On Unanswered Prayer

Greetings in Christ,


Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.  Matthew 15:29–31 (ESV)

This coming Wednesday, January 24, will be the 9th anniversary of my brother, Mark’s, life-saving lung transplant. On a bitterly cold afternoon in 2009, Mark received the call from the Mayo Clinic that lung transplant he needed was available. We all raced to Rochester and in the early hours of January 24, 2009, Mark got his life back. 

On February 25, 1989, my youngest brother, Doug, died of the same lung disease. The gift of modern medicine had not progressed enough in 1989 for Doug to receive the transplant he needed to live. I know that everything that could have been done at that time was done. Doug’s healing lay beyond our abilities in 1989.

It is hard to read a passage from Scripture about Jesus healing the sick and not wonder why your prayers for someone you loved did not receive an answer. I am confident that Mark’s healing was a gift from God given through the hands of very talented people in the healing arts. I am convinced that the people who worked with Doug were just as gifted.

Still, the mystery of unanswered prayer is a challenge to faith. It is one that believers have carried since the time of Jesus. Not all the lame in His time were healed, not all blind received their sight, not all the disabled were restored, not all the mute were given voice. The ‘why’ of any unanswered pray, both then and now, is something that is often not ours to know.

I am confident that as we pray, ‘Thy will be done’ in the Lord’s Prayer that God’s good and gracious will is done according to His purpose. I may not always comprehend that purpose this side of the resurrection, but as I put my trust in God’s promises, I will one day know the fullness of that purpose.