I was recently asked a question:
"Recently a person we know died of Covid, leaving behind a young family. I have no answer for that heartbreak. Jesus healed people instantly. We seem not to have that power. What are we missing here?"
Why doesn't God answer my prayer?
This is a very hard question.
Behind the question is desperation, sleeplessness, hopelessness, emptiness, grief, even anger. If God is loving why does it seem like he doesnt hear me. If God is our Father, why do I suffer?
Jesus healed a lot of people. Whoever he wanted to heal, was healed. Yet, he did not heal everyone in Israel. He did not heal every blind person and every demon possessed person. He did not heal every sick person he encountered. In his hometown,
“he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith”. (Matthew 13:58).
There were sick people in Nazareth, but they were not healed.
The broader question is: Why is it that the prayer of Jesus gets answered and our prayer (to heal) does not get answered sometimes?
A couple of points:
1. Does it have to do with power?
Is it possible that Jesus had more power and therefore he performed more miracles? If that is so it can mean that we can never perform the level of miracles that Jesus did.
But this is not true. Jesus himself said that his disciples would do more miracles than he did.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father - John 14:12
This is because the same Spirit in Jesus that performs miracles has also been given to us to perform those miracles. (When Jesus went back to the Father, the Spirit came down and lives with us.)
2. Maybe it has to do with the reasons for unanswered prayer.
There are numerous reasons for unanswered prayer: Sin - Isa 59:2; Disobedience - Zec 7:13; Selfishness - Jas 4:3; Injustice - Isa 1:15-17; Lack of faith - Jas 1:6-7 etc etc.
Jesus obviously did not have any of these issues.
3. But the main reason I think for the difference in the prayer of Jesus and our own prayer is regarding the issue of God’s will. When Jesus prayed (or did anything for that matter), everything was according to the will of God. There was never a time when Jesus prayed for healing or commanded healing that was outside of the will of God.
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19
When Jesus performed a miracle or prayed for a miracle, it happened since it was the will of God. Since we are NOT completely in tune with God, some of our prayers are not according to the will of God. Our prayers that are according to the will of God get answered. Our prayers that are outside of the will of God don’t get answered.
The best example that ties all this together is the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
This was the one time that Jesus, because of the spiritual consequences, asked if the cup of separation can be removed from Him. Yet, he asked for God’s will.
His human mind preferred another way. But God’s will was that Jesus should die on a cross for the sake of humanity.
His prayer “not my will, but yours be done” (Matthew 26:39) shows the pattern we should follow in prayer. Since we don’t know if the request we make is God’s will or not, this should be the prayer we make.
Additionally, God’s will in this situation shows us His immense Love for us. Like Paul said,
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is not that He cannot. (He is Omnipotent)
The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is not that He doesn't love us. (His scars are proof of his love)
The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is because it is not His Will.
Ultimately the faith we have during prayer is NOT that our prayer will get answered in the affirmative. Our faith rests on the God who is omnipotent and loving. Because we know that he is Omnipotent, we know that he is able to answer any prayer that we pray. Because we know that he is loving, we know that he wants the best for us.
If the Father did not fulfill the prayer of his only begotten Son when he was dying, God is not obligated to answer even one prayer of ours. ANY prayer of ours that he answers is a bonus. Thankfully, He answered the most important prayer we could make - prayer for salvation, so that we can avoid his wrath and go to heaven.
Unanswered prayer - Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009)