Many years ago I had a very sore back. It would come and go every few months. First one side would hurt and, just as it was getting better, then the other side would start to hurt.

I have a very vivid memory of John Glass preaching one Sunday in Kilsyth. He asked the congregation to stand. Then he said to us, “Now we are going to have a time of prayer, but this time you are to pray for yourself!

Pray for yourself!

I don’t know if there was a deathly hush throughout the church, but I do know that there was a deathly hush in me! Pray for myself?

No, that’s not right, that’s selfish….

I started to look around me.

Him! He needs prayer! Her! She needs it too!

All these poor people – I’ll pray for them!

That’s when I heard God speak to me, more clearly than I had ever heard him speak to me before, more clearly than I have ever heard him since,

Do you not think I can heal him and her and all of them AND you? PRAY FOR YOURSELF!

I took the hint! I closed my eyes and stopped looking at the other people in the church. I started to pray for me for the first time in my life. Within minutes I started to feel better! By the end of that day my sore back had gone, and it has never troubled me again. I’ve had the odd twinge when I’ve been daft doing stuff I should not have done, but the recurring problem is now non-recurring. It is finished. My prayer for me was answered!

Praying for myself goes against the grain, though. I should not be selfish. I should never do the I, me, mine thing. It’s not right. I must think of other people first. I’m alright and, whenever I’m not alright, then there is someone worse off, so stiff upper lip is called for. I have a lot going for me, so I mustn’t ask for anything because that’s just selfish.

Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’

We all have things that go back to our childhood and which will influence us for the rest of our lives. Even when we experience something which changes it all later in life, like me being told to pray for myself, old habits die hard. I limited God that day in church when I thought I shouldn’t pray for myself. If I limit him, I’m not loving him with all my passion or all my intelligence, and I’m certainly not loving him with all my prayer if I’m not praying to him with all my needs!

I still do it. I still limit him. At the moment I’m going through something which needs prayer. I need his hand of healing. The daft thing is that until this morning I left that prayer to others to do. The lesson I learned all those years ago was a distant memory, I forgot the fact that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. This morning I changed that and started to ask. Because of that, I have started to get better.

I’ve always looked at the second part of that verse from an altruistic viewpoint.

Love others as well as you love yourself.

I have to love others. I should love others, but the “as much as” bit is a two-way thing – I have to love me too.

In fact, this bit of it actually raises the standards. If I love myself a bit, I should love others a bit, and if I love myself more, I need to love them more!

If I need healing, then I should pray, faithfully, to be healed, because then I will be well enough to help others. If I’m more unwell tomorrow, then tomorrow I shall be a shadow of my former self. But if I’m better tomorrow than I am today, then today I am a shadow of my future self!

I’ll be better tomorrow!

(Matthew 22:37-39, The Message)