Cancer. Heart disease. Covid-19. Mental illness. Repeated hospital stays. Day after day, prayer after prayer, asking God for healing. But too often there is no healing, and it is death that comes. Why didn’t God answer these prayers?
“God knows the end from the beginning. He is acquainted with the hearts of all men. He reads every secret of the soul. He knows whether those for whom prayer is offered would or would not be able to endure the trials that would come upon them should they live. He knows whether their lives would be a blessing or a curse to themselves and to the world. This is one reason why, while presenting our petitions with earnestness, we should say, ‘Nevertheless not my will, but Thine, be done.’ Luke 22:42. …
“The consistent course is to commit our desires to our all-wise heavenly Father, and then, in perfect confidence, trust all to Him. We know that God hears us if we ask according to His will. But to press our petitions without a submissive spirit is not right; our prayers must take the form, not of command, but of intercession.
“There are cases where God works decidedly by His divine power in the restoration of health. But not all the sick are healed. Many are laid away to sleep in Jesus.” The Ministry of Healing, 230
My mother told me an old story of a son and his father. The boy was a Christian who loved the Lord. One day he became very ill; in fact, he was dying. The father prayed and pleaded with God to spare the life of his son. He went so far as to demand that God restore his son to good health. God answered the father’s prayer, and the son was healed. Sadly, as he grew into young manhood, he chose a course that took him away from God. He went so far away that he committed terrible crimes and ultimately spent the rest of his life in prison, unrepentant. Imagine how that father felt. If the son had died as a young, Christian boy, he might have been saved, but because of the father’s plea that God heal the boy, he lived, but was lost.
There are prayers that the Bible says are an abomination to God because the answer is directly related to the relationship that a person has, or does not have, with God. It is a fearful thing to come to God asking for His blessing and healing when our hearts are unwilling to obey His law (Conflict and Courage, 159). “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” Proverbs 28:9
“We must become intelligent as to the conditions upon which God will hear and answer prayer. There are many useless, meaningless words employed in prayer, but these heartless petitions are not acceptable, and cannot prevail with God. If the soul is stained with impurity, if iniquity is cherished in the heart, the offering of prayer is an abomination to God.” The Signs of the Times, December 16, 1889
“While some who profess to know God remain in their present state, their prayers are an abomination in His sight. They do not sustain their faith by their works, and it would have been better for some never to have professed the truth than to have dishonored their profession as they have done. While they profess to be servants of Christ, they are servants of the enemy of righteousness; and their works testify of them that they are not acquainted with God, and that their hearts are not in obedience to the will of Christ. They make child’s play of religion; they act like pettish children. They serve God at will and let it alone at pleasure.” Ibid., August 11, 1887
But why doesn’t God answer my prayer? I have committed my life to Him. I study my Bible and pray every day. I seek to do His will. I have asked, but it seems that He does not hear.
It is with love and mercy that God answers our prayers. He may answer with a firm yes or no. The answer may be to wait. He may not answer in the way we have asked or feel He should or maybe even have demanded, but God never ignores the prayer of a faithful penitent; an answer will always come.
“The prayer of faith is never lost; but to claim that it will be always answered in the very way and for the particular thing we have expected is presumption.” Testimonies, Vol. 1, 231
“At all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all afflictions, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone, the Comforter will be sent in answer to the prayer of faith.” The Desire of Ages, 669, 670
“We all desire immediate and direct answers to our prayers, and are tempted to become discouraged when the answer is delayed or comes in an unlooked-for form. But God is too wise and good to answer our prayers always at just the time and in just the manner we desire. He will do more and better for us than to accomplish all our wishes.” The Ministry of Healing, 230, 231
“That prayer which comes forth from an earnest, believing heart is the effectual, fervent prayer that availeth much. God does not always answer our prayers as we expect, for we may not ask what would be for our highest good; but in His infinite love and wisdom He will give us those things which we most need.” Gospel Workers (1892), 32
“Make your requests known to your Maker. Never is one repulsed who comes to Him with a contrite heart. Not one sincere prayer is lost. … God hears the cries of the weakest human being. We pour out our heart’s desire in our closets, we breathe a prayer as we walk by the way, and our words reach the throne of the Monarch of the universe. They may be inaudible to any human ear, but they cannot die away into silence … Nothing can drown the soul’s desire. … It is God to whom we are speaking, and our prayer is heard.” In Heavenly Places, 82
“We have a God whose ear is not closed to our petitions; and if we prove His word, He will honor our faith. … God does not always answer our prayers the first time we call upon Him; for should He do this, we might take it for granted that we had a right to all the blessings and favors He bestowed upon us.” Our Father Cares, 100
We have a responsibility to do those things that God instructs us to do. How can we pray for and expect to be in good health if we are violating the laws of health, to be safe when we deliberately put ourselves in danger, to have strength against yielding when we place ourselves in the path of temptation?
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.” Proverbs 3:6–8
“But [from] those who have no sense of the goodness and mercy of God, [those] who refuse His merciful warnings, who reject His counsels to reach the highest standard of Bible requirements, who do despite to the Spirit of grace, the Lord would remove His protecting power.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 14, 2, 3
“Sickness is caused by violating the laws of health.” Healthful Living, 60
“Disease never comes without a cause. The way is prepared, and disease invited, by disregard of the laws of health.” The Ministry of Healing, 234
I am frequently reminded of my favorite Spirit of Prophecy quotation found in the chapter titled, “The Privilege of Prayer” in Steps to Christ, 100:
“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. ‘The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.’ James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. ‘He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.’ Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.”
With references like that, there is no reason we should doubt God’s responses to our prayers. He longs to give us the best things. It is not His will that people are sick and lonely, desperate and dying, but these are the things that human beings face in this world of sin.
The day my husband died, I begged God to bring him back. I did everything I knew how to do to restart his heart, to help him breathe, but God said no. I asked “Why?” He said, “Trust Me.”
God will always answer the prayer of a faithful, contrite heart. It may not be how we want, but it will always be what we most need and always according to His good will for our lives or maybe for the good of someone else.
My mother also told me this story:
A church minister was about to begin the evening service, but before he gave his sermon, he introduced a guest minister who was one of his dearest childhood friends, giving him a few moments to share whatever was on his heart. The elderly minister related the following story.
A father, his son, and his son’s friend went sailing. They were enjoying the day when a fast-moving storm blew in and made it impossible for the father to get the boat back to shore. The waves were so turbulent that, even as an experienced sailor, the father was unable to keep the boat upright and it capsized, throwing all three into the raging waters.
The father grabbed the one and only lifeline and had to make the most terrible decision a parent could make: to which boy would he throw the end of the lifeline? His son was a Christian, but his friend was not. In seconds, the father made his decision. He yelled to his son that he loved him and then threw the lifeline to his son’s friend, pulling him to the relative safety of the capsized boat. When he turned to throw the lifeline to his son, the boy had disappeared, and his body was never found.
The father knew his son would be saved when Jesus came, but he could not bear the thought that his son’s friend would not be, so he had sacrificed his son’s life to save his friend.
The elderly minister took his seat, and the young minister gave a brief sermon. However, as soon as the service ended, two young boys came to the old minister. They said they thought that was a nice story, but they didn’t think it was very realistic that a father would let his own son die in hopes that someone else would become a Christian. The old minister smiled and allowed that it might not be very realistic, but that he could attest to the truth of the story because he was that father, and their minister was the young man he saved.
Just as this father saved the wayward friend at the cost of the life of his son, so God sacrificed the life of His Son so that sinful mankind would have the opportunity to be saved.
Friend, the Lord conducts so much of His business in the realms that we cannot see with human eyes, and that is why we must always trust Him. Perhaps a prayer of healing isn’t answered, and a person dies because they might not be able to withstand trial later, or it may be to save a life that has not yet found God.
When I was a child, my mother would tuck me into bed at night, kiss me on the forehead and tell me she loved me, that she would always take care of me, and everything would be all right. I believed that completely as I closed my eyes and fell asleep. And until the day she closed her eyes in death, to wait for the coming of the Lord, she kept that promise to me. God has promised that we can always trust and depend on Him, and He keeps that promise.
He says, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-
kindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3
And “He [the Lord] will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8, last part
“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Psalm 37:5, first part, 7, first part
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7
“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” 1 John 3:22
While we ask and wait for God’s answer, let us remember that no matter the trial or hardship, no matter the pain or sadness, no matter the loss, in spite of the temptation to wonder if God has abandoned us or isn’t interested, we can with confidence know that we never have to bear it alone.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Judy Rebarchek is the managing editor of the LandMarks magazine. She may be contacted by email at: email@example.com