On the heels of the announcement by Chistopher Hitchens that he has esophageal cancer, my immediate response was to pray. Pray for healing, pray for spiritual awakening, pray for salvation before the opportunity passes. And while that was my inclination, I was reluctant to call for others to do so, because I respect his conscience, and as he is an atheist it was quite possible he would see such a call as offensive. However, in a recent interview with Hugh Hewitt, he seemed to think otherwise:
HH: The number of people I’m sure who are praying for you, including people who come up to me and ask me to tell you that, people like Joseph Timothy Cook, how are you responding to them, given your famous atheism?
CH: Well look, I mean, I think that prayer and holy water, and things like that are all fine. They don’t do any good, but they don’t necessarily do any harm. It’s touching to be thought of in that way. It makes up for those who tell me that I’ve got my just desserts. It’s, I’m afraid to say it’s almost as well-founded an idea. I mean, I don’t, they don’t know whether prayer will work, and they don’t know whether I’ve come by this because I’m a sinner.
HH: Oh, I…has anyone actually said that to you?
CH: Yeah, oh yes.
HH: Oh, my gosh. Forgive them. Well…
CH: Well, I mean, I don’t mind. It doesn’t hurt me. But for the same reason, I wish it was more consoling. But I have to say there’s some extremely nice people, including people known to you, have said that I’m in their prayers, and I can only say that I’m touched by the thought.
So I now find it appropriate to call for such prayer, not because he is well known, or because of his atheism – but because he is a person suffering. And while science and medicine have their limits, we as Christians know we can offer that which science and medicine cannot – peace of heart and mind, with the hope of the comfort and power of Christ in others lives.
So whether you appreciate his journalistic courage and honesty, or find yourself maddened by his antagonism to the notion of God, pray for Christopher Hitchens that he finds healing and hope.