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Unanswered Prayers

by Edward Fudge

A gracEmail subscriber writes: "Over 20 years ago, I prayed for God to heal a sister in Christ. She died, leaving a husband and small son. Several years later, a beloved elder and his wife died despite earnest prayer by many. Later my mother and father died of illnesses within three weeks of each other. By then, I'd quit praying altogether, convinced that God didn't answer my prayers and doubting that I was even a Christian. I used to cry myself to sleep, feeling like my knuckles were bleeding from banging on God's door. I still enjoy going to worship, helping others, teaching about Christ and doing whatever good I can. But I feel like a deaf-mute Christian when it comes to praying."


Truly I empathize with your grief. I also have experienced the agony of seeing a loved one die whom I had begged God to heal and restore. I had to be reminded that death is the common lot of all mortals until Jesus comes and that sickness or disease will probably be the occasion by which it comes to most of us. There is a time to die, in God's purpose, and God answers prayers for healing that fit that divine purpose (Eccles. 3:1-2; Psalm 139:16). One day he will answer our untimely prayers as well, when he "heals" his people perfectly by resurrecting them to deathlessness and eternal glory (1 Cor. 15:51-55).

Is it possible you have missed seeing the forest by focusing on particular trees? The disappointment of your unanswered prayers for loved ones to live might well have distracted you from noticing numerous other prayers which God did answer. Many people find it helpful to keep a prayer journal -- in which they daily write down every request they make to God, beside which they also record answers to those regular prayers. When God says "not now" to an enormous prayer request we sometimes overlook his positive responses to our smaller prayers day after day.

Your standing as God's child does not depend on your record of positively-answered prayers. The great Apostle Paul received a definite "no" to some of his prayers, and so apparently did our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Mark 14:35). Our children are not our children because we give them what they ask for, and they are no less our children when we do not. The same is true of us and the Father in heaven. Your relationship with God is evidenced in your continued faithfulness despite your disappointment involving prayer. Those who believe without having seen are especially blessed, said Jesus (John 20:29). Be assured that the Savior has that same loving attitude toward you now. Don't give up, dear sister. Your prayers are not in vain.

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8