In Times of Illness, How Should Christians Pray in a Way That Aligns With God’s Will?

August 10, 2023

By Su Yu

The sky was particularly quiet at night, filled with stars, which decorated the sky and made the sky warm and full of magical feeling. But a Christian named Liu Xin was in no mood to enjoy this night scene. Instead, she showed a painful and sad expression. At the moment, she knelt down and prayed to the Lord Jesus in tears, “Jesus, the merciful Savior, recently I’ve gotten a bad headache and often feel dizzy. I can’t see anything clearly and often vomit when I feel a little bit funny. The doctor said I have hydrocephalus. My Lord, please show mercy on me and cure my sickness. Now I am really in great pain and I can only rely on you …” Liu Xin had prayed many times. The sickness hit her once in a while, and she dared not to leave the Lord for a single moment. She had been praying earnestly to the Lord, hoping the Lord would cure her illness. The brothers and sisters prayed for her in the morning, and even a prestigious preacher prayed for her. However, the illness still attacked her frequently. Liu Xin felt very confused: The Lord Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them” (Mark 11:24). The Lord told us that no matter what difficulties we encounter, as long as we pray to Him, He will bestow on us what we need. I have a sickness and pray to the Lord, but why doesn’t He cure me? Has the Lord abandoned me? Thinking of this, Liu Xin felt even worse, and then her headache began again. She could not stand it, so she prayed to the Lord for curing her, and even said she would rather die than live. The more she prayed, the more annoyed she became. She began to waste away and was reluctant to talk to others. She even lost faith in life, feeling that she was a liability. She felt so miserable.

One day after lunch, Liu Xin had a headache again, and she had to rest in bed. At this time, her good friend, Zhou Li, visited her. When Zhou Li asked about her recent physical condition, Liu Xin’s tears could not help but flow down. She told Zhou Li about her pain and confusion these days. The more she said, the more upset she felt. She constantly asked Zhou Li, “The Lord didn’t listen to my prayers. Does the Lord not want me?”

Zhou Li took out two sheets of paper towels and handed them to Liu Xin, telling her something in a serious tone, “In the past, I, like you, thought that the Lord Jesus promised us whatever we pray to the Lord for, He will bestow on us, so whenever I encountered difficulties, I immediately prayed to the Lord and asked Him to make a path for me. After praying, I was filled with joy and gratitude to the Lord when I got the blessings, but when I couldn’t see God’s blessing, I would become passive and weak. I misunderstood the Lord and complained about why He did not listen to my prayers. I did not find it wrong to do so in the past, but when I read a book recently, I noticed that such prayers were unreasonable and not in accordance with God’s will.”

Liu Xin was very surprised to hear these words, and couldn’t accept Zhou Li’s fellowship immediately. She frowned in deep thought. She thought of what the preacher always said, “Living in the world, what we need is the Lord’s protection and blessings. The Lord’s love is greater than all, and His power surpasses all. The Lord promised us that we can receive whatever we pray.” Moreover, many people in the church prayed in this way and received the blessings of the Lord. How can we say such prayers are not in accordance with the Lord’s will? Noticing Liu Xin’s confused expression, Zhou Li asked about her thoughts. After knowing her point of view, Zhou Li said with a smile: “The reason why you can have such confusion is mainly because you don’t know the real meaning of the Lord Jesus’ words, ‘Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them’ (Mark 11:24). In fact, there are different backgrounds to the Lord’s work and words. When the Lord Jesus started to work, although the disciples who followed Him, did not have a real understanding of the Lord, nor did they know the Lord Jesus is the incarnate God. They had no true faith in the Lord. So the Lord told them they would receive whatever they prayed for, as long as they had faith. The Lord said this in the hope that the disciples could rely on Him more, see His mighty power, have true faith in Him, and know that the Lord is the Messiah to come, not hoping that man would regard Him as a physician who heals the sick and grants all pleas. Since God is the Creator, while we are small creatures, our prayers before God should be reasonable. We should keep in our hearts obedience to God and reverence for Him, and entrust the illness into God’s hands. No matter what God does, it is proper for us not to complain about Him and make demands on Him. A few days ago I extracted some words in this regard, let me read it to you!”

Seeing Liu Xin nod her head gently, Zhou Li took out a small notebook from her bag and read, “When one comes before God to pray, they must give consideration to how they might do so sensibly, and to how they might adjust their inner state to achieve piety and be capable of submission. Having done so, it is then fine for you to go ahead and pray…. Look at Jesus’ prayers (although His prayers are not mentioned here to make people assume His place or position): In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, ‘If it be possible….’ That is, ‘If it can be done.’ This was said in discussion; He did not say, ‘I implore You.’ With a submissive heart and in a submissive state, He prayed, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as You will’ (Mat 26:39). He still prayed like this the second time, and the third time He prayed, ‘May Your will be done.’ Having grasped the intentions of God the Father, He said, ‘May Your will be done.’ He was able to completely submit without making any personal choices at all. He asked if it were possible for God to take this cup from Him. What did that mean? He prayed that way because He thought of the great suffering of bleeding on the cross to His last dying breath—and this touched upon the matter of death—and because He had not yet completely grasped the intentions of God the Father. Given that He was able to pray like that despite the thought of such suffering, He was very submissive indeed. His manner of prayer was normal; He did not propose any conditions in His prayer, nor did He say the cup had to be removed. Rather, His purpose was to seek God’s will in a situation that He did not comprehend. The first time He prayed, He did not understand, and He said, ‘If it be possible … but as You will.’ He prayed to God in a state of submissiveness. The second time, He prayed in the same manner. In total, He prayed three times (of course, these three prayers did not happen over a mere three days), and in His final prayer, He completely came to understand God’s will, after which He no longer implored for anything. In His first two prayers, He was just seeking, and He sought in a state of submissiveness. However, people simply do not pray like that. In their prayers, people say, ‘God, I beg You to do this and that, and I beg You to guide me in this and that, and I beg You to make ready conditions for me….’ Perhaps He will not prepare suitable conditions for you and will let you suffer hardships. It is so unreasonable for people to always pray, saying, ‘God, I ask You to make preparations for me and give me strength.’ You must be reasonable when you pray, and you must do so under the premise that you are submitting. Do not set the terms before you pray. Before you even begin to pray, you are already setting the terms, thinking: I must implore God and get Him to do such and such. This way of praying is so unreasonable. Oftentimes, God does not listen to people’s prayers at all, so when people pray, they feel nothing at all” “Praying and seeking in God’s presence is not about forcing God to do this and that. What is a reasonable prayer? What is an unreasonable prayer? You will know after gaining experience for some time. For example, after you pray this time, you feel that the Holy Spirit doesn’t do it that way and doesn’t lead you that way. When you pray the next time, you won’t pray like that, won’t force God like you tried to last time, and won’t ask God for things according to your own will. You will say: ‘Oh God! Everything is done according to Your will.’ As long as you focus on this approach, and grope about for a while, then you will know what ‘unreasonable’ is” (“The Significance of Prayer and Its Practice”).

After reading these words, Zhou Li went on fellowshiping, “It shows that before the crucifixion, although He had human weaknesses, He didn’t ask the heavenly Father to remove the pain. When we suffer illness or disasters, we never seek the will of the Lord and what we should do to meet the requirements of God, just blindly demanding grace and mercy from the Lord. In essence, we are forcing the Lord to do this and that as we demand. Our behavior is so unreasonable. How can the Lord fulfill our prayers? Therefore, no matter what illnesses, disasters or bad things befall us, we must pray standing in the right position. We cannot blindly ask the Lord to follow our will. Instead, we should obey and seek the will of the Lord. Just as Job went through the trials, a mountain of sheep and cattle were taken away by robbers and his sons and daughters were killed by the collapsed houses. In an instant, Job lost priceless family possessions and all his children. This sudden disaster was unbearable for anyone. But when Job heard the news, he didn’t pray to God that the disasters should be removed promptly, but instead sought God’s will. Finally, when he understood that all disasters were not from man, not by chance but the trails of God, he rent his mantle and fell on the ground, saying, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah’ (Job 1:21). And when Peter was arrested and put into prison, brothers and sisters shielded him out of the city. Just when he escaped from the city, the Lord Jesus appeared to Peter and told him that He would be crucified for him. On hearing this, Peter understood the will of the Lord Jesus. At that moment, instead of making unreasonable demands on the Lord Jesus, Peter returned to Rome to take the initiative to ask for a crucifixion upside down. Through the way Peter and Job behaved in the trials, we can see that they are particularly sensible before God, not blindly asking God to satisfy his own flesh, but seeking how to satisfy God’s will. When they knew, they submitted to God’s orchestrations and arrangements. People like them are reasonable before God. In the same way, today when the trial of illness befalls us, we shouldn’t keep asking God for a quick cure for our illness. Instead, we should pray to God wisely and hand over our illness to the hands of God. We should live before God and learn to obey Him, not always live in illness.”

After listening to the fellowship, Liu Xin came to understand when the Lord Jesus said, “What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them” (Mark 11:24), He was to give people confidence in their experience, not to let us make unreasonable demands on God. Thinking back on her prayers, she always prayed to God to cure her illness as soon as possible, never seeking the Lord’s will. Her prayers were so unreasonable, how would the Lord listen to them? Liu Xin knew she should be reasonable and learn to seek the Lord’s will when in illness. Only in this way, will the Lord listen to her prayers.

A few days later, when Liu Xin was cleaning her room, she had a sudden headache and felt dizzy. She held on the wall and slowly sat on the sofa, beginning to pray as before, “Lord! Please cure my sickness, Oh Lord …” After praying, a passage of words hit her, “One should pray with a seeking, submissive heart. When something has befallen you, for instance, and you are not sure how to handle it, you might say, ‘God! I do not know what to do about this. I wish to satisfy You in this matter, and to seek Your will. May Your will be done. I wish only to do as You will, not as I will. You know that all human will is contrary to Yours, and resists You, and does not accord with the truth. I ask that You enlighten me, give me guidance in this matter, and let me not offend You….’ That is the appropriate tone for a prayer” (“The Significance of Prayer and Its Practice”).

Thinking of this, Liu Xin realized she shouldn’t make unreasonable demands on the Lord any more but seek the Lord’s will on her illness. So she prayed, “Lord! When Job’s body was covered in boils, neither did he complain about you, nor did he ask you to remove the sickness. Instead, he obeyed Your orchestrations and arrangements and held faith in You. But when illness came upon me, I kept asking You to cure me. When not cured, I often complain about You, misunderstand You and live in weakness and negativity. Lord! I realize today that I am too unreasonable and disobedient. Now I am willing to entrust this disease into Your hands. Like Job, I will hold faith in You and thoroughly shame Satan. Everything is in Your hands and I will obey You.” After praying, although Liu Xin still felt a bit dizzy, she was steadfast and bright in her heart.

Later, whenever she felt dizzy, she would pray like this: “Lord, whether You love me or not, whether You give me grace or not, whether my illness is cured or not, I will follow You, pursue to love You, and no longer strike bargains with You …” Liu Xin did not expect that when she truly obeyed God, her dizziness gradually decreased, and she also learned how to pray to God reasonably in disease and seek God’s will. This made Liu Xin think: “I once lived in pain caused by my illness and even the pastor and elder were not able to help me. But the words that Zhou Li read to me solved my difficulty. From which book do those words originate?” Thinking of this, Liu Xin hurried to contact Zhou Li, hoping to get the answer …