“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” James 5:13-15
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with prayer. I love it because I truly believe talking to the Father is what pulls us straight into His beating heart. I hate it because, well, it’s freaking hard. I’m not throwing the term “hard” around lightly. Yes, it takes discipline, and sometimes practicing discipline can be difficult. Prayer is hard (like I’m talking bone-wrenchingly hard) for other reasons.
What happens when we pray in faith, and we aren’t healed?
What do we do when it seems like our prayers truly align with the Father’s heart, and they still don’t get answered?
And how do we deal when others prayers are answered, but ours are not?
These questions make prayer one of the most mysterious and painful and glorious acts of obedience. I’ve wrestled long and hard with the pain that comes with the aftermath of an unanswered prayer. It’s almost like a smack in the face to see the Lord clearly answer others’ prayers, and not my own. I’ve wondered if I’m loved enough, seen enough, known enough. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I’m seen or loved at all. And then, I’ve been on the other side of prayer. Where prayers are miraculously answered, and we are left in the wake of big asks coming true and provision overflowing.
And so, what do we do with these questions and wonderings? How do we continue to press forward in the obvious act of obedience that prayer is without feeling completely hopeless?
I feel like I should disclaimer this because I am not scholar. I certainly don’t have all the answers. Arguably, I don’t even have most of them. But I have wrestled long and hard with these questions. I have cried about them, prayed about them, processed it with community, run to scripture, and I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.
Many people frequently quote the place in scripture that says “you have not because you ask not”, which has always confused me. My first rule of thumb is to ask! But when I started to explore the shifting of words, things seemed to fall into place.
What if it were to read: you have not because you believe not?
I look at promises like Proverbs 37:4, that says “Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” and wonder why others around me (and myself) are still struggling financially or don’t have a child yet or are feeling the bitter pangs of loss. Although I truly believe these are requests the Lord longs to give, I am also starting to see that the desires of ANYONE AND EVERYONE’s heart is to know Christ and be known by Christ. We all desire to be filled up, and the filling of this God-sized hole is, well, God.
I’m sure by now I’m getting a few dirty cyber-stares, and maybe you’re wondering if there isn’t a good gift outside of this. If our hopes, dream, wishes, and desires were wrong. If THEY were ever going to be answered.
I don’t know where you are, or what you’re yearning for, but I will say that I truly believe all prayers end up being answered. Every. Single. One. Just maybe not in the way we pray for them, or not in the way that we assume.
Some are just not answered on this side of heaven. Have you ever prayed healing over someone sick and not seen that prayer answered right then and there? I believe beyond belief that those prayers are answered in a supernatural way in eternity. Some prayers are prayed and we don’t see them come to fruition.
But what if we prayed believing that they would be answered, every time? Even if they aren’t answered in the way that we expect? Even if we never see them come to completion on this side of heaven, that they will be answered in the next?
And maybe, we come to find, that the yearning for one prayer to be answered is actually just a longing of more of the Spirit: the deep-rooted desire of everyone’s heart. Because without Him, all other answers are meaningless.
Please hear me when I say that other desires outside of Christ’s fullness can be GOOD and HOLY and RIGHT and PLEASING. And sometimes prayers that involve other people are not answered because of the gift (and curse) of free will, which I believe can be the one of the most gut wrenchingly painful experiences. Sometimes we never understand the domino effect that one prayer answered in the most unexpected way has on all others. Sometimes it feels like there is no rhyme or reason.
But what if we believed, with all our hearts, whether we saw the prayers or not, that they would be answered? In one way or another? On this side of heaven or the other?
I think our lives would be uprooted and our faith would grow unshakeable.
Let’s ask and believe.