When God doesn’t answer your prayers for healing

[Wrote this a year ago. Really needed to read it again this week. Still got reason to sing.]

I’d never done an ugly cry in front of teenagers.

Then, one Sunday last year, I’m leading Teen Church and we’re doing the Alpha Youth film series. Our youth pastor (randomly? I think not.) delegates topics and I’m saddled with –

Does God Still Heal Today?

I’m a little furious. Like,

Are you kidding? Are you kidding me? You want me to teach on healing?

Because I’m the mom of the kid who needs healing and healing hasn’t happened.

We’ve prayed. Nada. Other people have prayed. Zilch. Still others have anointed Cameron with oil resulting in exactly zero healing. We’ve been to big loud healing gigs. We’ve stood up in church. We’ve wracked out our angry grief at night in bed clutching hands and bits of sanity. We’ve fasted and begged, Come on, God! You’d get so much glory from this!

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I watch the clip at home in the week, to prepare. I sob from start to finish. Good, I think. Have a good cry. Get it all out. That way, you’ll be fine on the day. I gather my thoughts and beliefs, my sketchy bits of faith and truth and mystery and I come up with something I’m fairly comfortable with, on healing. On how God can heal. And how mostly He doesn’t.

Sunday comes and I’m all about the jokes and being the warm welcome and there’s even a bit of a thaw in the too-cool-for-Sunday-school room.

And then we watch the clip. Which I’ve seen before, so I’m fine, right? I’m s w a l l o w i n g .. the tears .. and yelling at myself on the inside to bloody well pull myself together because the two lovely Canadian Alpha guys are wrapping up and I need to be the grownup with the answers in about five, four, three, two –

I stand up, and fall apart.

It’s not that my voice is a little shaky and I’m a little tearful. Hell no.

I can’t speak.

I’m bawling. Embarrassing, snotty sobs. (I will only realise, when it’s all over and I go to the ladies’ room, that I have what Murray calls my Alice Cooper Eyes: seriously scary mascara damage.)

Some of the girls get a little tearful too. Most of the boys stare at their feet and the air is thick with cringe. My friend who’s sharing the session with me – he’s standing at the back. He takes one look at me and closes his eyes. He’s feeling it for me – praying hard – because he knows.

I howl through a bit of our uninspiring non-healing story then ask if anyone here has ever been healed? Praise Jesus, one of the guys has a miracle story about his shin and a youth camp and I have time to blow my nose.

Eventually I get enough words together to tell them what I do know, and in no particular order here it is:

We don’t pray for healing enough.

Maybe because we can’t bear the not-enough-faith guilt or the disappointment of our prayers ‘not working’ so we’d rather not pray in the first place.

Maybe because too many shady pseudo-Christians have fake-healed too many times.

Maybe because we don’t want to treat the Creator of the universe like a genie in a bottle, there to do our bidding, ease our pain, and give us our way.


We should pray for healing, because God heals and because He’s never told us to stop praying for healing.

He heals in might and power. He takes away cancer and AIDS and holes in babies’ hearts. He fixed my friend’s finger when she cut it: she prayed, and watched the skin close right over. True story.

We should pray for healing as fervently as we pray for wisdom – with absolute assurance that God hears and answers according to His perfect will.

We are called to live by faith.

It takes great faith to trust that God can / does / will heal. It takes great faith to trust that if / when / because He doesn’t heal, every time, He is still infinitely good, kind, wise and powerful.


We don’t give God His power.

God isn’t dependent on our fickle faith to do His work. He doesn’t wring His hands in heaven going, ‘Oh! All the healing power has gone out of Me because they don’t have enough faith!’

He heals to bolster our faith, more than because of it.

He heals even when no one knows and no one is looking, and sometimes – most times? – often times? – He lets brokenness run its course.

I have no idea why.

God invented decision-making and He doesn’t owe us an explanation for His perfect decisions.

John tells us that at the pool of Bethesda, in Jerusalem, there were ‘crowds of sick people – blind, lame, or paralysed.’ Yet Jesus went up to just one man – one man amidst swarms of the sick and the dying – and He healed him.

Jesus didn’t explain why He picked that one man. He didn’t owe His disciples or anyone else an explanation. He doesn’t owe me an explanation either, no matter how sad, cross or confused I may feel.

God has been deciding things since forever. He chose fever trees – not fir trees – to grow in Africa. He chose Abraham’s family – not some other family – to bless the whole world. He chose Moses – not some other guy – to lead His people out of Egypt. All this has never bothered me, because it’s never been personal.

Yet my Heavenly Father is intensely, intimately personal to me. His power that split the sea and raised the dead is alive in me. However He chooses to reveal Himself through me, to the world, well, I’m ok with that. Mostly.

Healing gives us a Kingdom glimpse.

God’s Kingdom is Now and Not Yet. We’re in a glorious dispensation of grace and Holy Spirit power – but we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. When God heals, it’s a tangible manifestation of what He does on the insides of us – total renewal – and an electrifying reminder of the eternal realities that await. I say, bring it.

So, God might heal our boy in this life. For sure, He will heal him in the next.

I’ll keep asking for the former, but my faith doesn’t hinge on the answer.

Either way, I have reason to sing.

. . .

Happy weekend, friend. Happy *long* weekend if you’re in South Africa!

Please share this post with your people.

Without even trying, I can think of dozens desperate for healing. None of us has healing totally figured out, because we’ll never have God totally figured out (Deuteronomy 29:29). Still, it helps sometimes to talk about it all, right?

You’re also welcome to leave a comment, or get in touch here, on Twitter, or on our Facebook community page.

2016-09-06 05.59.04Get daily wind in your sails as you navigate the seas of this happy, sometimes crappy, beautiful life. Walking in Grace is on shelves where books are sold in South Africa and the USA, and worldwide on Amazon (Kindle and paperback editions).

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  1. I am not sure if you will ever get this …. but if you do – thank you. I am here sobbing my eyes out… You help me deal with my stuff and my pain which I am mostly silent about. You write beautifully and you are an incredible blessing in a very real and authentic way. Thank you.

    Sent from my iPhone



    • Marilyn, thank you so much. I’m praying for you right now, that you would be deeply aware of God’s presence and peace in the midst of everything you face. He’s in the macro and the micro.. and He SEES you. Much love.


  2. Dalene you are healing so many of us with God’s voice using you. I lost my husband 13 years ago and this morning I am so thankful that God promised me that He will send men into my daughter’s life to fathet her – i counted 20 men and I am sooooo grateful. She is 18 yrs old this year. God is always working in the background. He did not heal my husband, my love did not heal my husband but God did in His time in Heaven. Trust God not only in earthly sight but for Eternity. Your son might be used Greatly for God and your writing will speak to many hearts about God. Trust in Him.


  3. I just asked my husband last night
    “GOD knows my heart. Why won’t he heal our daughter. Why won’t he help”
    He has helped in so many ways. Our beautiful daughter Fiona is living with Down syndrome and a scary brain abnormality called Holoprosencephaly. We are so very blessed in so many ways. Our journey has been a long one in these short 3 1/2 years. We have been through so much. But she will be healed in the presence of God I know this.
    Thank you for taking the time to share. May God continue to Bless you and your family
    (FB Team Fiona)


  4. God took my wife after a 2 year battle against leukemia. My three adult children and I prayed with determined faith – not just hope- that she was already healed and were waiting for God to manifest His healing. We experienced many events that nonbelievers would call “coincidences” but we took as God’s answer that He would heal her. But then 5 weeks ago she went to heaven. Now we are so bitter. It doesn’t seem reasonable that we misinterpreted the signs as God’s answers to prayer. How can we ever pray again with total faith when our totally faithful prayers for a Godly outcome (healing ) were denied? Do we just have a “slot machine” God where our determined faithful prayers are irrelevant , and we should instead casually throw a “prayer coin” up to God but not bother with any faith but just a vague hope?


    • Greg, thanks so much for sharing your heart here. I am deeply sorry for your loss. I wish we could chat properly about all these enormously difficult things. I certainly don’t have all the answers – but you may find this helpful. Have a listen if you can – https://vimeo.com/346708240
      Praying God strengthens and comforts you and your family at this time.


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