ave you ever thought to yourself: Most of the time, when I pray, God doesn’t answer my prayers? Why? Doesn’t He care? If He does, why don’t I ever hear from Him? Is He too busy with missionaries in other countries to bother with me and my problems? Even my prayers for others seem futile. Do I have to be special to get His attention?
These are knotty questions that disturb many. We have all wrestled with the problem of unanswered prayer. Some of us have grown weary, others skeptical, even cynical. Why bother? we conclude.
Yet God has chosen to work through humans on our little planet. From the time of Creation, He has depended on His creatures to do His will and has communicated with them through angels, prophets, the Written Word, the Holy Spirit, the counsel of fellow Christians, and trials, among others. He really wants a relationship with us.
He has risked His reputation by making some incredible promises, recorded in each of the Gospels and summarized in Matthew: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matt. 21:22).
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He reassured His disciples—then and now—of His concern for their needs and His presence through the Spirit.
What then is the key to unlocking these promises? John provides it in his first Epistle: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14, 15).
So if we think God is not listening because we don’t get answers, we need to apply Jesus’ brief formula, demonstrated throughout His earthly ministry: “Not My will, but Thine be done.”“But I’m not Jesus,” you protest. “How can I really know His will?”
Again, Jesus provides the answer: “Abide in Me, and I in you”—as close as a branch clinging to a vine (John 15:4). How do you abide in Him? Every day invite His presence to be with you, spend time in the Word, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you, pray often and listen more, unite your prayers with those of others, and you can be sure God will abide in you as you cling to Him.
A friend once said, “A relationship with God through the Holy Spirit brings the knowledge, wisdom, and discernment necessary to assure us that our prayers are according to His will.” He said it well.
“Physical healings are exhilarating,” wrote Peter Youngren in his book A Study of God the Healer. “They stir up your faith in God and they draw people to Jesus. Yet there is a healing that is greater. I’m talking about the healing of your spirit—the real you. The spiritual healing I am speaking about is eternal. While physical healing benefits you greatly in this life, spiritual healing has benefits now and in eternity.”
This world is a very present reality, with its daily problems, distractions, and challenges, all calculated to sidetrack us from a close relationship with God. Sometimes we even forget to pray, especially when we’re overburdened or depressed.
But let me assure you that there is healing available today for “the real you”—sometimes for your body, but always for your spirit.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders [prayer warriors] 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 sick, and the Lord will raise him up. . . . Pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:14-16).
“You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.
John Hodgkin, M.D., is a critical care specialist at St. Helena Hospital