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By George MacDonald
Used with the permission of Johannesen Printing & Publishing. See www.johannesen.com
IF we allow that prayer may in any case be heard for the man himself, it almost follows that it must be heard for others. It cannot well be in accordance with the spirit of Christianity, whose essential expression lies in the sacrifice of its founder, that a man should be heard only when he prays for himself. The fact that in cases of the preceding group faith was required on the part of the person healed as essential to his cure, represents no different principle from that which operates in the cases of the present group. True, in these the condition is not faith on the part of the person cured, but faith on the part of him who asks for his cure. But the possession of faith by the patient was not in the least essential, as tar as the power of Jesus was concerned, to his bodily cure, although no doubt favourable thereto; it was necessary only to that spiritual healing, that higher cure, for the sake of which chiefly the Master brought about the lower. In both cases, the requisition of faith is for the sake of those who ask-whether for themselves or for their friends, it matters not. It is a breath to blow the smoking flax into a flame-a word to draw into closer contact with himself. He cured many without such demand, as his Father is ever curing without prayer. Cure itself shall sometimes generate prayer and faith. Well, therefore, might the cure of others be sometimes granted to prayer. 

Beyond this, however, there is a great fitness in the thing. For so are men bound together, that no good can come to one but all must share in it. The children suffer for the father, the father suffers for the children, and they are also blessed together. If a spiritual good descend upon the heart of a leader of the nation, the whole people might rejoice for themselves, for they must be partakers of the unspeakable gift. To increase the faith of the father may be more for the faith of the child, healed in answer to his prayer, than anything done for the child himself. It is an enlarging of one of the many channels in which the divinest gifts flow. For those gifts chiefly, at first, flow to men through the hearts and souls of those of their fellows who are nearer the Father than they, until at length they are thus brought themselves to speak to God face to face. 

Lonely as every man in his highest moments of spiritual vision, yea in his simplest consciousness of duty, turns his face towards the one Father, his own individual maker and necessity of his life; painfully as he may then feel that the best beloved understands not as he understands, feels not as he feels; he is yet, in his most isolated adoration of the Father of his spirit, nearer every one of the beloved than when eye meets eye, heart beats responsive to heart, and the poor dumb hand seeks by varied pressure to tell the emotion within. Often then the soul, with its many organs of utterance, feels itself but a songless bird, whose broken twitter hardens into a cage around it; but even with all those organs of utterance in full play, he is yet farther from his fellow-man than when he is praying to the Father in a desert place apart. The man who prays, in proportion to the purity of his prayer, becomes a spiritual power, a nerve from the divine brain, yea, perhaps a ganglion as we call it, whence power anew goes forth upon his fellows. He is a redistributor, as it were, of the divine blessing; not in the exercise of his own will-that is the cesspool towards which all notions of priestly mediation naturally sink-but as the self-forgetting, God-loving brother of his kind, who would be in the world as Christ was in the world. When a man prays for his fellow-man, for wife or child, mother or father, sister or brother or friend, the connection between the two is so close in God, that the blessing begged may well flow to the end of the prayer. Such a one then is, in his poor, far-off way, an advocate with the Father, like his master, Jesus Christ, The Righteous. He takes his friend into the presence with him, or if not into the presence, he leaves him with but the veil between them, and they touch through the veil. 

…Two more cases remain, both related by St Mark alone. 

They brought him a man partially deaf and dumb. He led him aside from the people: he would be alone with him, that he might come the better into relation with that individuality which, until molten from within, is so hard to touch. Possibly had the man come of himself, this might have been less necessary; but I repeat there must have been in every case reason for the individual treatment in the character and condition of the patient. These were patent only to the Healer. In this case the closeness of the personal contact, as in those cases of the blind, is likewise remarkable. "He put his fingers into his ears, he spit and touched his tongue." Always in present disease, bodily contact-in defects of the senses, sometimes of a closer kind. He would generate assured faith in himself as the healer. But there is another remarkable particular here, which, as far as I can remember, would be alone in its kind but for a fuller development of it at the raising of Lazarus. "And looking up to heaven, he sighed." 

What did it mean? What first of all was it? 

That look, was it not a look up to his own Father? That sigh, was it not the unarticulated prayer to the Father of the man who stood beside him? But did he need to look up as if God was in the sky, seeing that God was in him, in his very deepest, inmost being, in fulness of presence, and receiving conscious response, such as he could not find anywhere else-not from the whole gathered universe? Why should he send a sigh, like a David's dove, to carry the thought of his heart to his Father? True, if all the words of human language had been blended into one glorious majesty of speech, and the Lord had sought therein to utter the love he bore his Father, his voice must needs have sunk into the last inarticulate resource-the poor sigh, in which evermore speech dies helplessly triumphant-appealing to the Hearer to supply the lack, saying I cannot, but thou knowest-confessing defeat, but claiming victory. But the Lord could talk to his Father evermore in the forms of which words are but the shadows, nay, infinitely more, without forms at all, in the thoughts which are the souls of the forms. Why then needs he look up and sigh?-That the man, whose faith was in the merest nascent condition, might believe that whatever cure came to him from the hand of the healer, came from the hand of God. Jesus did not care to be believed in as the doer of the deed, save the deed itself were recognized as given him of the Father. If they saw him only, and not the Father through him, there was little gained indeed. The upward look and the sigh were surely the outward expression of the infrangible link which bound both the Lord and the man to the Father of all. He would lift the man's heart up to the source of every gift. No cure would be worthy gift without that: it might be an injury...