Have you ever prayed for someone to be healed, but they passed away instead? Have you prayed for a marriage to be restored, but it wasn't? Do you feel confused when it looks like God doesn't answer prayer–or when it looks like God doesn't answer your prayer?
If so, then I pray that today's blog post will strengthen your heart.
Beloved, you need to know that, when it looks like God doesn't answer prayer, He usually actually DID answer your prayer–but He answered it in a different way than you asked Him to.
- Maybe He said “later” when you wanted Him to say “now.”
- Maybe He said “yes” to restoring your life, but He does it by helping you escape your abusive marriage–instead of by keeping you in the marriage you're in.
- Or maybe He says “yes” to helping you at work–by allowing you to be fired so He can help you finally start your business, and a few years later you're a wealthy CEO.
When it looks like God doesn't answer prayer, He almost always actually did answer.
He just answered in a different way. He answered your prayer differently than you wanted Him to.
So how do you respond when God answers your prayer differently? How on earth do you cope?
I want to address this thing about “when God answers your prayer differently” from a very Biblical, not-at-all-legalistic, and absolutely-NO-shaming perspective. So, without further ado, let's dig in!
Here are some questions people commonly ask when the thing you're praying for doesn't happen:
1. Is it possible for God not to answer your prayer at all?
Answer: Yes, under two specific circumstances. The Bible outlines two specific instances when your prayer may not be heard or answered–and one situation in which your prayers may be hindered. These situations are described in Psalm 66:18, 1 Peter 3:7, and James 1:6-8.
Psalm 66:18 gives us the first reason God might not answer your prayer at all:
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”
The word “regard” can be summed up to mean, from the original Hebrew, “approve, enjoy, respect.” And the word “iniquity” means “vanity, wickedness, evil things, false things, idols.”
Therefore, this verse tells us that if you approve, enjoy, and respect vanity, wickedness, evil things, false things, and idols in your heart, then the Lord will not hear your prayer.
The second reason is found in 1 Peter 3:7:
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
This verse tells us that a husband's prayers may be hindered if he does not treat his wife with understanding and honor.
We also know that God will not give us anything if we doubt Him.
James 1:6-8 says:
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
This is one of the many reasons we must always pray in faith.
But even when we meet all God's conditions, sometimes He answers our prayers differently than we asked Him to. Sometimes He answers the general gist of our prayer, but not the specifics.
2. Why does God sometimes answer prayer differently than you asked Him to?
Lots of people, in trying to answer this question, will do so by pointing the finger. “If you had enough faith,” they say. “If you had prayed rightly, said the right words,” they say. “If only you had prayed with authority!” they chime in. “Who sinned?” they ask.
And all of these are the wrong response. Wrong, wrong, wrong; and if you say those things to other people, I pray the Lord will convict you, and you will repent. We are NOT the accuser of the brethren; that's the devil's job.
It's fine for you to analyze yourself and see if YOU had enough faith, but it's not your place to point the finger at someone else and say “if only you had enough faith.” And if somebody says, “Well, I prayed, but I never really believed God would answer,” then it's fine for you to discern, based on the Word of God, that perhaps the prayer would have been answered if they had prayed in faith.
But, it's not fine for you to point the finger, condemn, and analyze, okay? Leave it in God's hands.
The fact is that we are all learning about healing.
Right now, in the Body of Christ, we have lost the miracle lifestyle that Jesus exemplified for us–and we're trying to get it back. We're learning about how to get it back.
And while we are trying to get back to the lifestyle Jesus taught us how to live–where we heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons, and work greater miracles than Jesus worked–we are going through this process where we have to press into God so HE can teach us.
Unfortunately, during this process, sometimes we might pray for someone with all kinds of faith and they are not healed.
Sometimes we might pray for a dead person to be raised, and they aren't. Yet, we aren't regarding iniquity in our hearts. We aren't living in doubt. It just didn't happen.
3. How do we respond when God doesn't answer like we want Him to?
Here in this community, as a community, we have prayed twice for very ill people to be healed. Both times, the person went on to Heaven instead of being healed on this side of earth. Both times, we prayed with all the faith in the world. We weren't walking in iniquity. We were obeying God and praying in faith.
Both times, however, God didn't heal the person on this side of Heaven.
He did answer our prayers by healing the person. The healing just happened in Heaven, though, which was not what we were hoping and praying for.
How do we respond?
I learned the best answer to this question that I've ever heard from listening to the folks out at Bethel Church in Redding, California. I can't quote a particular person, sermon, or book, because ministers like Pastor Bill Johnson, Chris Gore, Joaquin Evans, and others say this all the time. But, just to give credit where credit is due, this is where I first heard this answer.
The answer is:
We don't know why God didn't heal the person. But, “we're not going to build a theology” around trying to figure out why. What we're going to do is LOOK AT JESUS, and see what His example tells us.
The example of Jesus tells us:
1) That Jesus is the perfect depiction of the Father.
Jesus' heart is the Father's heart. Jesus' example is the Father's example. Jesus and the Father are exactly like one another. John 14:9 says:
“Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?'”
2) That Jesus healed ALL who were brought to Him.
Matthew 4:23-24 says:
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.”
Notice three things from this passage:
- Jesus healed ALL kinds of sickness and disease; no diagnosis is too great for Him.
- And they brought ALL the sick people to Him; we should ALWAYS bring sick people to Jesus for healing through our prayers.
- And Jesus ALWAYS healed those who were brought to Him; He healed them all.
Acts 10:38 reiterates this:
“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”
Did you catch that? Jesus healed ALL who were oppressed by the devil–which includes both sickness and demon possession. He healed ALL of them.
Over and over, if you read through the Gospels, you can read that Jesus healed them all. Throngs of people followed Him and brought Him their sick, because He healed them ALL.
(By the way, I highly recommend making a study of this and reading through the Gospels specifically looking for this. It will build your faith for healing like crazy!)
3) So if Jesus healed ALL who were sick and oppressed by the devil, then we know that is what Father does.
Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing, and He only said what He heard the Father saying. He was, and is, the perfect image of the Father.
So, we know that it IS God's will to heal every person who is sick or oppressed by the devil in any way. We know this because Jesus showed us this–and He is the Word, or Message, of God to us in fleshly form.
So again, why doesn't it happen? Why do we pray for people and sometimes they don't get healed?
Why does God answer prayer differently than we asked Him to sometimes? The only correct answer is:
“We don't know.”
But you know what? We have to respond in a godly way when God answers prayer differently than we asked Him to. And the only godly way to respond is to say:
“Abba Father, I don't understand. I don't know why we prayed in faith and claimed Your promise, but You chose to heal them in Heaven instead of here on earth. But Abba Father, I trust You. And Your Word still says that every person will be healed.
So please, Abba, show us more. Teach us more. Give us more of Your heart. Help us to understand more about Your healing.
Teach us how to pray and heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Teach us and help us, and we'll continue to pray and believe until we also are healing ALL who are sick and oppressed by the devil, just like Jesus showed us is Your will for us on earth.”
And that, my friend, is the only way to respond while still remaining in faith and believing God's Word.
It's important to understand that, though, that both times our community prayed for someone to be healed, they were healed.
It's just that they were healed in Heaven. As soon as they crossed over into Heaven, their bodies became brand-new. “This mortal will put on immortality,” as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55:
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
So we do have hope when someone passes away. God still wins.
Even when someone passes away, despite it being a great tragedy here on earth, if that person had made Jesus Christ the Boss and Master of their life, then the blood of Jesus still wins the ultimate battle. They are still healed, even though it may be on the other side of Heaven.
The facts we have to remember are:
- It is always God's will to heal.
- We must do what God tells us to do, praying in faith for the sick.
- If the person isn't healed like we prayed, then we can't build a theology around “why not.” We can't point fingers and try to diagnose the problem.
- We simply have to go back to the Father, ask Him to teach us and help us, and continue to believe His Word.
- And we go out again and keep on praying in faith for the sick to be healed.
We will do this until every person we pray for, without fail, gets healed. We will do this until every person who has passed away gets raised from the dead. We will do this until every prayer gets answered the way we pray it.
We simply have to doggedly pursue our God and His heart, asking Him to teach us.
It's as simple as that.
What about other kinds of prayer?
I don't have all the answers, but we still have to look at God's heart and ultimate purposes.
For example, in marriage:
God's will for any hurting marriage is to heal it. However, if your spouse commits adultery and will not repent, God will still heal you. It may be through divorce and restoration, but God WILL hear your prayer to heal and restore–it may just be on the other side of that particular marriage.
What about when you pray to get a particular job and God says “no”?
Well, could it be He has something better? We know from the Word that all things work together for our good, and that He has good plans for you.
When you pray to find a new job and a specific door doesn't open up for you, I would say that God has another door for you. Go out and keep knocking until you find the right one!
But when it comes to death and sickness, God only has one will: LIFE AND HEALING.
God protecting you from getting a bad job is not a work of the devil. It's God, saving you for something better. But sickness and death are always the works of the devil.
God is LIFE, and life everlasting. He has nothing but LIFE.
And even if His purposes are cut off on the earth and someone dies prematurely, and He heals them in Heaven, His will was still to heal them on the earth. His will was still for them to LIVE. Jesus came that we may have LIFE, and have it more abundantly. It's the THIEF that steals, kills, and destroys–NOT GOD (John 10:10).
So, again, when God doesn't answer prayer the way we ask Him to, or the way we think He should, we go back to the Father. We ask Him to teach us. We ask Him to help us. And we keep trusting in Him, knowing that Jesus revealed our loving, caring, gracious, and KIND Heavenly Father's heart perfectly.
Life is God's will for you.
Power is God's will for you.
VICTORY is God's will for you.
And we will not stop–we will never stop–until we see those things manifest on earth as they are in Heaven. We will ALWAYS continue believing and contending for these things, every. single. time.
Beloved, if you're hurting because you think God didn't answer your prayer, look at the situation differently.
Look and see if He really did answer your prayer–but if He answered it differently. And throw yourself on your loving, caring Heavenly Father right now and ask Him to help and teach you.
Precious friend, does this help you gain some peace about how God has answered and handled your prayers? Do you have additional questions? If so, leave a comment below.