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What Should I Pray For?

I have been fighting pancreatic cancer for some time now, and throughout this period of time, my church family has faithfully prayed for me. I am certain that many of them are praying for a total healing, and that I would be rid of this awful disease. This is their hope, and I really appreciate their intent. There is a part of me, though, which strongly suspects that this is not the Lord's intent for me. What makes me say this? Well, perhaps I should explain.

I have been a committed Christian since I was 19 years old. I was raised in a churchgoing family, where mom was the church organist, and dad sang tenor in the choir. I learned the rituals by heart, sang in the choir, and didn't let it affect me too much otherwise. I was a typical teenager, who got away with what I could, when I could, and lived a dual life – the visible side was that of a very straight kid, and the other side got into trouble. This increased when I left for college. I did what I did, and didn't let what I had been taught get in my way. As a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I ran into a group from Campus Crusade for Christ, and was led to give my life to Jesus, and to accept Him as my Savior.  Jesus changed my life, but many things have taken a long time.

Over the years, I have attempted may things which have not worked out as quite as expected. So very many seemingly obvious opportunities for Christian service fell through, that I have wondered just what the Lord's plan has been. My time in seminary was cut short for lack of money (that isn't supposed to happen, right?) the mission boards turned me down for the strangest reasons, and for years I have thus served the Lord as layman in whatever church I found myself. I worked as an electrical engineer, sang in the choir, acted as choir director and music leader, taught Sunday school, taught vacation bible school, and did the little things that needed to be done. I came to accept that as the Lord's final word on what His purpose for me was.

But then in September of 2004 I was diagnosed with pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and new opportunities for ministry appeared. In our community I noted that certain of the non-Christians were in wonderment at my peace in the face of what appeared to be a death sentence. I suddenly had opportunities for witness which I had never seen before. Their question as to why I was not worried about near-term death seemed to me to be pleas for me to give them what I had – the peace that only Jesus can give.

There soon opened another opportunity for ministry, that being over the internet. I started a cancer blog, in order for my friends from my local church to know what was going on, and what to pray for. Of course nothing on the internet is private, and because of the indexing of sites such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN, there were soon viewers all over the country. What had started as a local thing developed long legs. I have been very open about my cancer, the treatment, and how it related to my faith in Jesus. Now I find that I get email most every day relating to the cancer, treatment, and my faith – and these are things which would never have happened had I remained unfailingly healthy.

There is another matter, and that has to do with my own family. My own daughter (Hi Marie – I know you will find this!) has had a difficult time with her own faith, and this cancer incident and its ups and downs has changed her outlook considerably as well. Nothing we do for Jesus is done in a vacuum. There are those who see what we do and how we handle adversity. To fall apart would seem to be the normal, worldly reaction, but to have the calm assurance of Jesus' constant care gets noticed.

Let me tell the tale of a long-ago incident which brought this matter home to me. When I was in the US Navy, a very long time ago, I was in training to fly airplanes. The training was intense, and meant to wash out anyone who would break easily under pressure. We lived four men to a compartment, and in this particular compartment we had two Christians, one frat boy, and one giant of a man, a former professional football player. The drill instructors were calculating in their application of pressure, and the character of each individual soon showed. After a couple of weeks, the former football player cornered the two of us Christians, and demanded to know what was different about us, because no matter what happened, we never yelled or swore at the drill instructor. Tim and I took this as a request to tell him the Gospel, because that was what he was really asking about. The opportunity followed from the horrible situation.

So also I see opportunities here among the cancer patients, and those who care for them. There are things I can say and do today which would never be possible if I were the epitome of health. So my question for you has to be, what should we be praying for? To ask for healing is to ask for the end of this ministry. A one time healing miracle is soon forgotten, but  someone who ministers  through pain and trouble is continuously obvious for all to see.

So what I want is what Jesus wants for me. If He leads me to the mountain top, I can accept that. If He leads me through the valley again, I can accept that also, because I know it is what is best. Remember, this life is not about me, it is about Him. He gave His life for me, and in response I gave my life to Him. I want to best represent him, whatever that requires of me. So I pray for what it is He wants in my life. In the Lord's prayer, there is the line, “Thy will be done,” and that is my prayer. I hope that is your prayer for me also.

My cancer blog may be found here: http://diehlmartin.com/cancer.html

Update
Diehl Martin passed away in October 2007. If you need to contact someone, please contact Monica Martin.

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