Prayers That God Answers
A THIRTY-NINE-YEAR-OLD physician, after undergoing an exploratory operation, learned that he had a rare form of cancer. He tried desperately to stay alive. He left no avenue in the field of medicine unexplored. He even sought miracles. One of a number of professional and lay clergymen who regularly visited him prayed that he might be healed. But this physician died, leaving behind his wife and two young children.
In view of cases of this nature and others, one may wonder why many prayers, though offered in great earnest, seemingly go unanswered. Does God really answer prayers?
Consider this illustration used by Jesus Christ: “Who is the man among you whom his son asks for bread—he will not hand him a stone, will he? Or, perhaps, he will ask for a fish—he will not hand him a serpent, will he? Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?”—Matt. 7:9-11.
But does a human father usually give his children every single thing for which they ask? What if the children are demanding, even arrogant, in asking for things? What if they have disgraced the family by bad conduct, or their requests are unreasonable, selfish or run counter to their father’s standards? Should any of these or like factors enter the picture, likely the father will refuse his children’s requests. In principle, this is also true regarding the heavenly Father, Jehovah God.
Persons who want to be heard by God must approach him in true humility, doing so through his Son Jesus Christ. That this is now the only means of approach is evident from Jesus’ words to his disciples: “Whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son.” “No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:13, 6.
Furthermore, the individual praying to God must be rightly motivated. He cannot be practicing what God condemns and expect to receive God’s help and favor.—Isa. 1:15-17.
Another vital requirement for being heard by God is that we pray in harmony with his will. Even Jesus Christ said: “Let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) Like Jesus, the person who has an approved standing before God and prays in harmony with His will can rest assured of being answered. Writing to fellow Christians, the apostle John noted: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.”—1 John 5:14.
One reason that many prayers, including those for miraculous healing, remain unanswered is that they are out of harmony with God’s will for the time. But someone might object, pointing out that the Bible mentions people who experienced miraculous cures. This is, of course, true. However, an examination of the record about those miracles indicates that these had a special purpose. Often the miracles served as proof that those empowered to perform them had God’s backing.
When the Christian congregation began in the first century C.E. miracles were part of the evidence that God approved that congregation and was no longer using the natural Israelites as his exclusive name people. Those who recognized this fact embraced Christianity. At Lydda, for example, the apostle Peter healed the paralytic Aeneas. Regarding the effect of this miraculous cure, the Bible reports: “All those who inhabited Lydda and the plain of Sharon saw him, and these turned to the Lord.”—Acts 9:35.
Those empowered to perform such miracles did not try miraculous means to relieve their own ailments nor those of fellow believers.—1 Tim. 5:23.
First-century Christians evidently recognized that it was not God’s will for them to seek miraculous healing for themselves. Had that been the case, Christians could have prolonged their lives indefinitely. Whenever anyone in their midst got sick, they could simply have prayed him back to health. Not even death would have been an obstacle to their continuing to live indefinitely on earth. As the apostle Peter was empowered to raise Dorcas from the dead, so he could have prayed for other Christians to be restored to life. Then, whenever a Christian died, Peter and others could have prayed for that one to be resurrected time and again.
The Bible, however, shows that the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ is God’s means for bringing sickness, old age and death to their end. (Rev. 20:6; 21:4) Regardless of what arguments anyone may advance about miraculous healing today, this is not now God’s way for restoring people to health. No one today can maintain perfect health. Even those who claim to have been healed miraculously get sick again, continue to grow old and eventually die.
Nevertheless, prayer can accomplish much today. Hundreds of thousands can testify to the fact that God has answered their prayers. He has sustained them in times of adversity. By means of his spirit, he has given them needed wisdom and endurance to cope with problems and trials. In their own case, they have experienced the fulfillment of what the disciple James wrote: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching.” (Jas. 1:5) When ill, God’s servants have been strengthened to maintain a wholesome outlook. It has been as the psalmist observed regarding one who is sick: “Jehovah himself will sustain him upon a divan of illness.”—Ps. 41:3.
If you want your prayers to be answered, make sure that you have an acceptable standing before God and that your petitions are in harmony with his will. This requires having accurate knowledge of his Word, the Bible, and applying it to your life. If you are not now studying the Bible, we encourage you to do so. Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in your area will be happy to assist you in this. Why not find out for yourself what grand blessings come from praying in full accord with God’s will as revealed in the Bible?