God didn’t answer my prayers to heal my dad but I’m still praying for Japan

Today I prayed for Japan. I pray for Japan every day. I have done so for years now.

I pray for God to change lives here, to bring people to know and trust in Him. I pray that His name would be honoured and that His Kingdom would come in Japan. I pray for God to work miracles, to do the impossible.

I pray those things because I believe in the power of prayer. Or rather I believe in the power of the God whom I pray to.

I believe that God hears and answers the prayers of His children. I believe that He is overflowing with kindness, generosity, and might. I believe that He is eager to respond in answer to prayer–indeed that He commands us to come to Him in prayer, hopeful and expectant.

But recently I’ve had to face a tough question.

Because I prayed for God to heal my dad.

And my dad died.

So what’s the point in praying for Japan?

Because let’s be honest: how can I hold onto all the stuff I’ve just written when God ignored my prayers to save my dad’s life?

I mean, seriously what was that about? Is God just not able to answer some prayers? As the classic question goes, is God willing but not able, or able but not willing? If God is not both willing and able to answer prayers then there’s no point in praying for Japan. But if God is willing and able to answer prayers, then why did He not spare my dad’s life?

Or was the problem with me? Did I not pray earnestly enough, or long enough, or did I not gather enough people to pray with me?

If that’s the case then I might as well give up on prayer altogether, because I have never prayed with more intensity than I did for God to heal my father. I fasted, I pleaded, I prayed through literal sweat and tears.

And I know that I was not alone. I have no idea how many people united in praying for my dad to recover, but I know it was more than I have time to count.

I now wear my father’s wedding ring. It’s a reminder that I am still his son, that I have a legacy to follow. Often I even forget I’m wearing it. But every time I bring my hands together to pray I feel it there and remember that God let my dad die.

So then back to the question I must answer: why bother keep praying for Japan?

Jesus Christ.

That’s—He’s the answer. He’s the reason I’m going to keep praying for Japan. To be more specific, His death is the reason.

You see, I do not know why God chose not to spare my dad’s life. But I do know why God chose not to spare His own Son’s life: outrageous love. And that gives me hope to keep praying.

When I think about that moment when my prayers were interrupted by a phone call, whenI was told my dad was passing away, when I had to say good-bye to him over the phone . . .

I’m back to that moment when I couldn’t pray anymore. All I could do was weep in devastated grief.

But when I think about that moment when the baying crowds were interrupted by Jesus’ cry—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—that moment when the Son of God breathed His last and in so doing accomplished salvation for my rebel soul . . .

I am once again silenced, but this time by astonishing grace.

And then I can pray again.

It is the cross of Jesus Christ that tells me God is indeed both willing and able to respond to prayer. Because the cross of Jesus Christ shows me that God was both willing and able to act to save this world.

The cross of Jesus Christ testifies that God is neither powerless nor apathetic towards us, but that He is overflowing with kindness and generosity and might.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?(

(Romans 8:32)

So I keep praying for Japan.

My dad’s ring reminds me that I am not God, so my prayers are devoid of swagger or presumption. But the cross of Christ reminds me that they shouldn’t be devoid of hope.

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5 thoughts on “God didn’t answer my prayers to heal my dad but I’m still praying for Japan

  1. Cathryn

    Oh Levi. I can’t bear the thought of you saying goodbye to your dad on the phone, that’s unbelievably awful. I am so very sorry for your loss.

    We’ve been pondering this whole prayer thing in our bible study group. We don’t know the answer (just in case you were hoping) but we had some little insight. 1 John tells us that when we ask in line with God’s will, then we have what we want. This is clearly not as straight-forward as we’d all hoped but it gives a little glimpse. God’s will (flipping sadly) was to take your Dad home. This stinks from our perspective but we know his plans are always for our good so we have to assume he knows what he’s doing and that it will be good in the end. This is very easy for me to write – if it was you writing this to me, I’d want to punch you…so please know I’m don’t mean to be flippant at all.

    The other thing that helped me is how even Jesus prayed hard, with blood, sweat and tears and God chose not to grant that prayer, namely in Gethsemane. If anyone knew how to pray in line with God’s will, my money would be on Jesus but in this case, God chose to say ‘no’ to his own son – and look what came out of it. I find this comforting in some way. I’m also curious about how God sent an angel to comfort Jesus – what did the angel say to Jesus that calmed him from sweating blood to peacefully heading into death.

    I have so many questions myself about whether or not God changes his mind due to our prayers (he did with Moses once) or if prayer is more about calming our hearts before him. I have MANY questions about fasting (why on earth would a merciful God be more inclined to answer prayer if we didn’t eat?) and I find it hard to think that answers to prayer depend on the number of our Christian buddies we have praying alongside us. All excellent topics for you to address in the future, oh learned one 😉

    I have no idea if the above has helped at all…but I do assure you of my sadness for you and for my prayers for you and your family.

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    1. levibooth Post author

      Hey Cat, that is helpful, so thanks for risking a punch to say it 😉 I think you’re right on with what you say about Jesus’ prayer. If God chose to say “no” to His own son pleading through sweat and tears then it’d be a bit presumptuous of me to assume He’ll never say “no” to me.

      I’m looking into the topic of fasting at the moment so I’ll be sure to share my bounty of wisdom with you when I’ve solved that one!

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