When Prayer Isn't Answered...My Way

Our friend, Frank, has been doing a Sunday evening mini-series on prayer. While it’s likely I heard him do a variation of these messages in the 90′s at a former church, his words have been freshly challenging and encouraging me.

As a small group of us sat our family room listening to him teach last night, the Lord began to show me how easily I’m tempted to discouragement when God doesn’t answer my prayers my way.

Then I started thinking about Uncle Rocky.

When I was in my late 20′s, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. This crisis sent me into “prayer mode” and I prayed for him numerous times a day. I believed God spoke to me that He would heal Uncle Rocky, and I prayed with faith and gusto. I also thought it would be a wonderful lesson for then 3-year-old Josh and 2-year-old Jaime. I remembered telling them that Uncle Rocky didn’t know Jesus and that I believed Jesus was going to heal him so he could have more time to become a Christian. I remember thinking how exciting it would be for my children to experience a miracle at their young age!

But God had other plans. When his second serious surgery was scheduled due to a growing (rather than shrinking) tumor, I wavered in my faith that God would remove his cancer. I felt I needed to visit my uncle the night before his surgery and share the gospel with him once more. In fact, when I arrived at his apartment I informed him I wasn’t leaving until he (and I…smile) had assurance of his salvation.

At around 3 AM, after hours of talking, reading scripture, laughing, praying, singing him worship songs and praying some more, Uncle Rocky asked Christ to forgive his sin and committed whatever days he had left to following Him. I hoped his prayer was sincere, not the sweet accommodation of a zealous niece by her exhausted uncle. When he came through the surgery many in our family were thrilled that there was new peace, joy and affectionate references to his new relationship with the Lord. What a glorious manifestation of the love of God! And the doctors were cautiously hopeful that this time the cancer would respond to treatment.

But weeks later Uncle Rocky died. Yes, he died. As his imminent death became obvious, I wrestled with the Lord. Why did He give me such a clear sense in my heart that my uncle would be healed? Was my faith in vain? Why did I spend all those days praying with my two little toddlers that Jesus would heal Uncle Rocky? How would they respond to his death?

 I'll finish this story tomorrow.

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