Dr. Chapman raises this question in Chapter 9 when he brings up the topic of persistent pain and disease.
What’s a Christian to do?
But what if prayer seems to be doing no good? The pain and disease are still there and maybe they are even getting worse.
How are we to respond?
Do we just give up? Do we get angry? Do we start blaming God? Do we lose the faith that we have?
All of those things can happen and more but why can’t a loving God stop the suffering and pain?
It is hard but here are some responses that are different from giving up, anger, blame and losing one’s faith.
Isiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Literally, you and I cannot understand the ways of God. He has the “big picture” whereas, we have little idea about what is going on. Does it bother you to confess to lack of knowledge and admit that God has infinite knowledge? I have to admit that it does not bother me as much as it soothes my mind to know that I don’t know it all. God does. All I have to do is have the faith that He has my best interest at heart.
Having the right heart attitude. Sometimes God is waiting for us to have the right heart or right attitude. I am not saying that God tests us and if we pass the test, He will grant our prayers but if we are full of hate and anger, those feelings might get in the way. What if I have a sin that I am actively committing and I know it is a sin. I keep doing it over and over. I don’t confess it. I refuse to confess it. Will God answer my prayers? Maybe not. What if I harbor a grudge against someone and I won’t let it go? I refuse to lessen my negative feelings for that person. That’s another thing that might get in the way of answered prayer.
Don’t just stop. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us what to do, “pray without ceasing.” If we want our prayers answered, we can’t just quit and expect that God will grant our prayers. He wants us to keep it up. Persistence can pay off when it comes to prayer. Paul is very clear in Philippians 4:6 when he says, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We have problems in life, we have temptations, we get discouraged but God wants us to pray through those things. He wants us to persevere.
His will be done. Everyone has heard the phrase “Thy will be done”, a part of the Lord’s Prayer. What does praying in God’s will mean? Can you pray outside God’s will? For God, the granting of a positive response to prayer is all about timing. God’s time is not our time. Praying in God’s will is acknowledging how powerful God is and as humans we cannot manipulate God. Sometimes I pray like I am praying to Santa and I want this and this and this from my wish list. It does not work like that. God knows what is best for me and I don’t. We may be praying for healing for a loved one but our all-powerful God won’t heal our loved one until the right time and in the right circumstance. His will. This requires great patience on our part but also great maturity and wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6. We can try to manipulate things to get what we want but that may not work. God knows the best way to solve problems and the best time. Lean on God for the answers and the timing.
Jesus was our role model for prayer. On the Mount of Olives, he began to weaken in his resolve to go to the cross. He asked that the cup be taken from Him. But even though he was experiencing anguish to the point that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground, He said “Yet not my will but yours be done.” He knew that His Father knew best and He may have to endure great suffering. An angel from heaven was sent to comfort Him.
We must believe that an angel will be sent to comfort us, even as we endure persistent pain and disease.
And unanswered prayers.