I. “Ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).
She suffered for twelve years. Day and night her body bleed. The pain never stopped. The bandages were never clean. She was, in the Jewish world, like an AID’s patient in the 90’s: unclean, embarrassing, isolated and hurt. She’d seen all the physicians. None of them helped. She’d prayed to God. Nothing changed. It’s hard to imagine the emotional weight that clung to this woman when she saw Jesus Christ passing by. He hadn’t come here for her. A crowd swarmed around him. She would be kicked and ridiculed if anyone even knew her shame.
II. If you were her, would you expose yourself?
“When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, ‘If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.’ Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.” Then Jesus stopped. Power had poured out from him. He asked, “Who touched my clothes?” Trembling, the woman fell down before him and confessed, and the Lord replied, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed” (Mark 5:25-34).
A hundred people brushed by our Lord. A hundred pressed up against him, each with their own stories, reaching out in adoration or bumping into him in ignorance. Yet, in all that chaos, this woman’s touch was different.
Why? Her touch had intent, longing, and faith.
III. What keeps us from reaching God?
We’re too distracted.
Jesus Christ promised: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). But why aren’t all our prayers answered? Why does God respond in silence? James tells us to, “ask in faith, with no doubting,” but that has always baffled me. How do I know I’m praying right? What does it even mean to pray without doubting, and is it possible?
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘doubt’ as: “A feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.” To doubt means to “feel uncertain about” or “question a truth or fact.” Everyone struggles with that. We all hear the conflicted voices in our head, urging us in a hundred directions at once. However, the biblical word for ‘doubting’ isn’t so much concerned about our thoughts or reasoning.
When James says to pray, “without doubting,” he is using the Greek word, διακρινομενοσ. More precisely, this word means, ‘internal division; double-minded; an unfocused spirit.’ To pray “without doubting” is not so much about what one thinks as it is about the state of one’s soul. A scattered and divided person cannot pray. True prayer comes from a soul oriented entirely towards God.
IV. Tiger Woods is one of the most widely acclaimed golfers in our time.
He’s ranked second for all-time career victories because of his well-rounded skills. He can be surrounded by all manner of noise, cheering, hollering, stress and pressure, but at that moment when he makes his swing, everything else vanishes. His body and mind are zeroed into the club, golf ball, and course before him. His shot goes far and straight.
We have to do the same in our spiritual life.
How often is our heart scattered in every direction through the day? God is looking for a steady heart.
V. We must live in focus.
The woman with a hemorrhage is a spiritual hero. She didn’t give into self-pity. Rather than growing bitter from her longsuffering, she became soft and humble. She wasn’t distracted by the noise and bustle of the crowd nor deterred by shame and embarrassment. She reached out to God.
Fr. Anthony Hughes, a priest in Massachusetts, describes this woman as an archetype of inner peace.
“This is a key,” he says, “to understanding the emptiness of our own spiritual lives and practice. We are too scattered, too distracted and too burdened with the cares and pleasures of life. Faith has no time and place to take root and grow in us…We can barely remember what we had for dinner last night, much less are we able to bring our full attention to bear on living authentically moment by moment in Christ.”
VI. We are too scattered.
We are, as St. James says, “like a wave of the sea…driven and tossed by the wind” (1:6). The bills, paperwork, responsibilities, doctor visits, bank account, relationships, and noise everywhere fill our hearts. There isn’t any more room to pray.
Arthur Boers, the author of Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions, comments, “I meet a lot of folks who are unhappy, stressed, depressed, eating poorly, and not getting enough exercise…People regularly make choices that are counterproductive to the happiness they want…I keep running into people who sense something awry with life. Yet we rush on, as if sleepwalkers on automatic pilot.” I suspect nearly everyone in America today can identify.
What is blocking me from reaching God? Isn’t it obvious?
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
There is only one way to find wholeness. We have to let go of it all, be still, and pray.
VII. “If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.”
The woman with a hemorrhage reminds us how to pray. Her heart was humble and focused. When you and I cultivate a heart like hers, we too will become whole.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.