Ghoulish figures line the aisles of the department store. One cannot ring in autumn without a solute to Halloween. Pointing to a skeleton with glowing red eyes, my 3-year-old son asks, “what is that man?” I explain the skeletal system and how God made our bodies strong and sturdy with bones to hold us up. “This is just a picture of what that looks like,” I state as a matter-of-fact. My answer suffices and my son drops the topic. I breathe a sigh of relief that he doesn’t ask the questions I dread: “why is he hung by his neck from the step ladder?” “Why are his eyes glowing?” “Why are there 500 skeletons standing in a row at the front of Home Depot?”
I am not a huge fan of death. I don’t see a reason to be. Jesus conquered death. Why celebrate it? I am also more averse to death right now because my loved ones are dying. I can’t hold it against them.
However, for a Christian, death is just a door. A one-way passageway to what is coming next. I recently sat down with one of these loved ones: a beautiful woman named Kayleen. Colon cancer ravaged her body in a fierce battle, and the battle is almost over. She did not conquer cancer, but she will conquer death. Because she has placed her faith in Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She is approaching her door of death very soon, and she is strutting toward it with confidence.
Because she knows who she is: she is a child of God. Adopted by the King of kings the moment she declared Jesus to be the Lord of her life, believing in His sacrifice on the cross to atone for her identity as a sinner. Someone talked about Jesus with Kayleen. Someone invited her into their life, their home, where Jesus is most important. Somebody shared their God-story with Kayleen, and Kayleen decided she too wanted a God story.
Kayleen is grateful for these somebodies in her life.
And she has a message for the rest of us. As I sat down over some sugar-free frappes to hear her story, her kind and pleading eyes pierced my soul as she declared, “you, Becky, need to tell people what I am telling you.” So here is what Kayleen said:
“I felt God speak to me saying, ‘The prayers of my people, asking for your healing, Kayleen, are a beautiful aroma to me; but oh, how I long to smell the aroma of the saints praying for the lost. They pray for a miracle healing from cancer with such ferocity, but have little to say to Me about their spiritually dead neighbors.’
“So you, Becky, need to share this message. And tell God’s people, if we pray for the lost, they will come. It is time to call in the zombies.”
This visual of our prayers is now imprinted in my heart. I see God breathing in the lovely scent of prayers offered on behalf of our loved ones who are diseased, depressed, derailed. “Send a miracle, Lord!” we cry. “Take away the suffering!” we plead.
And our dear Lord hears us! He always answers with a yes, no, or wait. However, at the same time is our King longing for our concern to also turn to the truly dying?
I am devastated by earthly pain affecting my family members, co-workers, and my friends. Unfortunately, I could probably count the days I have felt concern for spiritual pain for many of those same loved ones. Death is real threat for those who live in separation from their loving Creator.
Our churches call for gatherings and prayer meetings; we rise up in one voice to our good, good Father on behalf of a cancer-ridden church member. When did we last unite for the sake of the lost? I drive by scores of homes on my way to church. These homes represent hundreds of people, some who live right next door to the church building. That bi-weekly drive is rarely characterized by sorrow and desperation for the spiritual cancer in my own community.
Let me be clear: I do not believe we are doing prayer the wrong way. Search Psalms and the new Testament and see that our Savior longs for us to connect with Him at all times, even with the smallest emotions. We are safe to bring anything to Him.
However, we must also become mature in our faith. We have the opportunity to set our perspective on things above, things eternal, things that grieve the heart of Christ. When I see this life through the eyes of our eternal Creator, my priorities become clear.
I don’t want to become calloused about sickness and death of a Christian. Rather, I think Jesus is scraping off the callouses I have developed toward my community members who do not have hope in Jesus.
Even if you have any sort of a backbone in your Christian walk, this can still feel intimidating. It doesn’t have to be, Kayleen would say.
“Pray and they will come. Pray, and watch God do the work.”
She called them zombies: the walking, breathing, in-motion dead. These people, our neighbors and teachers and employees and cousins, have not accepted Jesus invitation to eternal life as a child of God. When we are grieved by this, it shows up in our prayers. It shows up in our audacious asks of our heavenly Father. And the Holy Spirit gives us courage to keep caring.
Of course, we cannot save or convince. Jesus is the professional, we are just the watchers. So in our prayers, we watch for the lost; perhaps we will see some of them get found.
Christmas trees are about to replace Halloween decorations. Department stores will soon stop advocating for the dead. But Jesus never will. May God’s people join Him this week.
It’s time to call in the zombies. Resurrection awaits!
*Update: Kayleen passed away on October 31st, 2017, forever sealing the ever-present reminders during Halloween to pray for zombies.
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This post originally appeared on Becky's former blog, Campfire Grace, in October 2017. It has been updated and republished here to reach more readers with this encouraging message.