In Luke 17:11-19 Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he stopped at a village where he met ten men suffering from leprosy. Standing afar off from Jesus they cried out to him saying “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
Lepers were shunned by society, put out of the city and away from direct contact with others. In fact, they were to yell out to passersby, “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn them of the possibility of physical and ritual contagion (Lev. 13-14). So not only were lepers ostracized from their community and family but they were also often forced into poverty. The sores that covered their bodies were seeping boils that were incredibly painful and would be in constant threat of becoming infected over time if not properly cared for.
We can only begin to imagine the pain, both physical and emotional, and the ridicule these men endured on behalf of their skin disease. So when they saw Jesus of Nazareth, having known the great miracles he was capable of performing, they cried out to him in desperation. Jesus sent them to the priests and they were cleansed.
The miracle itself was astounding and teaches us many things about Jesus, but there is another lesson in the reaction of the cleansed lepers. “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Lk. 17:15-18)
Only one man took the time to come back to thank Jesus! Are we like the nine or the one Samaritan who remembered his Savior?
In the midst of our agony we cry out to Him to makes things right. Sometimes He waits a little while to answer our prayers. But when the time comes that He, in His mysterious and perfect way, has answered our prayers, we often fail to return to Him in gratitude. We go on our merry way continuing to ask for this or that treating Him like our very own cosmic vending machine.
Paul teaches us how we ought to pray if we desire to be at peace spiritually. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:5-6)
Praying with thanksgiving takes a lot more effort than a simple prayer of supplication. Our problems are always on our mind, ever present and easily recalled. And God is eager to hear about our problems and answer those requests (1 Pet. 5:7). But digging through the past and recognizing God’s gracious providence and abundant provision in His answers to previous prayers takes more mental muscle.
Let us resolve to live like the one Samaritan leper who, when he discovered Christ had made him well, turned back to Him praising God and giving thanks.