My Body is not a Prayer Request - Tait Berge
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My Body is not a Prayer Request

I’m attending a new church. A few weeks into my adventure, I met a family that sat in the same row. They introduce themselves before the service starts.

“And what is your name?”

My name is Tait.

“James? Well nice to meet you, James.”

The service starts.

A lot of people are naming me James these days. James. Tait. I don’t get how Tait sounds like James. I mean, to my knowledge, a T doesn’t sound like a J or an M. I wonder if people have a name in mind and name me as if they were naming a new puppy.

After his sermon on the Holy Spirit, the pastor encouraged us to get into groups and pray for the Spirit’s direction. Oh no. You guess it. The woman came over to me with the biggest smile.

Where can I hide?

“You know, James,” she said. “I think the Lord wants…”

Don’t say it!

“…me to pray for your healing.”

She said it…

“God gave me a vision of you walking! Would you like me to pray for this, James?”

Do I have a choice?

“Lord, I pray for James, that he would walk. I know this is in his heart as well. You are the great healer, and I know you can do this. Please God, release James from this wheelchair and do this miracle in James’s life. In your holy name, amen.”

I started to pray for James myself! He sounded like he needed prayer. However, instead of physical healing, I pray for his heart. I pray that James would know Christ…that he would know Jesus as his friend and that he would know his purpose.

That’s the type of prayer I would pray for someone I had just met at church…disability or not. Jesus wants our hearts first. Healing is always in the eyes of the beholder.

I have never once asked God to take away my cerebral palsy. I have asked why I have CP, but that’s different. The Bible answers that. But healing is another matter. I wonder why I never have asked to walk or for clear speech. Perhaps I’ve always known God had a purpose for my disability. Maybe I understand my CP doesn’t mean I’m sick or broken. It is just what it is.

What is healing for me? Healing, by definition, means something is wrong and needs fixing. Disability does not necessarily mean something needs fixing. When having a cold, I need healing. When I had pain in my arms because of pinched nerves in my neck, I needed healing. But just because I can’t walk doesn’t mean I need healing.

I’ve had many people pray for my healing over the years because they assume my life must be horrible because of having to use a wheelchair. This is not how God designed me, they say, and I need to be prayed for to reverse my circumstances. Maybe it’s because I’ve sinned. If only I’d received Jesus, my life would be better.

They’re well-meaning and I’m sure they take John 14:12-14 to heart when Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

I used to get upset when people laid hands on me to pray for healing. After all, what do they expect will happen? Me—rising from my chair to walk? One time, a lady said she’d pray for me in the middle of a store. All my theology and rush to judgment came back and I wanted to scream. How dare she think my life was horrible just because I use a wheelchair.

Then I thought about it. Am I the one judging? What if when she prayed for healing, the Lord took it to mean something else? What if the answer to her prayer was healing of a relationship or some sin in my life? What if it wasn’t about my body at all?

We all have areas in our lives that need healing. What if instead of limiting our prayers to physical healing, we prayed for each other anyway, understanding God knows what we need—whether healing from sickness, a relationship, or sin. Maybe my disability was just a reminder to pray. I’m okay with this. What an honor to be a visual reminder to pray.*

I’m not expecting to walk in the new creation. Everything that I am is wrapped up in my cerebral palsy. In my twenties, for example, I used to hop out of my wheelchair and crawl on my knees to accomplish a task. I wonder what damage would I be able to do now if I still could walk on my knees combined with the knowledge I have now. I can’t wait to use my body in the new creation!

Now, what about other people? Will my friend Joni walk in the new creation? Will my sister from another Mister Robin see? Will Paralympic athlete Melissa have her leg back?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus restored Peter after he denied the Lord. John 21:20: “When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ (Meaning John.) Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’”

If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? Hard words from Jesus.If Joni walks, if Robin sees, or if Melissa gets her leg back, what business is that of mine? I must follow Jesus.

I encountered a “prayerful perpetrator” at church that morning. Prayerful perpetrators have hearts for Jesus but have no clue about the person they pray for. They know their Bibles and that Jesus heals disabled people, but they don’t understand there is a reason why some people are in wheelchairs. God knows those reasons.

Pray for those prayerful perpetrators. Pray that they will understand that their prayers might not be appropriate for that moment, but they are appreciated. My disability can make me invisible at times, and I was thankful that I was seen that morning. That was a huge step. The next step is to help people understand that it is okay for me to use a wheelchair. Without it, I might not even have been in church.


*Excerpt from my book,My name is Tait


  • Arlene DeBardelaben
    Posted at 15:20h, 29 May Reply

    Tait, your blog is a good reminder to us all to weigh our own tendency to “fix people” rather than engage others at a deeper level to “mine” their wisdom!. I’m ashamed for the times when it didn’t occur to me that the person I’m try to fix is the one God wants to use to “fix” me! Thank you Tait for helping us to see how it feels to be on the other end of our words & good intentions without inspecting the wealth God has put into the person we engage.

  • Sallie Ross
    Posted at 12:07h, 01 June Reply

    Thank you for this; I pray that MANY people read it,
    You are a gift, friend!

  • melody mettes
    Posted at 04:52h, 02 June Reply

    Thank you! I have a dear friend with MS who is similarly dismayed by the presumption of an someone unknown giving her a healing prayer.. I will share your thoughts with her.

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