Naturally I divide my cancer journey into two parts: Stage 3 and Stage 4. In Stage 3, between two minor surgeries, aggressive chemo, radiation treatment, pneumonia, running several times to the ER, daily hours upon hours of coughing...I spent a great amount of time dealing with physical things, like pain, exhaustion, side effects. However, by the grace of the Lord, I was able to spend hours of time daily studying my Bible. At the same time I was able to read almost 20 books on topics such as the holiness of God, preaching, prayer, suffering, etc. I had the chance to listen to a lot of great sermons. I also managed practicing guitar and taking my kids out to play. Thus my daily schedule was very predictable. I was able to mix the physical exertion and mental work together.
Yet a careful reader might have noticed that to this point I have not mentioned about prayer. The truth is that my prayer is often so short compared with a day, that I am embarrassed to mention it. A poor prayer life did not happen just lately, it is the epitome of my 15 years of Christian living. I always love reading my Bible, but when it comes to prayer, as JD Greear once said, “If you want to embarrass a Christian, just ask how often he prays.” This is very true of me. I often found my prayer life is just dry, boring, and short. It sounds hard to believe, coming out from a pastor’s mouth, but it is the brutal truth. It does not negate my efforts of working in the field, but the method and focus certainly is wrong. The disciples were wondering why they were not able to cast out certain demons, so they privately asked Jesus the “secret” solution. And Jesus replied to them,” This kind can come out only by prayer.” (Mark 9: 28-29). It is surprise to us how the disciples would do that, yet is it not even more unfathomable that we would use our own weapons instead of the power of the Holy Spirit to rob souls from Satan’s world?
The situation being at Stage 4 completely changed my prayer life. There are two big differences between life at Stage 3 of cancer and Stage 4. In my life with Stage 4 I have spent more time on Bible studying and meditation instead of just reading and gaining knowledge. I spend more time listening to the Bible while shooting hoops or walking. In place of reading more books, I pray.
And God again arranges the perfect time for me to achieve my goal. For some reason, Stage 4 chemo drugs often keep me awake. During these three plus months, my average sleep has not being more than 4 hours per day (including daily naps). I often can get up at two or three o'clock to study and pray. Surprisingly, even with so little sleep, when I come to study and pray I always have the energy to do it. It reminds me of Daniel, although he only ate vegetables and drank water, he looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who ate the royal food. And strangely, from the first time I really started to call on the Lord to now I have not had one instance of boring, dry prayer. The length of prayer is getting longer and longer. The frequency of prayer is increasing more and more. I have never known prayer to be so rich, joyful and sweet.
A good example is that one morning as I lay prostrate in front of the Lord (this is the first time of my life ever), He reminds of the verse I just read in Psalm 65:4 “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!” This verse tells me that only the people blessed by God have the chance to worship Him, to adore Him. Only the people God chooses to draw near can really come to His holy temple and bow down. And this is the only place our longings can be met, where we can be truly satisfied. All these can happen, yet the only reason is because His mercy has extended to us.
The inspiration changes my prayer. The very action of bowing down to pray is a blessing from God. Without God’s mercy, we would never be able to come to Him, let alone worship Him. Prayer is supposed to be a privilege not a burden, or a responsibility, or something we as Christians are supposed to do. The truth is that all godly men and women in history are first and most of all pray-ers. The more we know God, the more we experience God, and the closer we walk with God, then the deeper we like to bow in front of the living God. The deeper we bow, the more we trust have; the more we trust, the more we bow more deeply and more frequently.