Mark 11:24 tells us that whatever we ask in prayer will be ours, so when prayers go unanswered questions start popping up. It can only be one of two answers, right? Either our faith wasn’t big enough or God isn’t listening. Let’s dig deeper.
One of the men who was with Jesus when He said these words writes later that if we ask anything “according to His will” we can be confident that our prayer will be answered (1 John 5:14-15). The simple answer, the not-so-pleasant-to-hear answer, is that when our prayers aren’t answered it is because it wasn’t part of God’s will.
I have witnessed the power of God healing the sick and have also felt the crushing blow that comes after praying and believing for healing to only then stand by the grave of one I’ve loved. I don’t know the why. It hurts. It stretches me beyond my limit, and even though I cry out to God with why, still I believe.
God cares, even when I feel forgotten
There is a story in John 11 that I go to when I feel forgotten. It’s a difficult story to wrap my head around at times. See, Jesus was told that Lazarus was dying, and instead of rushing to His friend’s side he lounged at the table. I can only imagine that Lazarus and his sisters felt forgotten as the One who could heal stayed away. The one who brought their message to Jesus must have returned and with a shrug said, “He isn’t coming.” Jesus didn’t offer them an explanation. He simply stayed away.
Only after Lazarus’s death did Jesus visit Mary and Martha. He sees their grief and weeps with them, but those around are confused. They begin to talk and say, Why is He crying when He could have stopped this; where was He? How many times have I asked this in my own life? Where were You, Jesus? Why did You not heal her? Why did You let the one I love suffer?
Mary’s answer to Jesus is profound. He reminds her that He is the resurrection. She knew this; she had called to Him. Now, even though she does not understand the reason Jesus did not answer when she called, still she chooses to believe.
Oh that you and I may have such faith. It’s hard. It feels impossible.
We are blessed in knowing the rest of Lazarus’s story. Jesus raised him from the dead so that all could witness His power over death. Even death cannot hold back the will of God.
What’s the point of praying, then?
Prayer is a partnership between us and God. It is a means by which we grow closer to our Creator, pour out our hearts, and listen closely for guidance. It is how we are honest about where we are in our faith journey. It is where we ask questions and say to God, Today my faith is running on about 20%; help my unbelief.
Some of God’s greatest gifts
More than anything God desires a relationship with us. In the garden, at the very beginning of creation, humankind was created to walk in fellowship. When we fell away from that intimacy with God, Jesus was sent to restore and heal the relationship. Prayer was given to us along the way as one of the many tools by which we grow closer. It’s a time of intimacy where we bare our souls to God and in return, we are reminded that even in the darkest, most difficult moments God is walking through all of this with us.
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