by Francis MacNutt (from the Spring 1997 issue)
So what is this new realization? It’s simply that I better start thinking about praying for the aging process. Although I’m not sick, some parts of me seem to be wearing out. I hear cracking in my neck when I turn my head, and there’s a place in my right knee that hurts when I go upstairs. I hear creaking and crackling and feel pains that I never used to have. Yet, I’m very healthy.
You can see a dramatic example of this ordinary slowing down process when you read the U.S. standard of excellence for track performance. I’ve been entering a few seniors’ track meets, so naturally, I’m interested in what I might be running or throwing (I’ve recently taken up the javelin) compared to others. It really is amazing when we compare the distances and speeds achieved at different ages. If you are a 30 year old male, it would be excellent to run 100 meters in 11 seconds, but by the time you reach 70, you can expect to drop to 15 seconds. And in the javelin, it would be excellent if you threw it 203.5 feet at 30, but at 70 you would do well to throw it less than half that, at 95 feet (and you are allowed to throw a lighter javelin after 60!).
The last chapter of Ecclesiastes (12:4-5) describes it this way:
When the voice of the bird is silenced,
and song notes are stilled,
when to go uphill is an ordeal
and a walk is something to dread;
These realistic but gloomy thoughts are not new, of course. But I’ve never read anywhere in a book on healing, anything about healing the aging process. Isn’t this amazing, considering that we all will face this question unless we die an untimely death? Do we just gracefully accept gradually falling apart? Or, are the conditions of aging something we can pray to slow down or reverse? Yes, I believe we can do something by asking God’s life and strength to fill and renew every part of us.
It’s not like the healing of disease, because aging is natural. After a joint has moved so many times, its cushioning (cartilage) wears down, and one bone grinding on another bone creates inflammation. It’s like my 1991 car with 82,000 miles on it. It’s a wonderful car, remarkable for its age, but can it continue on in the same condition until it reaches 200,000 miles? At the very least there are scratches on its finish. But, just as the car can be restored in many ways, I also believe we can pray to hold back or even restore many of the effects of the aging process. The rather worldly author of Ecclesiastes also says, “However great the number of years a man may live, let him enjoy them all, and yet remember that dark days will be many” (11:8). I believe in my own life that I can see the results of the prayers of so many friends, and especially Judith, for my hearing is excellent and I can still read without glasses.
To my shame, I remember the days when I was impatient with older people, driving their big cars so slowly, meandering down the aisles of grocery stores, taking forever to count out their change at the check-out counter. So, one improvement in my attitude is that I’m learning to be more patient with others, as well as myself.
So now we’re learning a new thing, and that’s always exciting: we can pray for new life, even as we grow older. As I said above, I don’t recall finding anything about this in all of the books on healing I’ve ever read (although somewhere, someone must have written about it). And yet it’s a question you will be asking yourself, in the future, if not now.
Another fascinating question (I don’t have the answer) is: “Would Jesus have grown old in the way we do, if he had not been killed in his 30’s?” Praying to counteract the effects of aging is so different from praying to be healed of illness from a virus or a bacteria. What we are praying for here is more like a creative miracle: “Lord, please restore the disintegrated disc,” or whatever. It’s not so much “take away” (the sickness) as it is “add” (the vitality, cushioning, etc.) and “restore” (the nerves in my ear).
Yet, there is a “taking away” we can pray for: the taking away of pain. Personally, I believe that many of the pains that afflict the elderly (and, in turn, tend to lead to sadness and melancholy) will be taken away or, at least, diminished if we ask the Lord. This is not just a theory, because we have seen pain go away so often as we pray.
Of course, we accept the fact that at some point we must die; Lazarus, resurrected from the dead by Jesus, is no longer with us. But wouldn’t it be ideal if we might simply die, in our sleep perhaps, with our mind and most of our senses intact? Is that being too idealistic? There is bound to be some slowing down; I don’t expect to throw a javelin 200 feet, it’s just that some effects of aging seem to go counter to human dignity, and I think we can pray about some of those aspects. So, I now believe that some of the effects of the aging process can be slowed down, or even turned back. And this is part of the Good News.
Bible Verses About the Aging Process
• Deut. 34:7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.
• Deut. 33:25 …your strength will equal your days.
• Ps. 92:12-15 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
• Isa. 40:30-31 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
• Isa. 46:3-4 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”