Life is short, science is long; opportunity is elusive, experience is dangerous, judgment is difficult. It is not enough for the physician to do what is necessary, but the patient and attendants must do their part as well, and circumstances must be favorable. –Hippocrates, from Aphorisms, Translated from the Greek by J. Chadwick and W. N. Mann.
The idea of healing has never been completely medicalized. It is true that the surgeon’s knife can be called healing, but even surgeons will allow that whereas cutting may sometimes be necessary for healing it is never sufficient. This is because we are aware that healing involves our minds and our feeling—our spirits—as well as our bodies. –The Healing Arts, edited by R. S. Downie, p. 171.
From O. Henry’s The Last Leaf :
SUE: How is she, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Not good. Not good at all, I’m afraid. She has one chance in, let us say, ten. And that chance is for her to want to live.
SUE: Is there anything that I can do to help, Doctor?
DOCTOR: The little lady has made up her mind that she’s not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?
SUE: She… well, she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples someday.
DOCTOR: Paint? What foolishness! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking about twice? A man, for instance?
SUE: A man? No, doctor, there’s nothing of that kind.
DOCTOR: Well, I’ll do everything that I can. But when a patient gives up hope, medicine doesn’t help much. [PAUSE ] What can you do to help? Well, if you can get her to show some interest in something, even the new winter styles in coat sleeves, then I’ll promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one-in-ten.
Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health and former Director of the Human Genome Project, recently wrote:
It is still the case, nearly 40 years into the war on cancer, that most of the treatments we use represent blunt instruments. Yes, they attack the cancer cell by targeting its rapid growth, but they inflict serious collateral damage to other, normally growing cells, particularly in the bone marrow and in the gastrointestinal tract. Our cancer therapy is all too often like carpet bombing. Instead we need smart bombs. But a bomb can be smart only if you know the precise target. Until recently, we have had an inadequate understanding of what those ideal targets might be. –The Language of Life. p. 126ff.
Medical science has learned that the weapons it uses today are not the only treatments, or even the most effective treatments, that could be used. For example, medical science has found that to be successful in combating cancer, cancer must be targeted more precisely than previous tools allowed. Medical researchers are continually in the process of developing new drugs and approaches to better target specific types of cancers. However, a multitude of problems face researchers, including the multitude of types of cancers, the costly and lengthy required patient trial periods, and the uncertain FDA approval process. While we need what medical science offers, we are not limited by what it cannot offer. In addition to the benefits of medical science, we can precisely target cancer through focused prayer.
To be successful in combating cancer through prayer, we must target precisely also. In the past, we simply have not known how to target our prayers against cancer. Cancer has been an amorphous disease that resided somewhere in our body. Now, we understand most, if not all, of the genetic and biological processes that are involved in the development and sustainment of cancer in our body. If we can understand how our genetic and biological processes are causing vulnerabilities, we can pray specifically for those vulnerable processes to be strengthened.
Why do we need to pray specifically? When Jesus’ disciples realized they didn’t know how to pray, they asked Him to teach them. His response? “When you pray, pray like this…” He then shared a prayer with detailed requests to God for daily sustenance (specifically, bread), forgiveness for wrong actions, guidance to avoid temptations, and deliverance from the evil one (Matthew 6:9-13). James teaches us to confess our sins to one another that we may be healed (James 5:16). It is the specificity of confession that gives the prayer power, for a blanket confession—“I’m sorry if I did anything wrong”—contains no admission of guilt, offers no details and, as a result, provides no cleansing or healing.
The power of the Word of God is in its ability to intimately impact our lives. However, with no specificity there is little impact. We pray, making our requests known to God, in specifics, except when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for. Does God hear our requests when we pray in broad generalities? Of course he does. But his request to us? Be more specific: You have not because you ask not (James 4:2).
So we need to be very specific when praying against cancer. To do that, we need to understand not only the genetic and biological processes of cancer, but we also need to recognize cancer’s apparent “malicious intent.” Cancer cells do not want to coexist with you in your body—they want to control and consume it. The goal of cancer is not to inconvenience you: Its purpose is to steal, kill and destroy your life. Your goal should never be to “learn to live with cancer.” Cancer cells are enemies of your body’s normal, healthy processes. Your goal should be to rid your body completely of these destructive invaders.
Beyond a Physical Cure
Because it is apparent there is a malevolent “intent” behind cancer, it should be obvious that medicine alone cannot win the battle. There is a deeper dimension involved—a spiritual dimension. The battle against cancer must be won in the spiritual dimension as well as in the physical dimension. This is why medicine alone is insufficient. Yes, the battle must be fought in the physical world. But “our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 6:10, Darby translation).
So we are going to learn how to pray specifically, so that we can fight the battle in the spiritual realm as well as in the physical body. And, in fact, our prayers are going to be very focused on physical processes that are malfunctioning (or, as we shall see, “superfunctioning”), operating outside the limits, controls and boundaries God created in our bodies as a defense against these very kinds of attacks.
Is There a Builder in the House?
However, before we discuss targeted prayer, let’s discuss why we should pray. Why is prayer even a viable option against something as formidable as cancer? In his groundbreaking book, One Renegade Cell: The Quest for the Origin of Cancer. medical researcher Robert Weinberg states that the body is “a highly complex society of rather autonomous cells” (p. 2). He goes on to say that the danger from cancer lies in the fact that there is an “absence of a single overseeing master builder, which seems to put the whole enterprise at risk” (p. 2). His point is that the body’s cells appear to primarily act under their own control or under the influence of other cells, but not under any identifiable centralized control. Because of this lack of oversight and control, cells can run amok without any accountability or correction.
If the lack of oversight and control by a single “master builder” is what provides the biological environment that cancer cells need to develop and flourish, then putting our body and its biological processes in the hands of a Master Builder through prayer, and envisioning the Master Builder doing the necessary “repair work,” can provide a remarkably different scenario. The confession of the Psalmist “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) acknowledges the Master Builder’s central role in our biological makeup.
And, as we will see, if the independent renegade activities of our cells are hallmarks of cancer development, then the dependent, obedient activities of our cells are hallmarks of bodily health. Just as rebellion in the spiritual realm leads to death and destruction, so also does rebellion in our physical body processes. And just as obedience and submission lead to spiritual wholeness and wellness, so also does yieldedness in our physical body processes. Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24) and “…a house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:25b). This “rebellion” is the essence of cancer development. The targets of our prayers will vary; the purpose of our prayers will not: we are praying for our body and all its cells and processes to come into obedience to the Master Builder (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The Commander’s Intent
An example of an environment where there is a “master” whose will is to be obeyed by potentially rebellious subordinates is the military. Each soldier is “rather autonomous” and is free to make his/her own choices. However, unless each soldier follows orders, chaos and destruction can—and will—result. So how does the military maintain order in the face of attack? First, they train the soldiers to do their assigned tasks no matter what. Second, they clearly communicate the commander’s intent to the soldiers. What is the “commander’s intent”? Here’s how the United States Army puts it:
The commander’s intent describes the desired end state. It is a concise statement of the purpose of the operation and must be understood two echelons below the issuing commander…It is the single unifying focus [italics mine] for all subordinate elements…Its purpose is to focus subordinates on the desired end state.” (Source: FM 100-5 Operations. Department of the Army, 1993)
Misunderstanding the commander’s intent can lead to problems
at all levels. At the staff level, if the staff as a whole or a particular staff section misunderstands the intent, they can waste an inordinate amount of time in developing courses of action that do not conform with how the commander visualizes the battle and how he sees his unit positioned to conduct future operations. At the subordinate commander level, misunderstanding of intent may lead to a subordinate unit plan that fails to achieve the superior commander’s goals for that operation. (Source: Evolution of Commander’s Intent in the US Military. Dr. Newton Howard, http://www.c4ads.org/sites/default/files/Intent_USMilitary_v4.PDF )
So what is the “commander’s intent” for our body?
The commander’s intent for our body is that health and well-being pervade our being, both physically and spiritually. Our commander’s intent is written in 3 John 2 “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along.” Physical health and spiritual well-being go hand in hand. If we misunderstand the commander’s intent, we can end up wasting time and resources that delay or even thwart the fulfillment of the commander’s intent for our well-being.
Where to Focus?
Robert Weinberg describes how cancer develops in our body. In One Renegade Cell. he identifies the significant activities, or hallmarks, that must occur in our biological and genetic processes for cancer to exist. If these hallmarks are the processes that allow cancer to exist, then these hallmarks are the very processes where cancer development and sustainment can be stopped. If there are specific processes where focusing our prayer efforts can make the greatest impact, the hallmarks of cancer are the precise targets. Here are the processes where cancer, like water relentlessly seeking a path, continuously attacks our body until it finds its way through by overcoming and overpowering our body’s defenses.
It is here that we need to focus our prayers: that the defenses God has built into our body to protect us from destruction will be strengthened to do their work. Like Moses’ hands (Exodus 17:12), our body’s defenses need to be lifted up so they can prevail against the onslaught of the enemy.
Can—or maybe better, does—the enemy attack us at the microbiological level? Ralph Winter has made the following observations: “I used to be aware that we have a major enemy in this world, Satan, but I was unaware of the extent of his infiltration of God’s creation. In my earlier years I never stopped to think just exactly how God might be involved in the continuous creation of life, how His angels, at His bidding, might be constantly working at the DNA level to make modifications even as Satan’s dark angels were constantly working cleverly and ‘diabolically’ to tear down the marvelous beauty of God’s design” (http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/editorial-comment57 ) We have a diabolical enemy who comes to “steal, kill and destroy” us (John 10:10a), even by attacking us through our own DNA. We had better be both aware and armed to do battle. We have the promise of a savior who will fight with us and for us who came that we “might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b).
The Weapons of Our Warfare
- Worshipful Prayer
- Persevering Prayer
- Envisioning Prayer
- Praying the Word
The Hallmarks of Cancer
Illustrated in Figure 1 are the seven hallmarks of cancer, six identified by Weinberg and Hanahan, and the seventh, Inflammatory Microenvironment, later identified by Alberto Montovani. While no hallmark is sufficient on its own to allow the production of cancer cells, a variety of sequences of the hallmarks’ processes is sufficient. However, our concern is not with the sequence of the processes. Rather, our concern is simple: we use the tools God has given us to put a stop to the malfunctioning of each of these processes in our body.
We will discuss each hallmark in detail so that you will understand 1) its proper functioning, 2) how its process is hijacked in cancer-making, 3) how medical science approaches a solution, and 4) what spiritual view we can take to restore our cells’ proper functioning. What Weinberg and Hanahan call hallmarks are, in reality, strongholds. These are the processes that allow cancer to begin and continue to grow in our body. These strongholds need to be overcome, or pulled down. The Bible says that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4, KJV). We need to understand both the strongholds and the weapons of our warfare so that the strongholds can be pulled down and our cells can return to their normal functioning.
We also need to understand how a spiritual view differs from the medical approach to overcome each stronghold, or hallmark. The approaches are different, but not oppositional. This means that the medical approach and the spiritual view to overcome each stronghold can complement each other. God has provided medical means as well as spiritual means as resources for us to become “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). We will first look at the medical approach to overcome each stronghold, or hallmark; then we will look at the spiritual view to overcome each stronghold.
In Figure 1 below, the outer circle shows the Seven Hallmarks of Cancer. The inner circle shows the actions that a medical approach seeks to provide in order to overcome each stronghold.
The Seven Hallmarks of Cancer, The Medical Approaches and The Spiritual Views
Hallmark 1: Self-Sufficiency in Growth Signals
The Problem Picture: The Accelerator is Stuck
The symbol of this hallmark is a bent arrow, indicating that a signal that was sent out was diverted. This hallmark is the “accelerator pedal” process. Cells are normally quiescent until they receive signals from outside themselves to replicate. Normal cells don’t initiate their own growth. However, with this hallmark, no outside signal is required to begin the growth cycle. The cell becomes self-sufficient, providing itself with its own growth signals. Even though all the signals to the cell signal “no growth,” the cell continues to divide. The accelerator is stuck to the floor. The cell continues to multiply because it no longer needs an external stimulus to signal growth.
The Medical Approach: Release the Accelerator
The Spiritual View: See How Much God Loves You
This target for prayer is to reorient the renegade cells to come under the lordship of Jesus. Our prayer focus is for cells to become obedient to Christ and follow only His direction for growth. The spiritual view does not deal with the mechanics of “unsticking” the accelerator; the spiritual view confronts the rebellious nature of the cells and sees them lining up in orderly obedience to Jesus. We see both the healing hand of Jesus and the stern command of Jesus enforcing the commander’s intent for the body created in His image.
God Revealed as: Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord is My Righteousness)
Biblical Paradigm: The Temptation, Fall, and Redemption
Scripture: Genesis 3:1-24; Matthew 1:21; Romans 5:17
Hallmark 2: Insensitivity to Growth Inhibitors
The Problem Picture: The Brakes Don’t Work
The symbol of this hallmark is a stop sign, with the circle-backslash symbol over it, indicating its intent has been canceled. The normal biological process of cell replication has two “pedals”: an accelerator and a brake. The brake pedal signifies the process that puts a stop to out-of-control cell replication. When the accelerator appears to be “stuck,” the braking process is initiated to stop the growth. However, what happens is that the brakes fail, and the growth process continues along uninhibited. If the braking process—growth inhibitors—works, then cancer cells cannot form.
The Medical Approach: Repair the Brakes
The Spiritual View: See God’s Protection
The second target of our prayer is for the success of the braking process in our body. Our prayer is that when cells begin to multiply, the growth inhibitor processes in our body function properly. We need to pray for the brakes to operate normally and put a halt to out of control growth.
God Revealed as: Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is My Peace)
Biblical Paradigm: Daniel in the Lions’ Den
Scripture: Daniel 6:1-27
Hallmark 3: Inflammatory Microenvironment
The Problem Picture: Elevated Tissue Temperatures
The Medical Approach: Reduce the Heat
The Spiritual View: See the Heat Held Harmless
God Revealed as: Jehovah Mephalti (The Lord is My Deliverer)
Biblical Paradigm: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Scripture: Daniel 3:13-29
Hallmark 4: Tissue Invasion and Metastasis
The Problem Picture: Cells Migrate across Boundaries
The Medical Approach: Remove the Tumor and Tissue
The Spiritual View: See a Standard Raised
God Revealed as: Jehovah Nissi (The Lord is My Banner)
Biblical Paradigm: Moses with Aaron and Hur
Scripture: Exodus 17:8-16
Hallmark 5: Evasion of Apoptosis
The Problem Picture: Invaded Cells Won’t Self-Destruct
The Medical Approach: Re-establish Cell Self-Sacrifice
The Spiritual View: See the Demise of the Ungodly
God Revealed as: Jehovah Makkeh (The Lord Who Smites)
Biblical Paradigm: Noah and the Flood
Scripture: Genesis 6:5, 7-8, 11-13; 7:21-23; 8:15-17; 9:1-2
Hallmark 6: Sustained Angiogenesis
The Problem Picture: New Blood Supply Keeps Coming
The Medical Approach: Retard the Blood Supply
The Spiritual View: See Strongholds Fall
God Revealed as: Jehovah Jireh (The Lord is My Provider)
Biblical Paradigm: Joshua and Jericho
Scripture: Joshua 6:1-27
Hallmark 7: Limitless Replicative Potential
The Problem Picture: Cells Multiply Endlessly
The Medical Approach: Reinstate Reproductive Limits
The Spiritual View: See the Enemy Turned On Itself
God Revealed as: Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord is My Protector)
Biblical Paradigm: Jehoshaphat
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30