There are many instances when we pray for people and they are healed immediately or within a short time. But we also experience situations where we pray for some very serious afflictions repeatedly over months and even years, and still don’t see the results we’ve asked for. We could then be tempted to wonder what has happened. Has something gone wrong?
What the Bible says about not becoming weary in doing good1 certainly applies to praying for long-term afflictions. We might be tempted to think, Why waste our time if it doesn’t seem to be working? But we only see the moment rather than the more extensive timeframe that God sees. We have to trust that He knows what will bring the greatest good. After all, isn’t that what we are really seeking?
Of course, it’s human nature that when we don’t see the results we expect, we can feel defeated and frustrated and full of questions, because we’ve prayed so earnestly, so sincerely, but that’s exactly the time to trust. It reminds me of that verse: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, [by praying] you will receive what he has promised.”2
Take my own situation, and how after so many years of prayers, I still have a debilitating eye condition. Does that mean that my prayers have somehow been wasted or ineffective? I can assure you that the answer is an absolute, unequivocal, definite no! They haven’t been wasted. They’re not useless or ineffectual. The Bible tells us that our prayers are “powerful and effective.”3
When I take the time to stop and look for God’s perspective, I see a more balanced picture of my situation. When I talk about how my eyes haven’t been healed yet, I realize that this is only a part of the big picture. True, I haven’t been “permanently” healed yet, but I’ve experienced temporary healings many times.
If I focus too much on the importance of being healed completely and permanently, I’m minimizing and neglecting the much greater things that God has done in my life. When I put too much importance on eliminating the affliction entirely and in my timeframe, I’m not emphasizing the wonderful things that God has done for me in temporarily healing me for short periods time and again when it was most needed.
I still pray for full healing, because I know He can answer in this way; however, I also thank Him for how He has already answered me. While I have a long-term affliction, He has long-term healthcare that has provided what I’ve needed every day, tailor-made just for me. In fact, it’s beneficial that I’ve had this affliction for so long, because it’s given me a much longer period of time to experience repeated touches of healing. These times when Jesus temporarily improved my eye condition to accomplish some task or meet a specific need reinforce my faith in healing even more than if I’d received complete healing from the start. Those times weren’t the complete and “final” healing, but I always received the healing that He knew I needed at the time! His touches of healing came at the times when I needed them most.
This long-term eye affliction has continued to work greater things in my life than if I’d had one permanent healing. God has taken all those prayers for my healing and channeled their power into so many good things. He has answered my prayers by helping me to learn compassion and dependence on Him through not being fully healed.
Sometimes, quick healing may not be what is going to bring the greater good overall. Consider the ten lepers who, as they went, were healed. Nine of them were so distracted by their instant healing that they ran off and forgot to even thank Jesus.4 This is something that encouraged me when I meditated on it, as my not receiving full healing has helped me to continue to walk more by faith than by sight5 and to thank God for His touches of healing.
The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.—Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)
The joy which answers to prayer give, cannot be described; and the impetus which they afford to the spiritual life is exceedingly great.—George Müller (1805–1898)
I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.—C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)
1. See Galatians 6:9.
2. Hebrews 10:36 NIV
3. James 5:16 NIV
4. See Luke 17:12–19.
5. See 2 Corinthians 5:7.