When you need help carrying your mat

I wrote this years ago and included it in my book. And I’ve posted a version of it here before. But right now, my family is in need of prayer, so I’m sharing it again today. My dad passed away a couple weeks ago, and we’re trying to navigate these early days without him. For as long as I’ve been a contributor here, I’ve been so touched by the ways you all have rallied around each other in prayer, so I’m coming to you with the hope that some of you will take just a moment to help us carry this mat. Thank you! xo ~Kelly

**Editor Note: Kelly’s father entered heaven and lives in eternity pain free and face to face with Jesus. Please keep Kelly and her family in your prayers as they walk the road of grief. May her words remind us all that we NEED each other as we sojourn on this walk home.

Photo from LumoProject.com

Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” ~Luke 5:18-20

My dad had just been diagnosed with cancer. Stupid, stinkin’, blasted cancer. I’d lost my mom to that awful disease nearly three years earlier. Believe me, I didn’t want my dad to have to go through this. I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to either.

And that’s when my friend Sandee stepped in, just like the friends of the paralyzed man. She knew what I was struggling with and came beside me one day and prayed. In that moment, I laid down the worries I had and let her words wash over me. When she finished, she put her arm around me and squeezed, saying, “I don’t want you to have to go through this again.”

When Sandee prayed, I pictured the men carrying their helpless friend on a mat to Jesus. Feeling the urgency, they changed their plans on the spot and headed up to the roof when they couldn’t get through the crowd in  the house where Jesus was. Tearing off mud and tile, making lots of noise and a big ol’ mess: everyone surely noticed what was going on, but no one stopped them. By the time the men carefully lowered their friend down to Jesus, their muscles were straining, sweat dripping.

It didn’t matter, though, because they knew what Jesus could do for their friend. And they knew their friend couldn’t do it for himself.

I went home and read all three accounts of this story in the Bible (Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5). Nowhere does it say that the paralytic asked his friends to take him to Jesus. That’s what I’d always assumed. It makes sense to me that the one in need of healing would need to take the first steps (literally or figuratively) toward the Healer.

But in this case, I think it was his friends. They took it upon themselves to carry him: to put him where he could receive help—help that they couldn’t give him. And when they finished their mission, Jesus said to their friend, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” And then He healed the man’s body, too. As always, the soul was healed first. As always, Jesus knew just what was needed.

The paralyzed man’s friends carried him to Jesus. And Sandee carried me to Jesus in prayer.

Having friends like this can help—literally and figuratively—to carry us through.

The Bible talks about a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NIV). And 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

Sometimes being a good friend means showing up unannounced with donuts and lots of time to listen. Other times, it might mean skipping the donuts (but still listening). But the one thing we can always do—pray—matters. It’s the utmost expression of love. When we can’t fix a problem ourselves, we know Who can. And even if He doesn’t fix it the way we hope, we know that our friends are always better off simply from stepping into His presence. As are we.

So, the next time you see a friend struggling, don’t wait for her to ask for help. Lift up a corner of the mat, and carry her to God. Sure, she might be able to do it herself, but it’s also possible that her body—or faith—may be weak. Your friend may feel frightened, alone, filled with shame, or overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of the problem. Perhaps she’s lost direction, or maybe she isn’t even aware of what she truly needs.

But Jesus tells us to pray about everything, and to pray for one another. Every one of us needs prayer. All the time. In the process of praying, you’ll find that God will change you. He will soften your heart, show you how to forgive past wrongs, extend second chances, and help you to love the ones you’re praying for, whether they believe in God and prayer or not. If you believe, that’s enough. If you’re not sure, but you’re giving God the benefit of the doubt, that’s enough, too. If you don’t really think it will help, but you’re out of options, prayer is still a valid action to take. The very act of reaching out in prayer is motivated by hope—hope that God is real, hope that He will hear, hope that He can help.

And hope lightens even the heaviest hearts.

Pray with me? Precious Lord, what a privilege You’ve given us by asking us to pray. You don’t need our help, but You want us to draw near to You, whether we walk there under our own power or are carried by our friends. Give us the desire to grab hold of our friends’ mats. Give us the strength to help carry the weights that burden us. Help us reach out in this form of love every day, grabbing hold of a different mat to help carry another, until we’ve laid the whole world at Your feet. Amen.

Kelly Stanley

Kelly O’Dell Stanley is the author of Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray. A graphic designer who writes (or is it a writer who designs?), she is also a redhead who’s pretty good at controlling her temper, a believer in doing everything to excess, and a professional wrestler of doubt and faith. She blogs at kellyostanley.com and calls small-town Indiana her home.

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1 Comment

  1. Lord, Please give Kelly and her family comfort during this time. Hold them close and fill them with your peace. I pray Kelly will feel your arms around her during this time. Thank you Jesus

    Thank you Kelly for the beautiful writing.


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