1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
I remember as a boy in my dad’s church, there was a lady who unexpectedly became very sick. I’m not sure what Miss Ruby had, but the congregation prayed for her continuously. Miss Ruby had never married and loved children. She taught first grade for many years until retirement. Miss Ruby had a very soft voice and a calm spirit. Her class was so well-behaved because if her students weren’t quiet, they wouldn’t be able to hear her. I learned later in life that accidentally, Miss Ruby had backed over a little girl with her automobile. The pain of the girl’s death had caused her to have a nervous breakdown, and she never spoke louder than a whisper after that time. Everyone loved Miss Ruby dearly. There wasn’t a mean bone in her body.
My dad would remind me as we prepared for bed, “Don’t forget to include Miss Ruby in your prayers.”
Several Saturdays later, Miss Ruby died.
For a young boy, her death was hard to understand. I had asked God for something important – for Miss Ruby to be healed. It happened in the Bible. People even came back from the dead; blind men were given sight; the lame walked; demons were cast out. Nothing is impossible with God. So why did Miss Ruby die?
At my young age, the answers I heard around the church didn’t satisfy me. It wasn’t that I was particularly close to Miss Ruby. Truth be known, I hardly knew her; but, I believed in the miracle. I saw the persistence of her friends praying for her. I saw my dad anoint her with oil. I wanted to witness the miracle of God’s healing power with my own eyes! A real live Biblical truth from the front pew.
Since Miss Ruby died, I’ve comforted many people with the same questions I asked. Why didn’t God heal her? Did we not pray enough? Were we lacking in faith? Can He still do miracles in the modern-day?
The principle problem is a misunderstanding of prayer. Prayer is a means of communication between us and God. The power behind prayer is even more potent than any of us can imagine. When God does not answer us in the manner we feel He should, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us. It means His plan is different from ours. Still, in the “rough” times, an unanswered prayer can be heart wrenching.
After Miss Ruby’s death, dad was out in the yard planting flowers for mom; I went to help him.
“Dad,” I started, “Why didn’t God heal Miss Ruby? Did our church lack faith? Or did God not hear us?”
Now that I am a father, I know my dad probably wanted to tell me to go play with the neighbors so he could have peace; but, instead, he sat on the ground, took off his gloves, and looked up at the sky. The look I saw meant he was choosing his words.
“Sometimes, God says yes to our prayers. Sometimes, God says no. Sometimes, God says wait,” my dad began to explain. “No is hard to hear, especially when it has to do with someone we love and care about.”
“Did you believe God would heal her, Dad?” I asked.
“I did. But that’s our part. The rest is up to God. He chose to heal Miss Ruby in Heaven. Remember, He put her here, and He knows the right time to take her back. Our job is to ask, believe, wait, and accept.”
A few weeks after Miss Ruby’s death, her family home was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. As I heard the news, one of the ladies at the church commented, “Praise God Miss Ruby didn’t live to see that happen. That house was her grandfather’s. It had been in her family a long time. Oh, it would’ve broken her heart.”
I’ve learned much since that time: God wants to hear our plans, our desires, our wishes. When He says, “No,” it isn’t that He doesn’t like our ideas or doesn’t want to help. He just has a different plan; and, His plans are always better than ours and for our good.