Have you ever heard of this saying: “Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door”?
Prayer, learning to detach with love, and all the other knowledge and skills you are putting into practice will make the way for you to receive the precious gift of a deep and abiding faith in Jesus to care for and lead your loved one to recovery.
Such faith is an essential ingredient in our mission to minister and pray for others who are addicted. Scripture defines faith as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Let’s unpack that a bit.
Things Not Seen
You may be surprised to learn that Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was hospitalized for treatment four times and was considered by his family and friends to be a hopeless alcoholic. Yet he spent the last thirty-seven years of his life sober. According to Jeff Van Vonderen, an author and speaker who conducts interventions with addicts, it takes an average of fifty-four confrontations before a person realizes that he or she has a problem. “This means that there is hope, that people eventually come to the realization they need help. It means that one person does not carry the entire burden of helping someone realize the problem and that each individual step or effort is not wasted, even if it appears so at the time.”
It’s tempting to give up when all that we see is the same old addiction on the outside and a seemingly hopeless cycle of false starts when it comes to recovery for our loved one. But none of us can see what is happening or how God is putting our prayers to work below the surface, or at the heart level, for the person who is addicted. Recovery is an “inside job” and ultimately a spiritual battle for the soul of the individual who is addicted. That is why it is so important that we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
More on Faith
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God” (150). In other words, faith leads us to cling to the truths, words, and works of God and believe in them with our whole hearts, minds, and souls. Faith, the Catechism also explains, is a “gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him” (153).
So when we find that we are faltering in faith and belief in God’s intentions for the healing of our loved one or friend, we can call upon him for a “faith infusion,” or transfusion, if you will! We can’t force ourselves to have faith, but we can seek God’s gift of faith and know that he will honor our request. Like the man who asked Jesus to heal his dying son, we can cry out, “I do believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Many times in Scripture, after people approach Jesus for help or healing and he heals them, he tells them that their faith has saved them or made them well. One such instance stands out: the story of the four men who carried their friend on a mat because he was paralyzed and could not approach Jesus on his own (Mark 2:1-12).
As they came upon the house in which Jesus was speaking, they noticed that a large crowd had gathered around the door, which prevented them from getting close to him. Undaunted, the four friends proceeded to climb up on the roof, cut through it, and let down the mat on which their ailing friend was lying. Beyond the perseverance of these friends, Jesus “saw their faith” (Mark 2:5) and forgave the sins of the paralyzed man and then healed him. For those of us who are on this prayer journey for our loved ones who are addicted, we are those four friends.
We carry our loved ones and friends paralyzed by addiction into Jesus’ presence by our prayers as well as our sacrifices and love offerings. We can’t make an addict give up an addiction, no matter how hard we might try, but we can persist in our prayers as an act of faith.
Faith in Action
One powerful way to put our faith in action is to apply scriptural affirmations to the addiction situation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that faith “is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie” and that “to live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God” (157; 162).
Praying with Scripture and claiming scriptural promises plant the beauty of truth in the garden of weeds that has been sown through the lies of addiction. When the word of God takes root in our hearts and our lives, faith grows and love blooms. Here are a few passages that can be adapted by inserting the name(s) of those you are praying for.
The Lord is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives power to the faint,
abundant strength to the weak, [especially _________ ].
Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, _________ will soar on eagles’ wings;
_________ will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
_________ has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God . . . because the love of God has been poured out into _________’s heart through the holy Spirit. . . . God proves his love for _________ in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will _________ be saved through him from the wrath. (Romans 5:1-2, 5, 8-9)
We do not cease praying for _________ and asking that _________ may be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made _________ to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. (cf. Colossians 1:9-12)
There is life in the word of God, and when we speak it, we are offering the gift of our faith on behalf of our friends and loved ones who cannot claim it for themselves. This is a work of mercy and a powerful way to pray for them as well.
This is a selection from Praying for Those with Addictions: A Mission of Love, Mercy, and Hope, by Anne Costa (The Word Among Us Press, 2016). Available at wau.org/books
Photo credit to Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon @ https://flic.kr/p/cKtk73