As many know, this blog was birthed from the trial of Mom’s battle with brain cancer and her passing. That trial produced fruit in my life for God’s glory, for which I’m grateful. To say I never wrestled, though, would be a lie. There’s a false gospel (typically called the prosperity gospel) that preaches if we have enough faith, then we’ll experience health, wealth, and earthly prosperity. The logical conclusion is if we have enough faith, God will answer every prayer as we wish. But is it true? What does God’s Word say?
Will God answer all my prayers (as I want him to)?
First, Scripture is clear that believers will endure moments of hardship. Jesus says in John 16:33, “…in this world you will have trouble.” Also, James 1:2 commands us to “count it all joy” when we face trials, not if. Jesus’ life and the early church should also lead us to expect trial. Jesus was perfect, yet for our sake, he suffered death and the wrath of God. Church tradition teaches all the disciples (except John, who suffered persecution), were martyrs for the sake of Christ. Paul experienced great hardships during his ministry (2 Cor. 11:23-29). If God’s own Son experienced suffering, along with the early church, then we should expect the same.
Suffering is the result of living in a fallen world. Jesus doesn’t leave us hopeless, though. His life, death, and resurrection provides the way of salvation and life for all who believe in him! Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Some teach this means Christ’s death heals us from every disease, but that’s not the healing to which this verse refers. Our sin is a sickness far worse than any cancer. It separates us from God and puts us under his wrath (John 3:36). Therefore, the healing Christ purchased on the cross was our spiritual healing. This is truly the only healing we desperately need.
While Mom battled cancer, I begged the Lord to physically heal her. I firmly believe he’s able to physically heal, so why did God not answer the way I wanted? Was it because I didn’t have enough faith? Definitely not! God, in his infinite wisdom, answered differently than I would’ve liked, but it wasn’t because he measured my faith and waited for me to have more of it. In time, we’ll all experience God’s, “No” or “wait”. We may never fully understand the why on this side of eternity, but there are a few truths the Lord has taught me as I’ve processed, grieved, and wrestled.
First, God cares most about his glory. Therefore, everything he does is what glorifies him most. This may sound harsh at first, but we must remember God is also loving, good, and just in all he does. As Gloria Furman discusses in Missional Motherhood, for God to be concerned with anything but his glory would be idolatrous. We should care most deeply about God’s glory too, and to desire anything else is idolatry. What’s most glorifying to God is actually what’s also best for us. This should change the way we pray. It’s definitely not wrong for to pray for healing (we’re currently praying this for several dear people!). Still, we should consider- Do our prayers build up God’s Kingdom, or our own? Honestly, many of my prayers are more selfish than I’d like to admit, even when Mom was sick. Unfortunately, I’m often far more concerned with myself than God’s glory. Though I still grieve Mom, I trust the Lord answered my prayer in the way most glorifying to him. My grief still hurts, but almost 8 years later, God is giving me small glimpses of his glory in this. When we treasure Christ, delight in studying his Word, and learn he’s enough, God is glorified. By his grace, he’s worked these fruits in my life. Praise God! Friends, whatever prayer you’re longing to see answered, trust God will answer according to his will. His will is good, pleasing, and perfect (Rom 12:2), and can’t be thwarted by anything, including our lack of faith (Prov. 19:21). What joy and freedom this brings! As we pray, we can rest in the character of God, who’s faithful and worthy of trust.
Second, prayer isn’t a magic formula to get what we want out of God. He’s not our spiritual Santa Claus. When we treat prayer like a honey-do list for the Lord, we’re basically telling him we know best. Yes, we may boldly approach the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16), but we do so as utterly dependent children, trusting God knows best. As Jesus modeled for us in Matthew 6:10, we pray, “Your will be done!” When God doesn’t answer as we might like, we trust he’s working all things together for our good and his glory (Rom. 8:28). Actually, we shouldn’t want God to say, “Yes” to our every desire. In the Old Testament, God desired to be Israel’s only King. Yet, they pleaded for an earthly one. In 1 Samuel 8, God granted their request, which led to a string of problems for the Israelites. Even now as our adoption process is taking longer than I’d selfishly like, I continue to pray God’s will be done. I don’t want the Lord to give me anything outside of what he knows is best for both his glory and my life.
Do I believe the Lord answers prayers? Yes! Do I believe he can (and still does) work miracles? Yes! Then, why not my mom? I often wrestle with this as I read the gospels. As I wrestle, though, the Spirit reminds me of this Truth- the main purpose of Jesus’ miracles was much deeper than the miracle itself. Jesus gave sight to the blind, cleansed the leper, and healed the mute with the ever important purpose of displaying who he was (God) and his purpose. Miracles displayed Jesus’ power and diety. They teach he came to heal our spiritual blindness and muteness and to cleanse us from the leprosy of our sin. Jesus didn’t come to do cool stuff for us. He came to be the Bread of Life (John 6). If we want Jesus for earthly blessings, then we don’t really want Jesus. He gives us himself, which is the very best blessing!
Though suffering hurts, Scripture never promises if we pray enough, have enough faith, etc. we’ll be free from it. This is beautifully freeing. The fate of myself, my family, and others isn’t in my hands. It’s in God’s hands. Instead of wishing our suffering away, may we submit to the steadfastness the Lord is working in us as we count it all joy when we face trials (James 1:2-4).
Any adjective added to the Gospel isn’t the Gospel. The Gospel is beautiful and sufficient in and of itself. Though we may lack worldly prosperity, believers of the one true God are indeed the most prosperous. The best gift of the Gospel is we get Jesus! We make less of him and the Gospel when we elevate earthly health and prosperity as ultimate. Indeed, Jesus is ultimate!
Friends, I can tell you this- God is good. He healed Mom more fully in heaven than any earthly healing. Though physical healing is wonderful, I’m far more grateful for the spiritual healing he purchased. God is just, faithful, and righteous in all he does. We may not understand it all, but we don’t have to. He’s the only all-knowing one. We’re simply called to trust and obey. As we walk in close fellowship with the Father, we’ll be on a more beautiful journey than we could ever imagine. He doesn’t promise it’ll be easy, but he does promise to go before us, be with us, and go behind us. When my world is changing, God is always constant. When I grieve, God is my hope. When it feels like too much, I rest in this Truth- one day, Jesus will return for his children. He’ll fully heal and restore us. On this day, all grief will be gone. The very best part, though, is we’ll be with our Savior forever!
All glory be to the one true God, my Savior, my hope, my healer, and my deliverer. Great is his faithfulness!