and abroad and we give grateful thanks to them all for that very special support.

The Puzzle.
We know from other people, and are now experiencing it ourselves, just how hard it is amidst such uncertainty and upheaval, to pray for ourselves – it feels as if we are simply letting our many friends shoulder that burden. I know in the past we have suggested to others that is something God entirely understands, but it still has a puzzling sense of not easily being able to ‘play our part’ in this outpouring of other peoples’ compassion and love. Even though we have over many years been involved in the ministry of healing and walked alongside others who have been suffering in a variety of ways, this aspect still feels a puzzle. However, as I lay awake one night just as the treatment started, during a somewhat ‘dark watch’, an idea occurred.

Prayer for Healing.
I would find it difficult to ‘batter’ God with pleas for a restoration to health.

But I have, since encountering it through a talk by Bishop Simon Barrington-Ward, (former Bishop of Coventry) been fascinated by the many possibilities there seem to be of using ‘The Jesus Prayer’. I have written elsewhere on my own blog (link below) of using the Prayer in its traditional way of being a preparation for prayer and of framing it as a confessional prayer. At a wholly different, and some might think, a trivial level, I have found it a great comfort at times I have not been able to sleep. It bathes that time in prayer and is immensely more helpful than counting animals jumping gates! (at least it is for me). As I moved into that cycle of petition that night, I realized the prayer could easily accommodate an extra phrase, which would readily reflect my present condition. So I tested it,

            Lord Jesus Christ,
            Son of God,
            To whom the sick cried out for help,
            Have mercy upon me, a sinner.

As with the whole of the original prayer, in praying it, we are joined with the complete nature of Christ, his deity and his love and it seems to me the extra line highlights his compassion and draws us into that particular aspect of our Saviour’s love as we repeat the prayer. The Jesus Prayer is, as observed by many, a way of moving closer towards St Paul’s otherwise difficult injunction (for many of us) to ‘pray at all times, without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5.17). So, with each repetition, I remind myself of the healing power of the Saviour and by implication call on Him to help me – and all those others who need his succour. (In the form I have written this above, the new line, in italics, is historically correct: some may prefer to frame the line in the present tense.)

So, perhaps others may find this a way of bringing their awkward feelings about self-focused personal petitions into Christ’s presence and if this proves helpful, then I will be glad.

Now we are nearing the end of the first three week treatment cycle and this has been another cause for thankfulness. I have experienced none of the horrid effects that can follow the day of infusions and I still have my hair (O vanity!). Again, how much more difficult that must be for women: for me, it will only mean I will share a hairstyle with every one of our next generation males! Maybe the next cycle will be different; the first is, apparently the easiest to assimilate for most patients. So uncertainty persists and that is part of the condition. How good will we be at handling the protracted uncertainty. The mind is an unpredictable part of us as many of us know well.

But, of one thing, we are very sure. It is good to be surrounded by Christian friends and acquaintances at a time like this – and to know that God himself walks alongside us.

And, with that in mind, we would, of course, value YOUR prayers too.

Trevor Thorn.

The Jesus Prayer blog entry referred to above can be found HERE


  1. I will most surely be praying, Trevor

  2. Thanks Aggie, Much appreciated. Trevor

  3. Sorry to hear you're not well, Trevor, but glad that God has given you some hope in the midst of this. I'll keep you in my prayers.

  4. So sorry to hear this, Trevor - but thank God it wasn't the first diagnosis! My former boss, much beloved by many, went through Hodgkin's when he was in his early 20s and leukaemia twelve years later, when I was working for him. He's still around, 65 this year, now ordained and doing fine (though the docs said they only knew of 7 cases in the UK of people having all he'd had, and the other 6 had died!). Just to amuse you, your comment about counting animals jumping over gates reminded me that I used to count rats jumping over a bowl of soup - it's a long story...

  5. Many thanks Veronica. Encouraging to hear of others that have come through. Maybe the rats and the bowl of soup could feature here sometime! It certainly sound intriguing. Did any ever fall in?