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Why has God answered others' prayers for healing, but not mine?
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Q. Why has God answered others' prayers for healing, but not mine?

A. This is a complicated and tender question. Right now I'm praying for a close family friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer five years ago. Two years later, he was "healed" (if you talked to his Christian friends), or in an "unexpected remission" (if you talked to his doctors). Today his cancer has returned and is unrelenting. He probably has two months to live. His Christian friends are confused, and his physicians are recommending hospice care.

Based on our own experience, there's so much we don't know about healing and prayer. Here's what we do know based on Scripture.

We're instructed to pray, but healing isn't guaranteed. James 5:14-15 tells us to respond in prayer when someone is sick; "the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well." But we also know from Scripture this isn't a guarantee. In 2 Samuel 12, it says King David fasted and prayed for seven days for God to spare his dying child. In verse 22, David said, "Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live." When that wasn't the case, David got up and worshiped God anyway.

Healing miracles are relatively rare. In the Bible, healing miracles seem like they occur on every page. But when you consider the Bible covers more than 2,000 years of history, that's a relatively small amount of people who experienced direct physical healing. During his three and a half years of ministry, Jesus healed perhaps hundreds of deaf, blind, lame, and leprous people, but there were many more he didn't heal.

Also, biblical miracles tended to occur in clusters—during the Exodus from Egypt, in the times of the prophets, during Jesus' ministry, and with the start of the church. Author Brian Jones writes that we sometimes have a "distorted impression. God didn't deliver miracles every day like the morning newspaper. Most followers of God went their whole lives without witnessing a supernatural intervention on the part of heaven."

Healing miracles happen for reasons we don't always understand. Jesus healed the paralytic on the mat when he saw the faith of the man's friends; he healed the Roman centurion's daughter based on that man's statements about Jesus (Matthew 8, 9). On the other hand, he healed the crippled woman on the Sabbath without her ever asking for help (Luke 13).

Comparing answers to prayer—or a seeming lack of them—is unwise. In John 21, the apostle Peter and Jesus are taking a post-resurrection walk on the beach. At one point in the conversation, Jesus tells Peter about the kind of death Peter will experience, and it's not good news. Peter immediately turns behind him to look at the apostle John and says to Jesus, "What about him?" Jesus' reply is rather terse: "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me." Why one person is healed or spared suffering and another isn't, is often not ours to know.

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Related Topics:God's Will; Healing; Prayer

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Tracy Pace

April 15, 2008  7:13am

I think we often misinterpret the healing of the bible, interpretations from another era which are closer to simple spirituality than we are. We resort to 'magical thinking' when we need reassurance, thinking that we might summon miracles, but in answer to your question about G_d and healing, a person who has reached the end of their earthly life IS healed. The pain and suffering he has been experiencing will end; it is your pain you feel. Jesus said to a woman 'Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.' Our minds affect our bodies, Joel Goldsmith calls it 'practising the presence'. But we will still wear out and lose our life here even the longest-lived and strongest. Somehow we have to learn to accept that. I believe that is what Jesus was trying to show us, how to trust and not fear, and look for what is beyond ourselves here and now...Good topic!

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Chris Albe

April 15, 2008  7:06am

Although I think that your experience for you is true, I believe that you have not done enough research to make a comment that healing miracles are rare. The ministry of Bill Johnson, and many more will show different results. If one believes that the ministry of healing was only for the Apostles in Jesus time and are not for today, I don't believe that one has really full understanding of the Bible. Jesus never said that it was going to stop. Jesus heals, in many ways, spiritual, physical and emotional, we don't know how He will heal, we pray for it all in faith for what we don't see, knowing that all things are possible with Jesus Christ. Every day is a gift from God, whether healing will last for ever that is something we don't know, but we know that God is GOOD, that He is for us and not against us. I see it as the Lord has a giant jigsaw puzzle but He is the only one that has the picture, and he gives us a piece of the puzzle, we only see in part, He sees in whole. He knows why.

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