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Praying through cancer

KBC President gives advice, testimony on prayer

 

Chad Fugitt was elected president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention at its annual meeting in November. As pastor of Kentucky Baptist churches for the past 21 years, he reflects on the power of prayer from the perspective of someone who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017, but is now in remission. 

How do you encourage someone who says they do not know where to start in their prayer life? 

We listen and learn from the Lord by reading his Word. We talk to him through prayer. He tells us in 1 Peter 5:10 to cast "all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." There are no burdens too great for the Lord and no burdens too small. 

What advice would you give to someone who says they don't see results from their prayers? 

I think many believers struggle with results in prayer because they are looking for the wrong results. James 4:3 says, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." So many times, believers come to God with the wrong motivation. They've already determined the outcome before they've come to God with the need. Their desires are selfish passions which are not pushing them toward godliness. Selfishness in a relationship with God will always lead to frustration. 

There is another way and a better way with God. Jesus invites us to pray by seeking Him first — Matthew 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." 

When we seek the Lord in prayer, the call of God is to abide or remain in Christ. That means sometimes our hearts will struggle with God in prayer. But God is always in that struggle because you are seeking him. C.S. Lewis once said prayer "doesn't change God, it changes me." Often the struggle to see results in our payer life is to get to a place where we desire the same results that God desires. Then we can pray with effectiveness. 1 John 5:14 says, "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us." 

What can churches do to increase the focus on prayer among their members? 

Prayer has to be a priority in the life of the pastor. I have found in every place the Lord has allowed me to serve, that the people are never going to be passionate about something that I am not passionate about in my own life. 

In preaching, preach on the power of God in prayer. In discipling, ask those whom you are investing in how you can pray for them, write it down and lift it up to the Lord. They will learn the power of prayer through this process. In counseling, be deliberate to call upon the Lord to help and guide before any words are spoken. In committee meetings, direct the team to seek God in prayer for direction. Make every aspect of your ministry prayer-driven. 

Make prayer a visible and viable ministry in the church. Ask folks in your church family to volunteer to become prayer warriors for the church. Dedicate a room for prayer during the worship services where volunteers can go and actively pray for the service. Ask Sunday School classes or small groups to set aside a prayer leader. Small groups are where people find fellowship in the local church, and they need to feel and see that there are people in those groups who love and pray for them. In outreach to the community, go door to door with the gospel, but let prayer be the starting point: "Hi, I'm from the church down the street and we're just going out into our neighborhood this evening meeting folks and asking how we can pray for them." 

In outreach to the community, go door to door with the gospel, but let prayer be the starting point: "Hi, I'm from the church down the street and we're just going out into our neighborhood this evening meeting folks and asking how we can pray for them." The focus on prayer is only increased when we make prayer part of the very fabric of who we are as the people of God. 

What are some meaningful things people have prayed about for you? 

When I was a young believer, my home church was having a dedicated time of prayer to prepare our hearts for worship the next day. I was excited, though I knew very little about how to pray or seek the Lord at that time. 

When I arrived at the church, there were eight or nine men alongside my pastor, Randy McPheron. We gathered on our knees in the sanctuary of Bethel Baptist Church in Berea, Ky. I remember us praying together, and I was one of the first to voice my prayer. The prayer I voiced was very centered on asking the Lord to "do" things in the church. 

But then, I listened to my pastor pray. Randy was continually saying "thank you" to the Lord. I know that he was calling upon the Lord with gratitude, but it was as though he was preaching to me about the necessity of gratitude in prayer. 

It was a powerful time of prayer, but it was a time that I've never forgotten because it made an indelible mark on my own soul — be thankful. 

What advice do you have for churches to better utilize their times of corporate prayer? 

The first might seem obvious — have times of corporate prayer! Lead the church to dependence on God by leading them to the throne of God together. 

At Central Baptist in Corbin, we have a prayer service on Wednesday evenings. We're very open to prayer and receiving the prayer requests of all the folks who attend. Some are very grounded believers and others are new believers or just coming to learn about the faith. We thank everyone who brings their requests. I write them down so that I pray over them through the week. Many others do the same. We have prayed together, watched the Lord answer our prayers together and rejoiced in answered prayer. 

Another element that is so special is the prayer cards we developed. We give folks an opportunity to write prayer cards to specific people that they are praying for in the life of the church. Our ministry assistants mail them to the individuals we are praying for in the church. It is a small thing — it takes less than 30 seconds, but the encouragement it creates in people's lives is overwhelming. 

How do you pray for loved ones with a life-threatening illness (i.e. cancer)? 

And … In your battle with cancer, how have the prayers of others encouraged you? 

Having walked through a life-threatening brain cancer myself, it has greatly impacted how I pray for others who are walking through a similar situation. When you come to the reality that something like this is happening in your body, you quickly come to realize that you are absolutely powerless to overcome a situation like this on your own. You see how much you need the Lord and His power every moment of every day. 

This reality moves me to pray that the individual who is sick will move toward the Lord and not away from Him. There will be many moments when you will have no one else except the Lord, so I pray that those who are dealing with sickness would be moved toward the Lord — not primarily for healing, but for the relationship that we all need to have with Him. God uses crisis in our lives to move us closer to Him. 

I also pray that God will show Himself strong in the lives of those who are ill. God shows Himself strong in our weakness. 

I also ask the Lord to show Himself strong through physical healing. When I seek the Lord in this way, I ask first that His will would be done. I know it is not always the will of God to heal a person. Sometimes, God is good to bring ultimate healing by bringing a person into His presence forever. He says in Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord." But, in my humanity, in the love I have for the person and their family, I will ask the Lord to show Himself strong by bringing physical healing to the sick person. 

I asked people to pray specifically for me in this way. I asked them to pray that God would show Himself strong by eradicating all the cancer from my brain right down to the cellular level. God showed me great mercy and grace in doing that very thing. For two years, and through many MRIs, my doctors are continually amazed to find no evidence of cancer in my brain. The only thing they see is the place where it was completely taken out of the left frontal lobe of my brain. 

I also pray for the family and loved ones of the person who is sick. I never realized how a life-threatening sickness affected the people around the one who is sick — not until I watched how it affected my wife, my kids, my family and friends, as well as my church family. 

I'm grateful for the prayers that were offered up for my wife through my crisis. She has always been strong for me and our kids — but she was never stronger than during my sickness. I know she was weak and worried during this time, but because the people of God were lifting her up to the Lord, the kids and I never saw it. She continually blessed and ministered to us in our time of need. 

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. – 1 John 5:14

 

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