Last week, we made the distinction between praying for healing and praying for cure. There are many occasions when cure is appropriate and desirable to pray for – namely, when looking at an otherwise healthy system that is being eroded by disease, illness and imbalance. Healing, on the other hand, is appropriate and desirable for anyone at any stage of wellness or illness. Healing is a restoration, a refurbishment, a renewal of something that is already whole but has experienced physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wear and tear.
When it comes to disabilities, many people think to pray for cure. We must acknowledge a certain logic to this, if the person praying for cure is the disabled person. There are plenty of disabling conditions which create hardship and impairment to the point of chronic pain, unhappiness and loss of livelihood. It is reasonable to think that some disabled people do desire radical change beyond a restoration to their baseline – they want renovation. It is just as reasonable for a person to ask for this kind of miracle in their prayer. We see this happening in Scripture, and we see Jesus affecting cures of many chronic and disabling conditions.
But what about autism? Should there ever be prayers to cure autism?
The simplest answer: Only if I am autistic, and I would like my autism to be permanently transformed into neurotypical wiring.
In all other cases [i.e., I am not autistic, or I would not want to be neurotypical], the answer is “no, thank you.”
HEALING, on the other hand, is nearly always reasonable to pray for, either on our own behalf or for another, autistic and non-autistic alike.
For the most part, these guidelines jibe with most people. However, there are some who will make the case that there are severely disabled people who cannot effectively communicate their desire to be prayed for. Consider, for instance, the nonverbal autistics who are unable to express their thoughts and emotions in ways most others understand. Do those people long for a cure? Is it appropriate to pray for their deliverance from that which impairs them to such an extent that they cannot even pray on their own behalf?
There is a safe response, in that we who petition Almighty God for healing and cures know that He knows best. Sometimes, when our cure will bring us closer to God, it will be granted. Other times, our disability serves a greater purpose than we can see, and cure is not given us. And so, if we errantly pray for someone’s cure, the outcome is not ours to decide.
The bigger issue is whether we should presume that person wants what we feel is best for them. Once again, we offer the simplest response: if we base our prayer on what WE FEEL is best for others, we risk offending their right to seek God’s will for themselves. If our prayer is based on what TRULY IS best for them, we cannot err.
We conclude with some concrete suggestions on the points mentioned above.
Helpful ways to pray for others:
It is better to rethink our intentions if our prayers:
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak