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Mark's story

Mark lives in Maidenhead with his wife Ruth and used to work for River as a children’s worker.

Mark Middleton

“I feel that the Lord is telling me that there are some people in this room today who are suffering from lower back pain” said the guy at the front of the meeting. I wasn’t impressed. “I feel that statistics are playing a large part in what you feel the Lord is telling you…” I thought. In a room full of 300 people, of course there were going to be people with lower back pain. This time though, my desire to see if God would really heal me outweighed my cynicism, and I walked to the front of the meeting to have this man pray for me. Since I was around thirteen/fourteen I had suffered with lower back pain, and five years later it would still lock, and leave me unable to move for moments, or spasm and leave me just as useless for a while longer.

When I reached the front of the meeting the guy asked me my name, and then sat me down on a chair with my back straight, he lifted my legs up, and let my heels rest on the palms of his hands, as he did this he was explaining to me (and the 300 other people in the room!) that lots of times, lower back pain is caused by having one leg slightly shorter than the other. I was still slightly hesitant to believe this, as I was 19, and surely I’d have realised by now! Nevertheless, he asked me to splay my feet, keeping the heels next to each other, and as I did this, my right foot pulled backward, and where my heels had been together, my right heel was now an inch or so behind the left. The guy informed us, that this was how to check if one leg was shorter than the other, and it was obvious that this was true in my case. He then told me “I’m going to pray for you, but I want you to keep your eyes open, because you will see and feel this happen.” SEE AND FEEL WHAT HAPPEN! I was officially freaked. He then asked me if I wanted to be taller or shorter, I laughed, and he repeated the question quite seriously. Still a bit weirded out, I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so I just kind of mumbled something along the lines of “Taller would be good.” and continued to sit there rather sheepishly. The guy prayed a really simple prayer, just literally asking God in matter of fact, plain English to fix my leg, and that I’d like to be taller thank-you very much. As he prayed I felt a very strange thing. My mind had worked out that the problem was probably with my hip girdle being un-aligned or something, so I expected a twisting sensation in my back. I wasn’t disappointed. But what I wasn’t expecting was a feeling in my thigh (and I can still feel the sensation as I write this, 8 years on) as if the bone was slowly stretching out. And as I watched, my right foot crept forwards until my heels were once again flush.

 It is fair to say that I was amazed, but the thought “God is INCREDIBLE!” was immediately followed by the thought “GOD?!? He had nothing to do with it, this guy just knows a trick or two when it comes to sorting out minor skeletal injuries, that’s all…” I am ashamed to say I agreed with the second thought, that is until someone else, my friend Paul, asked to be prayed for. The guy took the microphone, and said “I’m not going to pray for you young man, but Mark here will, because right now he’s thinking that it was me that fixed his leg, and not God, and God wants to prove to Mark that it was Him.”
O.K. So now this guy has 1 - Heard from God that I had a bad back. 2 - Prayed for God to heal it, and seen it happen and 3 - Read my mind. By this time I’m passing way beyond freaked out, and moving on into genuine nervousness, and on top of this I have to pray for this guy in front of 300 people to have his leg grow and make his back better…no pressure.

To cut a long story short, I prayed for Paul, a stuttering mumbling prayer that was nervously offered, hard to hear and definitely grammatically incorrect. Despite all that, God did the same for Paul’s leg as he’d done for mine, and I hadn’t moved, or shifted, or pulled his leg in anyway. I came away truly humbled, and extraordinarily grateful that God would take time out of what must be a seriously busy schedule just to stop my back from hurting.
The next day, Monday, I was at work in a telesales office and I couldn’t help but tell anyone who wanted to hear, what had happened to me the previous day. This prompted the response “I’ve got a bad back, why doesn’t God heal me”, to which I replied, “Of course he will! I can pray for you if you like!” (I have to admit, that at this point I was fully expecting them to look at me as if I had grown a third ear in the middle of my forehead, and then tell me “no it’s alright, but thanks for the offer” in that kind of patronising “only-weak-and-pathetic-people-need-to-believe-in-God” kind of a way). “Sure! It’s about lunchtime, how about now?” she said, and three other people around the office offered their damaged backs for this “God Experiment” too. I’m not sure what shade of green I must have gone, but they seemed to fully understand when I explained that I just needed to pop to the loo first.
In the toilet I was frantic, these people weren’t Christians, why would God heal them – they don’t even believe in Him! I prayed. “Uh God…I’ve kinda told these people outside that you’d heal their backs if I prayed.” Then I had a brainwave “And really it’s you that is going to look stupid if it doesn’t happen, not me, because it’s up to you to prove to them you exist right?” Isn’t it funny how we think we can bribe God, or twist his arm to get Him to tell us what we want to hear. I was fully aware that it was of course ME who was going to look like a complete plank if nothing happened. I went outside to the waiting throng of people (well…four) and with a wonderfully fake air of confidence said, “Right…who’s first”.

I learnt a lot that day. I learnt that God isn’t just interested in Christians, I learnt what “Leap of Faith” meant, I learnt to expect the unexpected when God is involved, but most importantly I learnt that God cares deeply for each and every single one of us, no matter what our past, our present, our flaws and failures, or our successes. God loves us and longs for the best for each of us, no matter what.

It turned out that two of the people I prayed for did have one leg shorter than the other, and the third just had a bad back. God healed them all. In one case the leg didn’t grow but the persons back stopped hurting, and stayed that way. The guy with the bad back and “normal” legs was prayed for and his back was healed.

This experience for me has always helped me get my priorities right. I KNOW God is real, I cannot deny it, I’ve seen and experienced too much in my 15 years as a Christian. I will more often than not get things wrong rather than right, and there are a lot of times where I’ve failed with the standards, moral and spiritual, that I’ve set myself for my life. But none of these things disqualify me from being accepted by God – in fact just the opposite. It is these things, my very human-ness that qualify me. Thank goodness for that!