“All things are possible if you believe,” said Jesus.
But are they, what about unanswered prayers?
The phrase “All things are possible if you believe” is the words of Jesus, spoken in Mark 9:23. This particular verse comes from a passage depicting Jesus as He is approached by a man with a demon-possessed son. The demon was so vicious and volatile that it physically harmed the boy, and had tormented him for quite some time.
In this Mark 9 passage, the father pleads with Jesus to help his son, saying to Jesus, “if there is anything you can do.” It’s reasonable to assume that the father had tried everything to rid his son of this demonic entity, and he was on the verge of completely abandoning hope for a return to his son’s health. It even appears that the father went to the disciples for help previously, and they were unsuccessful in their attempts to help the boy (v. 28-29).
Jesus’ response to this man might be summarized as, What do you mean if I can do anything? All things are possible if you believe?
And at that, Jesus commanded the spirit to leave the boy – and it obeyed.
Wow, this is such a classic “Jesus moment.”
Jesus often took the opportunity while responding to a need to teach His disciples, the crowds around Him, and those of us today who are still reading about His actions.
And what a lesson it is, because Jesus lets us know that through Him, anything is possible.
People can be cured.
The dead brought back to life.
The hungry fed.
The lonely comforted.
The criminal restored.
All things are possible, if you just believe.
It’s a nice thought, right?
Jesus can do anything – you just need to believe.
But, this isn’t a new message for you, right?
You understand this about Jesus. You know this about God. You’ve heard this bit of theology. And you have undoubtedly tried to follow this truth. But it really doesn’t really hit you the way that it impacted the father of the possessed boy.
Why is that?
I’m guessing because you have tried the “all things are possible if you believe” formula out in real life… and the results weren’t what you hoped.
Maybe you prayed for a sick parent whose death was imminent, but it was just way too soon for them to pass. In desperation, you prayed to Jesus, earnestly and wholeheartedly imploring Him to come in and reverse the disease. You believed deeply that Jesus could save anyone.
You really, really believed Jesus would save them and save the day.
Unanswered prayers, your beloved parent died.
Or maybe you prayed to God to take away the addiction destroying your life. Out of options, friends, and favors, you brought your addiction to God and said, “I can’t do this. Lord, I need you to take this away from me.” You told Jesus that you believed He could do anything and humbly asked for His power.
Unanswered prayers, your addiction remained.
Or maybe you have been part of a prayer chain addressing the precariousness of a child’s life laying in the balance. Struggling to stay alive, perhaps since birth, an entire community of believers gather to intercede on the child’s behalf. Hundreds of people, prayer from various churches and communities, imploring Jesus and believing that He can save this child. That a miraculous turn around can happen.
Unanswered prayers, no miraculous cure occurs.
Oh man, does this sound bleak! But, unfortunately, this is reality.
Because sometimes we pray and healing doesn’t come.
I want to speak to you – the tender-hearted, the confused, the ones in pain. Because I know how you feel. I know what it’s like to implore God, believing that He has all the power in the cosmos to rectify a situation, only to find unanswered prayers.
Not only do our hearts break in moments of unanswered prayers, but our minds are truly confused. “Why didn’t God step in and answer my prayers,” we mull over and over.
It’s a terrible place to be. Your only hope has disappointed you. There is nowhere else to look, you feel utterly alone.
Where do you go from here?
Well, you go right back to the source.
Because friends, dealing with the issue of “unanswered prayers” is not a simple equation. It’s incredibly confusing, complex, and abstract. This is God we are talking about, after all, and His ways are different from ours.
But before we continue, I want to reassure you that all things are possible through Jesus.
Yes, even if your parent has died, your addiction remains, or a child lifted in prayer by an entire community passes, the truth remains. All things are possible, if you believe.
I wish I could simply hold your hand and look into your eyes as I write these words, because I understand the deep disappointment, confusion and pain you feel. I hope that I can possibly shed a bit of light on this heavy matter for you.
Because, when we have unanswered prayers, it becomes very difficult for us to find our way again.
See, I do believe that Jesus is accurate and honest when He makes the statement that all things are possible if you believe. I have had A LOT of unanswered prayers or prayers that didn’t seem to go the way I wanted them to.
And I want to tell you I’m still in the game and my faith in God has only grown.
My entire life, I have had very strong, unbelievable heartache in my life, and it seems like it just never quite stops. It’s a pain that began when I was a little child, followed me through various ministry positions I’ve held, and was nearly pushed over the edge by the precious loss of two unborn children.
Despite a lifetime of suffering, these situations have brought me closer to God.
Because I know without a doubt, God is not the cause of my pain.
Instead, He is the only answer to my hurt, and He’s also the only source of my joy.
You see, if my relationship with God is based entirely on what I get out of it, it’s not really a fair, loving relationship. Instead, it’s more like a relationship with a wealthy and benevolent distant relative, who you always know is there as a safety net if you happen to ever need them when you get into trouble. It’s as though God is a safeguard, in case you ever need Him to bail you out.
In that kind of scenario, with a distant benefactor, the relationship is entirely based on what that rich relative can do for you. And if they so happen to not come through for you when you need them, you get confused, hurt, and feel betrayed, and the relationship is entirely broken.
But God’s not your wealthy uncle who lives across the country. He’s your Father, and He’s right here, right now.
When you approach God in the manner of seeing him as a wealthy benefactor, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, because God is not in the business of giving us whatever we want or desire.
God is in the business of making us whole, complete and transformed in and through Him.
He wants us to be in a relationship with Him. And He offers us the most precious thing in the entire world, Himself.
We live in a world where death, decay, and pain occur. This world is not the place God intended us to live. Do you remember Genesis Chapters 1-3, where we were created to be in the Garden with God, in fellowship with Him?
I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the first humans, Adam and Eve, and how their sin separated us from our place of perfection with God.
The Fall in the Garden, was the source of turmoil, and human lives were whipped up in a frenzy, and our world was never the same…until Jesus came.
And here’s where we circle back because Jesus is our Savior – He is the bridge back to our Garden with God. No, it’s not exactly the same, here and now, but it’s a pretty good remedy until He comes back and closes this chapter.
So when Jesus tells the father of the demonized boy in Mark 9 that all things are possible if you just believe, well it is true.
Even if your prayers don’t go the way you had hoped.
Why God chooses to heal one person and let another perish is beyond our comprehension, and quite frankly, beyond our place to understand or dictate. This is God’s business and it simply isn’t ours. The Creator can allow what He allows and He can intervene when He intervenes.
Don’t forget, the reason that Adam and Eve were persuaded to eat the Forbidden Fruit was because the serpent told them that if they did, their eyes would be opened and they would be like God (Gen. 3:5).
That’s one of the problems with human beings – since the beginning, we have always tried to be like God, and decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong.
But we are the creation and He is the Maker.
This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you or isn’t there for you, by no means.
His love is overwhelming for you, even if you feel like you have unanswered prayers.
Because God is still with you. God is still loving you. God is still walking with you.
This is a profound reality.
Should this idea not comfort you, the question becomes, “Do you want your prayers answered or do you want God?”
This is a serious question to ask yourself, and I mean it with complete non-judgment on my end. Because, friends, I have had to ask myself this same question many times, and undoubtedly will in the future as well.
I’m truly sorry if you have had unanswered prayers or prayers that didn’t go the way you hoped.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where pain occurs and God is restoring it. Turning to God doesn’t mean we won’t face heartache, and we only have to look to Jesus’ own life story, or the prophets of the Old Testament, to see that even the people prominently favored by God faced tremendous suffering in their lives.
But following God means we walk with Him and experience the fruit of His Spirit: love, patience, peace, goodness, kindness, self-control, faithfulness, joy, gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23).
Life doesn’t always go the way we hoped, but that doesn’t mean God’s love for you changes. He is always there loving you in the midst of all the turmoil, pain, and confusion.
I want to urge you to turn to God with your inquiries, confusion, or anger. Tell Him how you feel. Even if you don’t want to.
Trust that He can handle it, He already knows what your feeling anyway. He wants to you to share it with Him and allow Him to shed His mercy and love into the situation.
God is really the only answer here.
I would like to end with a prayer for you:
God, I want to thank you for being there to listen to me, I really appreciate it. Help me to understand you more and the ways you move and work in this world, and with me and my problems. Help me to trust that you love me despite the circumstances I face. I also ask for you to help me to deeply grow into an unshakeable identity in your love. Thank you for your love, whether I can feel it or not, help me to believe it is always there. Amen.
I sincerely hope that this post helps you understand prayer and God a little bit more. It is a really complex topic, I don’t pretend or want to give the impression that I have figured it all out, because I don’t. I simply want to give another angle to the mystery of why some prayers go the way we hoped and others don’t. Thanks for reading and journeying with me in this topic!
Unanswered Prayers Resources:
Do you struggle to connect to God when you pray? Do you have a hard time hearing God’s voice? Well if so, this post is for you check it out here
When we have unanswered prayers, the temptation is to stop praying, but I can assure you that is not the answer. We must get back in the saddle and keep our connection to God alive. That is what prayer is, our connection to God and we desperately need it. To help you reconnect to God we created a free e-book with a lot of different prayer practices. Sometimes trying different methods help us get over hurdles and to find our way to our God who is always with us, even if we can’t always feel Him at times. You can get this great free prayer e-book here
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