When I was 13, my grandmother moved in with us. She was in her 17th year battling breast cancer and it was finally getting the best of her. I prayed my heart out that year, asking God to heal her of the cancer. When she passed away, I felt abandoned by God. I’d been praying, so why hadn’t He answered? My mother gently explained that God doesn’t always answer prayers the way we want Him to, but He does answer. In this case, God did heal my my grandmother. She was now in heaven, finally cancer-free and no longer in pain.
Unanswered prayers are one of the most challenging aspects of faith. How does God allow bad things to happen to good people, even when we’re praying so hard for them? Why are some healed and others are not?
God answers prayer in His time and His way
As I’ve wrestled with these questions as an adult, I realized my mother was right all along. God does answer prayers, just not always in the manner or timeframe we want. We may not even see the eventual answer to our prayer. Yet, I’ve come to believe that when we come to God in faithful prayer, we can trust He will answer that prayer in His timing and in His way. The hard part is to have faith and trust in His answers.
We may not always see how God answers our prayers
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV)
This verse if part of the “Hall of Faith” passage, recording the names and stories of the faithful greats. These are our role models of living a faithful life, yet this verse says even these most faithful didn’t see fulfilled God’s promises to them. They didn’t live to see their prayers answered. No matter how faithful they were and how much they prayed, they didn’t see God answer all their prayers in the way they expected.
God’s answers to our prayers maybe even better than our requests
Look at the next sentence, though. “God had planned something better for us.” God has even better plans for us! Maybe, just maybe, God has even better answers in mind to our prayers than our human minds can comprehend. Reember, God has a different agenda than we do. He’s thinking on a cosmic scale, not an earthly human one. It’s hard to believe that losing someone here on earth is an answered prayer, but maybe the best He can do in this broken world is to bring that person to live with His glory in heaven. Maybe we get some news we dreaded hearing, but God answers our prayers for strength and healing by equipping us to share our battle and help others facing the same news.
Unanswered prayers are prayers whose answers we can’t yet see
I’ve come to see how God did answer my 13-year old prayers. My grandmother had fought a lifetime of illnesses and lived a good and faithful life, but she wasn’t going to live forever. I couldn’t stop death from coming eventually. In fact, she was probably praying for God to bring her home, to bring her into His kingdom of glory. To deliver her into a place where there is no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears.
See how God answered our prayers then? My grandmother got to see Jesus and shed the cancer and pain for good. I was given this story to share with you of how I believe God does answer our prayers, even when we can’t see the answers.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
Not sure you can yet see God’s hand in your unanswered prayers? Review these 5 questions as you think about the unanswered prayers in your life.
This post is part of the “A Better Change” series. For more information on this series and to find related posts, click here: A Better Change Series – Overview
Kathryn, it is so true. God answers prayers in various ways some of which may not include our way 🙂 May we always trust that His ways are best.