How many of you are waiting for God to answer a prayer? Probably most of us. Why do some of our prayers seem to go unanswered? Does God go into hibernation at times? Is He too busy with more important requests? Did He lose our address?
Early on in my prayer apprenticeship my first reaction to unanswered prayers was frustration, then questioning, then more frustration, and then perhaps some anger depending on how long I had waited.
At least fourteen years ago I was praying with a friend and as we prayed I saw a picture of a backbone with a carpenter's level next to it. The vertebrae were perfectly aligned. At that time I had marked scoliosis and it made me wonder is God trying to say He is going to heal my back? From that point on I took advantage of every opportunity to ask for prayer for my back. I even sought out some services where I knew there would be healing prayer emphasized. Nothing happened. What gives? I thought.
After many years I grew weary of asking for prayer for my back so at one service I decided to ask that God would heal my vision. However, the gentleman praying for me said, "God wants to heal your back. You have scoliosis." He then proceeded to correctly describe my back problem without knowing a thing about it when I came up to him for prayer! I began to weep. Surely this was from God. But nothing changed.
Then I began to go on mission trips to Brazil with Global Awakening where hundreds of people were healed each week at the evening services. On each trip I dutifully asked for healing of my back since the atmosphere seemed charged with the power of God. Nothing happened. Until July 4, 2011...
It was my last of five mission trips. By this time I had stopped asking others to pray for my back. But one afternoon as I sat with sciatic nerve pain on my left side (secondary to the scoliosis), someone made an announcement. "The Lord wants to heal left sciatic nerve pain." That caught my attention. Without thinking, I ran to that person and asked for prayer. A small group gathered around me. Slowly the pain subsided. "Would you pray for my scoliosis to be healed, too?" I asked. They laid hands on my mid back. Within seconds I could literally feel the vertebrae shifting into place! It was an incredible experience. After about twenty minutes the lead person commented - "I believe the rest of the healing will come over time. Continue to pursue God."
I took my daughter and we hurried to find a mirror in a restroom to check out my new back. Sure enough about 80% of my upper back had straightened. It was miraculous! But as the young man had said, the rest of the double curvature would require more prayer. And more waiting. Why???
I don't have all the answers. Why would God have me wait eleven years to receive part of my healing but not all of it? Here are some of my thoughts:
- To grow my faith - I now know that if I continue to pursue God He will eventually answer since "He who has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6)." So I continue to pray like the woman who would not leave the unjust judge alone until she got what she asked for (Luke 18:1-8).
- To develop patient perseverance - Matthew 7:7-8 exhorts us to ask and keep on asking. Those who ask receive.
- As a testimony to God's faithfulness - When I give my testimony it encourages others to keep praying for their own needs.
- As a means for us to search our hearts -When my prayers are not answered right away I ask God to search my heart. Is there any disobedience that is blocking His answer? Am I praying according to His heart? Is there something I need to do to partner with God to bring about the answer?
- To teach us to trust God's perfect timing - If I had my way, my back would have been healed with the first prayer. But for whatever reason God chose to have me wait eleven years. The Word tells us that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not ours, they are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8). It may not make sense to us, but we are not God. He is.