By Lee Phillips
I was in my mid-fifties with a healthy lifestyle, rarely sick, no family history, a great marriage, three children, a rewarding career, and my youngest was leaving to start college. How could such a beautiful August day hold such terrible news? I had a death sentence hanging over my head. And yet I had everything to live for.
My husband, my friends, and my church decided that we were going to work this illness hard. Medically and spiritually, we would bring every weapon to bear against this. I began 12 rounds of chemotherapy at the University of Chicago. I was scared to death and getting sicker every day.
About this time God gave me Exodus 14:14 as his word for my cancer.
Moses spoke to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.
The Egyptians (the giants) you see today you will never see again.
The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.”
I was terrified.
I began chemo and I started to feel like prayer was work, a job that I was too tired to do. A wise friend said we should be asking others to carry us in prayer. So, every time I was in a group of Christian friends, I humbly asked them to lay hands on me and pray for my healing. Each Sunday night before I went to chemo on Monday, we had 6-10 people come to our house to pray. We journeyed to my husband Ken’s home church in Cleveland for prayer. On Thanksgiving, after the dishes were cleaned, everyone in the room gathered around me to pray. In my home church, I was down front every Sunday seeking prayer. I learned to be open to many types of prayer: with words and silence, friends singing over me, friends reading Scripture over me, long and short, soft and loud, with or without touch and the anointing of oil, speaking in tongues, wise words and simple requests. I am convinced that God hears all prayers and that the Holy Spirit transforms our groaning and intercedes for us as only he can.
By Christmas I had only made it through 5 of the 12 rounds of chemo. People were praying, but I was desperately sick. I could barely stand. I couldn’t think in a complete sentence. I looked like a concentration camp victim. No hair, 90 pounds. I did not feel like praying. At just this moment another friend said, “Lee you have many people praying for you. But you need to seek out people with gifts of healing and to have them pray over you. Healing is a gift God gives the church and you need the gift of healing. It’s not just the quantity of people praying. It’s the quality and giftedness of the people who pray. Quantity and quality.”
God began to orchestrate gifted healers to enter my life. That February, Nigel Mumford (an Episcopal priest and colleague of the MacNutts) came to a nearby church. My friends carried me to see him for prayer. My friend Carol, who has recognizable gifts of healing, came every Friday afternoon to anoint me with oil, put her warm hands on me and pray. In May of 2013, soon after my last chemo treatment, we travelled to Jacksonville for a 3-day Journey to Healing Prayer retreat.
People frequently ask me about my experience at Christian Healing Ministry (CHM). Usually, they’re expecting a flashy TV type of healing experience. The first thing I tell them is that there is no razzle-dazzle about this place. Aging buildings and an unassuming assembly. Yet people there listen, love, and pray. Intensely. At CHM, a remarkable group of trained volunteers have gathered to minister and grow in their giftedness. It was a luxury to have sisters and brothers in Christ spend 3 days praying just for me – giving up themselves to focus on my problem. My disease. My pain. My life.
Most of my healing should have come when I finished chemo – that’s what the doctors expect. Doctors also expect that pancreatic cancer will come back within months of finishing chemo. My story is that my blood counts slowly began to shift to normal after these prayer experiences. Pounding on the door of heaven, my tumors began to shrink. By now, you’ve guessed, 10 years later I’m doing really well. Normal blood counts, CT scans show no visible cancer, no active tumors. When I walk into the University of Chicago my dear oncologist says “How’s my miracle doing today? I love your story, I tell it everywhere, but I don’t think oncology had much to do with it.”
So, what is the spiritual responsibility of a sick person? It is to ask for prayer everywhere – at home and church, from family and friends. To seek out prayer from gifted experts. To be open to all types of prayers. To keep going. Keep pounding the doors. Remember that healing is often progressive and always mysterious.
I don’t know exactly when my healing happened. God was merciful to me. And my hunch is that my healing is the result of all these factors. I have seen a miracle. To God be the glory.
Lee Phillips is a social worker, pickle ball fanatic, and mother of three. Ken and Lee founded Alliance Clinical Associates in Wheaton. She is a graduate of Wheaton College, Fuller Seminary, and the University of Chicago.