Following Jesus

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?

March 29, 2021 by

Lazarus being raised from the dead
"Lazarus, Come Out." Artwork by Harold Copping.

The story of Lazarus from John, chapter 11, is a perennial favorite every Easter. As we follow the life and ministry of Jesus into his last week, the raising of Lazarus from the dead points us to the very best hope we have.

Martha, Lazarus’ sister, went out to meet Jesus when she heard he was on his way to their house. She had seen Jesus heal the blind, the lame, and the sick, and even raise a dead girl back to life.

Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’” (John 11:12–27)

It is almost Easter again, a whole year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the lives of all of us. One year ago the world began to go into lockdown. Borders were closed, air travel all but ceased, schools closed, we could not worship together, and loved ones died alone in hospitals. Now, as Easter approaches once more we begin to hope for warmer days, for the arrival of Spring and the easing of the pandemic. Yet though the extensive vaccination efforts bring the end of the pandemic nearer, COVID has left immeasurable sickness and sadness in its wake. Throughout the year, many prayers, my own included, went up for the sick and dying. Yet worldwide, over 2.6 million have died anyway. Why? Did God not hear our prayers? Did he disregard our pleas for healing?

Recently I came across the eulogy of Lois Evans, given by her son Jonathan in January of 2020. Lois, the wife of well-known pastor, speaker, and author Tony Evans, died after a battle with cancer. In the eulogy, Jonathan Evans told how he wrestled with God, questioning why, despite all the prayers that went up for her healing, she died anyway: “If we have victory in your name, didn’t you hear us when we were praying? Didn’t you see the cancer? . . . Didn’t you hear us? Why didn’t you do what we were asking of you?” Jonathan’s questions were the same questions that I asked God twenty-one years ago when our son Matt died of cancer at twenty-two years of age. Thousands of people had prayed for healing and yet Matt died.

As I read on in the eulogy I was struck by God’s answer to Jonathan: “You don’t understand the nature of My victory. Just because I didn’t answer your prayer your way doesn’t mean that I haven’t already answered your prayer, because victory was already given to your mom. You don’t understand because of the victory that I have given you.

“There was always only two answers to your prayers – either she was going to be healed or she was going to be healed. Either she was going to live or she was going to live. Either she was going to be with family or she was going to be with family. Either she was going to be well taken care of or she was going to be well taken care of. Victory belongs to Me because of what I’ve already done for you.
The two answers to your prayer are yes and yes. Because victory belongs to Jesus. You need to understand that I am God and I am sovereign. And My game plan is bigger than any one player on the field. So you need to trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on you, but lean on Me because I have the ability to make this crooked situation straight. I am the sovereign God. That’s why they say that I am that I am.
And I know that it was hard for you to sit there and watch your mom die, but don’t let that belittle the fact of how hard it was for Me to watch my Son die so she could live. There were always two answers to your question – yes and yes – because of My grace being sufficient.”

And so we return to the story of Lazarus. Lazarus dies and Jesus raises him from the dead. Later at some point Lazarus died again. But the words of Jesus “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though they die, yet shall they live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” ring out loud and clear to all of us. The victory over death belongs to Jesus. He simply asks us the question: “Do you believe this?” Yes, I do! God did hear our prayers for healing, and his answer was yes.

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About the author

Randall Gauger with his wife, Linda

Randall Gauger

Randall Gauger is a bishop of the Bruderhof communities in the United States. He and his wife, Linda, live at the Fox Hill...

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