Several years ago, I attended Sunday worship at a church in Kolkata, India. After the service, the pastor asked us Americans to stay a while and pray for whoever asked.
I wasn’t standing there but a minute when a teenage girl named Fulkumari walked up with a friend who spoke English (good thing — my Bengali’s gotten rusty). The first thing I noticed about Fulkumari the wet washcloth she had pressed against her eye. She wore one of those “I can’t stand this” looks on her face — whatever pain she was trying to soothe with that washcloth clearly had the best of her.
Through her friend, Fulkumari told me that she’d had an eye infection for three weeks, and that it was really painful. She asked me to pray for her. So I prayed. Right there in the middle of a crowded room, I put my hands on her shoulders and prayed that God would take away her pain.
That was it. Simple prayer. She thanked me and walked away with her friend.
Another couple walked up with their son, who was heading to university and wanted prayer for his tests and admission process. We prayed, the family thanked me, and we said our goodbyes.
The next person was … Fulkumari, again with her friend. Only this time, Fulkumari was wearing a huge smile. No washcloth, no “please knock me out” grimace on her face. I asked her how she was doing, and her friend said her pain just … went away.
A hard-core cessationist might say (would have to say) this was all a coincidence. I’d like that person to look Fulkumari in the eye and tell her that. Miracles still happen, healings still happen. But an American skeptic, even Christian skeptic, still asks, “Why don’t those healings happen here?”
My answer is, “How do you know they’re not?” We are so hard-wired to only believe what our senses and logic tell us that it’s quite likely that we reject out of hand the “small” miracles happening around us all the time as coincidence, luck or – worst of all – the result of some person’s cleverness.
Behind the question of “Why don’t those healings happen here?” is a darker question: “Where’s mine?”
Then again, maybe you’ve prayed for a healing that resulted in a loved one actually getting sicker, or dying. I know people who’ve suffered that. Just as real as the healings that do happen are the healings that don’t. I’ve had many loved ones die of cancer after people prayed for their healing. I don’t know why God didn’t say “yes” to those prayers.
What I do know is what I saw that day in Kolkata when a teenager with an eye infection asked me to pray, and I did, and her infection went away. I can only put 2 and 2 together there and conclude that the God I prayed to took away that girl’s pain. She hadn’t taken any medication – no ibuprofen, no amoxicillin, no codeine. She was what she claimed she was – healed of her pain.
The pragmatic logic there didn’t tell me to look for a “reasonable” alternative conclusion. It told me to trust the most reliable source. Isn’t that what journalists should do? Isn’t that what everyone should do?