Cancer: Living, Dying, and Praying

Six hundred thousand people in these United States will die this year, of cancer. Some of them may be people I know and love. Or it could be you, or somebody dear to you.


Or me, if I become one of the 1.7 million people to receive a new diagnosis of cancer this year.


Such news always ushers in a crisis, one that disrupts schedules, relationships, finances, work, and of course, health. It brings a fresh demand for support, attention, and prayer.


You may be praying for somebody already; but if not, let me give you a name or two. These five people are in my circle of friends; they are people I know and love and cherish.


David is, professionally, a minister; but to me he has been a friend, since college days. Late last year he got his diagnosis and early this year he began his therapy—mostly chemicals and mostly it worked. Nine months later he is treating some of the residual effects of his chemotherapy. If you don’t have anybody to pray for, take David.


Or Rana. She is my sister-in-law, and she received her bad news six months ago. It was really bad news and her treatment has not helped. They have changed medicines but can not tell yet if it has helped. She is surrounded by family and friends but, like the others, she needs a few more people praying for her.


I don’t know what prayer does in situations like these. I want to think it makes a difference in the cancer, or at least with the medical personal who have to read charts, administer drugs, and decide among options. They need divine guidance, if for no other reason than to stay above the emotional fray and think clearly and speak truthfully.


Then there is Paul. He is just my age with just my vocational trajectory: educated, ordained, and active as a minister—in his case, a professor until he ran afoul of new institutional leaders. So, he switched teams and took up with the chaplains. He moved to Texas and ten years later got the word from his doctors: cancer. MD Anderson Cancer Center was right across the street and he started what has now been six years of walking from his hospital to another.


Pray for Paul. I tell you that because you would never know by looking at him that he needed prayer. He has lasted far longer than the folks said, and he spends his days now in treatment and also in a stream somewhere in these United States catching fish. He is pretty good at it.


Or remember Joseph, also a minister, one of the most influential ministers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A winsome man and minister, our paths crossed ten years ago at the launch of the Academy of Preachers. He welcomed us to Louisville at the very first National Festival of Young Preachers.


But he has been spending days and weeks and months in North Carolina. Doctors there are treating him for cancer—I don’t know what kind, and it doesn’t make any difference for those in prayer with him and for him.


Finally, there is Lauren. She is also in North Carolina, raising her son—my grandson Sam, who holds a special place in my heart.
Lauren has been through the whole regimen: diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, more chemotherapy, more surgery, and through it all, a lot of waiting. A lot of waiting. Today she is strong and hopeful but not yet out of danger. You may want to pray for her. I do.


I pray that each of these five will join that grand fraternity, now twenty million strong, of people who have gotten their cancer news and have lived to tell about it. They are cancer survivors.


I don’t know if and how prayer plays into that survivor statistic. Whether or not it does has little or no bearing on my prayer. I don’t pray because it works or is effective or leads to healing. I pray because it is all I know to do and because Jesus taught us to pray and because the gospel commands us to pray constantly.


Maybe you would like to pray also. If so, I have given you some names to give direction and substance to your prayer. If you need help with framing your prayer, I can only direct you to that famous prayer that Jesus gave us to pray, the one that ends with this appeal: deliver us from evil. It is a good prayer in many situations. Including cancer.


copyright 2019 Dwight A. Moody