Fortune Cookies, Bananas and Prayer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kelley Underwood   
Tuesday, 05 June 2007

mt_ignoreThe following was written as a prayer journal entry for the West Chester Church of the Nazarene.

 This evening Trudy and I went to eat dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Way too much food and just enough good conversation later I was treated to my fortune cookie. “Pursue your wishes aggressively” it said, along with providing brilliant instructions on how to pronounce banana in Chinese. This latter skill will no doubt be helpful someday when I’m desperate for a banana at the buffet.

“Pursue your wishes aggressively”. Wow! Now I don’t put much stock, actually any stock, in fortune cookies, but this one seems to line up perfectly with some of the scriptures that have most comforted me recently.


  • In John 5:8 Jesus heals an invalid of 38 years at the pool called Bethesda and tells him to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (NIV).
  • In Luke 5:19, after a group of friends fail to fight their way through a throng seeking healing in and around a crowed home, they finally climb to the roof of the home to lower their paralyzed friend to the feet of Jesus. This man’s efforts resulted in Jesus’ words, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” and in verse24, “…get up, take your mat and go home”(NIV).
  • In Matthew 9:22, a woman who has suffered a disorder of the blood for 12 years struggles to touch the cloak of Jesus and is told by Him, “your faith has healed you.” (NIV)

Surely these three pursued their wishes aggressively though perhaps, differently. One stayed in physically imposed isolation near a desirable source of healing, another in isolation because her blood disorder probably made her ceremonially unclean. The third was assisted in his pursuit by caring friends. I think it’s undeniable; these folks put action with their faith in an aggressive pursuit of their greatest desires. Each was met by Jesus and their greatest desires were met.

I think I’ve always aggressively pursued my desires with faith, but if these three from the Bible were anything like me, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, their greatest desires did a complete about face. For me, this happened when a spinal stroke took this fat, dumb and happy man, and over a period of 12 hours, turned me into a paraplegic, still trying to be at least dumb and happy.  At 9:00 a.m. I was just living my dreams with a wonderful family, a nice home and a good job, comfortable with my physical and spiritual lot in life. At 1:00 a.m. the next morning all of my focus was changed. I began asking questions in my mind, many of which I’ve not uttered aloud to this day, except to the very source of my faith, Jesus Christ.

I cannot explain the ways of God. I do not know why some people seem to receive miraculous and nearly instantaneous healing and others do not, the latter suffering, perhaps for the rest of their lives. I’ve learned that the suffering may not be limited to just the “victim” but it spills over to everyone in their life and often has an even greater impact on those closest and most important to them.

I’ve learned that these physical tragedies are indiscriminate in their attacks, falling evenly on the Godly and un-Godly, picking their victim not at the compelling will of God but allowed by God in the fallen world we’ve inherited. This is a world where we live with physical laws and limitations crafted by the very hand of the almighty. Naturally we are subject to these limitations in sickness and health.

Just as a cut does not heal instantaneously I think we most often must maintain our faith while healing occurs at the pace our God-created world allows. We can rejoice when we see any healing because we can be confident it is occurring as a result of God’s natural order. Yet, when we do not see healing, we need to know that our physical life is but the tip of the iceberg in our existence and that the condition and nurturing of our relationship with Jesus Christ is the stick by which we’ll all be measured eventually.
It cannot be argued that the ill people from our Bible verses above persevered, one for 38 years and another for 12 years.  They aggressively pursued the desires of their hearts until they were met at the feet of Jesus. We can do no less. I think this is achieved in three ways.

First, we must do what we can in our physical world to overcome adversity. This may mean many things depending on the nature of the dilemma we are facing. For me it means diligently working with physical therapies struggling to improve the strength of my legs and doing this for as long as it takes.

Secondly it means realizing our total dependence on God for His gift of grace, a gift we can never earn or deserve, petitioning God with requests for our spiritual welfare, or is that warfare. 

Third, we must shower Him with praises for the achievements He has allowed within this physical world. Additionally it means, for me, petitioning God for the physical and mental welfare of those whom I depend on for every element of my life, and finally for my continued healing and strength.

For some time I felt that perhaps God did not want to be bothered with my needs, often limiting my prayers for selfish healing to a quick sentence or two. I believed that God knew my needs and that I was demonstrating spiritual weakness by repeating my prayers. Then during a study of Luke 11, these verses grabbed hold of me:

8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Luke 11:5-13 (NIV)

I began to think perhaps I was demonstrating spiritual laziness by not boldly and aggressively pursuing the desires of my heart by asking, seeking and knocking with perseverance on the door of God’s healing.  Each of the three goals above depends on asking, seeking and knocking and working with God’s grace and strength to maintain spiritual integrity and improve physical strength.

It seems to me that my fortune cookie encapsulated a spiritual truth that has become very important in my life. Perhaps these thoughts can be applied to the struggles you face in your life no matter what kind of difficulty you face. Unfortunately, I’ve already forgotten how to pronounce banana in Chinese, but thankfully, I’ve learned that you do not necessarily need legs to walk with God.

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