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When Prayers Go Unanswered

If we are going to praise the answered prayers, what do we say about the unanswered prayers?

When my daughter was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease our (Methodist) associate minister, Steve, invited us to come and pray with him at a “healing service.” It was a couple of days after we heard the news, our heads were spinning and our hearts were breaking and he invited us and anyone who wanted to come pray.

I held my daughter as Steve anointed her with oil and prayed. It was honestly, beautiful. I remember it like it was yesterday because those who attended surrounded us with such love that night and in those early days we needed a lot of love. He prayed for the cysts in her kidneys to shrink, for wisdom for us and the doctors and for us to feel comforted and love.

There were people all over the world praying for us; and specifically our daughter.

This was all before our son, then 3, was diagnosed with the same disease 3 months later. We were, as you might imagine, devastated. By now the healing services were regular with anywhere from 5-30 people in attendance. What we prayed for was largely dependent on the news we received about one of the kids; was it bad? In those early days it seemed like all the news was bad and so we prayed.

People all over the world prayed for both kids; for a miracle, for complete healing.

They were not completely healed.

Over the next six years we watched both kids suffer kidney failure. One nearly died and wanted to die and was so depressed he needed admittance into a psychiatric hospital for stabilization after surgery survival and a kidney transplant. The other one was traumatized by her brother’s issues along with going through her own body-crushing symptoms to kidney failure and transplant.

I’m not bitter at all with God. I don’t believe God specifically gave me sick kids to raise because I’m strong and could “handle it.” I believe God is all knowing and in that wisdom put some really lovely people in my path to make our journey better (like I commented on this post on faith, here). All along I had choices. I could have stay away from church, from God, from praying but I didn’t. I didn’t because I found comfort in asking for comfort and I felt God through people that were comforting to me. I could have chosen another path, and I still believe that my kids would have received kidney transplants and we would have still had the same struggles and celebrations. They might have looked a little different in the implementation, but they would still be present.

You want to know my disconnect? I have a serious problem praising God for answered prayers when a child survives or a treatment is successful because I know there are some of us who have children that have suffered even though we prayed. Children who have suffered greatly. I have friends who have children who have died.

Were our prayers not good enough? Was it us; we’re not worthy? Our prayers, lifted up with the same intensity, pain, reverence as those whose prayers were “answered” and yet, our children did not have successful outcomes.

Should we praise God for the answered prayers and ignore the fact that some go unanswered? I don’t see how we can have it both ways on this issue. Because of the people who pray for good outcomes, I never hear them make angry statements of the prayers that weren’t answered. Do we only want to praise when it’s what we wanted?

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We no longer attend church regularly (it became apparent our son wasn’t welcome because he couldn’t fit in during the time his struggles were the greatest) but I still believe in prayer and in the church of Do Unto Others. One day, we’ll return to church, but we seem like we’re at a crossroads right now.

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5 Comments
  1. January 11, 2012 | Reply
  2. Michelle
    January 11, 2012 | Reply
  3. January 11, 2012 | Reply
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