Old Meeting House Congregational Church (1643)

The Best Hidden Church in Norwich

If Your Prayers Aren’t Answered

It took me many years before I could attempt to answer that question what is the answer to the riddle of seemingly unanswered prayer? Surely all of us at one time or another have prayed fervently and sincerely only to find certain of our prayers apparently unanswered. We are aware of our need, which can be urgent and pressing. From the study of the Bible we find promises that God will answer our prayers. And yet we receive no help and we are left wondering why?

I cannot pretend to offer a full solution to this ancient enigma, but I do think there is a clue. It lies in the question asked by Jesus of the man by the pool of Bethesda, who had been physically handicapped for 38 years! Jesus asked the man, Do you want to be healed? And he waited for the man to answer it.

A cruel question to ask a sufferer? A pointless question from Jesus? Psychology, medicine, and religion generally agree that it is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves – and that the answer demands rigorous honesty.

Each of us is more than willing to be rid of hurts and problems: illness, pain or any unhappiness. We are ready and eager to give up our ills. But to be willing to be made whole demands more than that. To be made whole we must surrender the self-pities, the hates, the resentments, guilt’s, fears and selfishness’s that lie at the roots of our ills and bind us to them. The word “holy” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word, halig, which means whole, healthy. And the question is whether we are willing to be “holy” or healthy in our total being, or whether we just want to stop “hurting” in some department.

I can remember many years ago talking to my counselling supervisor about a middle-aged man whose hands were crippled with arthritis. “He believed his prayers for healing weren’t answered,” my supervisor said. “But which prayers did he mean? This man wouldn’t admit that what was at the deeper level of his consciousness contradicts what is at the verbal level. He prayed verbally, “God make my hands straight. I want health. Make me well.” But at a deeper level in him is enough hatred not only to curl his hair but to curl his fingers!”

In this case, who was saying “no” to healing? Wasn’t it the man himself?

Wilt thou be made whole? Asked Jesus. It is a question I ask myself now before I petition God in prayer.



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