I’ve heard many pastors thank God for “answered prayer” when someone in the congregation gets well after an illness or injury, or when a healthy baby is born after a difficult pregnancy. I’ve read articles in which the writer expresses gratitude for God’s healing mercies after a serious surgery. Then there are the near-accidents in which God answers someone’s prayer to protect a child or spouse from harm and danger.
But something troubles me about all this. What about when your daughter dies of cancer after a whole church and community have prayed and prayed for her healing? What about when your son dies of injuries received in an automobile accident after acquaintances, friends, and relatives in his community, country, and even across the world stormed heaven’s gates requesting his recovery? What about when you’ve pleaded with God to save your marriage but the divorce still happens? Or when you lose your job and ask God to help you find another one--but it’s been two years now? Or when you pray every day that God will protect your son who has gone to war, but he comes home a paraplegic or in a coffin?
Were all those prayers unanswered?
It seems as though we think only a “yes” from God is an answer to prayer. But I don’t believe that’s true.
When my son died, I knew my frantic, desperate pleas for his life were answered. But the answer wasn’t, “Yes, I will heal your son.” Instead it was, “Your son’s work on this earth is finished. I’m taking him home to be with Me.”
To be sure, included in the answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you. I will carry you through the excruciating pain of your loss. You will learn to live and laugh and sing and play again. I will not forsake you or leave you comfortless. Just trust Me. I know what is best.”
Maybe we should be a little more thoughtful when we talk about answered prayer. I believe all the prayers of God’s children are answered. Don’t you?