There are times when we pray by faith for something, and God does not do it. For instance, I believe that God can heal (no doubt), but what if He chooses not to heal the person I am praying for? Does this mean that I did not pray with enough faith because the person was not healed? I know we should pray God’s will, but that seems to lessen my prayer by faith because it seems like an outlet for God not to come through. I am struggling with this just a little.
— M. from Miami, Florida
Part 1: What is real faith?
Part 2: Specific cases
What is real faith? (Part 1)
I have to admit that your question is a hard one for me because I often struggle with the same issues. In fact, we almost all do if we are being perfectly honest. This is the tension that exists between the truth of the Word of God (which is absolute) and some of our real life experiences on the earth. They don’t always line up.
The answer to “why” lies in a word: mystery. The longer I go in this Christian walk, the more mysteries I see. This troubles me less now than it used to years ago. My opinion is that God deliberately built in the mysteries and he’s perfectly aware of how blurred some of the lines seem to us. He did not do it to confuse or frustrate us. I think he did it so that we would walk by faith – real faith.
Since there are no definitive answers to some of the dilemmas you mention we must reframe the question. I’ll do that by asking a bunch more questions for you to ponder and then deal with a couple of specifics.
Is real faith believing for a particular end or is it believing God in spite of an end different than we wanted or expected? Don’t we sometimes pick an answer and then judge the outcome based on whether God did it our way? I’m not saying it’s wrong to pray specifically; I think we should do so based on our understanding of God’s Word and his spiritual principles. BUT, real faith can grow no matter what the end result.
What is our faith in? Do we have faith in faith or is our faith seated in God himself? It’s easy to slide into faith formulas to get God to do things our way. In the end, this pseudo-faith leads to presumption and idolatry. The fact that formulas often fail keeps us from sinking too far into this false doctrine.
Isn’t there as much value in the process of working our faith as getting answers? I say YES. When faith seems to fail, we need to ask: What good came forth? What spiritual muscles were developed? What stronghold was revealed? Will the incident be woven into future events that may reveal it in a different and more positive light?
Specific cases (Part 2)
Now to some of your specific questions. You asked if God does not heal the person you prayed for, does it mean you didn’t pray with enough faith? Not necessarily. Certainly, faith does matter as evidenced by the fact that Jesus so often tied healings to the person’s faith. However, think about Lazarus. His sisters Mary and Martha had zero faith to believe that their brother would be raised and Lazarus certainly could not have exhibited faith for himself.
What we need to do is take the spotlight off ourselves in these cases. It is not us who ever heals anybody. God is the healer. It’s his responsibility. I agree with a man I know with a healing ministry. He says: “It’s my responsibility to pray for those who are sick but the results are up to God. I try to stay out of his business.”
If we pray “God’s will,” does it lessen my prayer of faith? Does God use it as a loophole not to come through? Actually, getting to the heart of God’s will pretty much guarantees an answer. Listen to this: “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
Now here’s the kicker that we often miss. Just saying, “Lord, please do this or that IF it is your will” is not fulfilling that scripture. Instead, it short circuits the real requirement which is to seek God’s will until it is known and then join God in what he wants to do. That may take time, patience and struggle and we often want to go the lazy route and just mouth the words: “If it’s your will.”
You mention in the end of your question that you are struggling with all this a little. That’s a good thing and I congratulate you on your genuine desire for answers and your honest striving. You are much farther ahead of the game than those many platitude Christians who have a ready and pat answer for everything.
You are on the right track. Don’t stop trying to understand mysteries even if some of them will only be revealed in eternity. Take encouragement from Jeremiah 29:13, “’And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.’”