When my pain first began, my prayer was "God, please heal me!" It's normal when suffering and tragedy strike to pray for God to take the hurt away. No one likes to suffer. As months without healing have turned into years, I have often wondered and thought that maybe God doesn't want me healed. Perhaps God's plan for my life is chronic pain in order that He might receive more glory. I don't know what my future holds, but I've often asked, is it wrong to continually ask for healing? When does one finally stop praying for God to heal them?
As time goes on, my prayers are slowly changing from "heal me" to "help me God, give me grace". Is it because I didn't think God could heal me? No, I knew and still know that he can. Is it because it seems like God isn't going to answer my prayer for healing, so I need to change things up a little? Yes, obviously it often seems like God isn't going to answer my prayers for healing because it's been over three and a half years and He hasn't. But I know I don't need to ask for something other than healing in order to keep from annoying God or to somehow "get on His good side". Rather, my prayers have changed in response to God working in my heart to understand that He has a purpose in my pain, and it might be that His purpose can only be accomplished through my pain.
In response to people's comments about persevering in prayer or having faith as a mustard seed [Matthew 17:20], Randy Alcorn wrote in his book If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil:
"...Paul asked God to remove his disease three times, not a thousand times or a hundred or even a dozen. Just three times he asked--but God made it clear the affliction had come from his gracious hand [2 Corinthians 12:7-10]. Paul had no desire to ask God to remove that which his Lord wanted to use to create in him greater Christlikeness and dependence upon God."He further says, "if I could snap my fingers and remove my disease (he is an insulin-dependent diabetic)--apart from some direct revelation from God that I should do so--I would not use that power. Why not? Because God has chosen not to."
Does this mean we can only pray for God to heal us 3 times like Paul did? No, I don't think God intends us to take this scripture that literally. But I think we do have to question our motive in praying for healing. Is it so we can get back to living the easy life and doing the things we want? Or is it so that God would be glorified and His kingdom would advance more in our healing?
Are we still only praying for healing after 20 years of suffering? If so, how much do we really desire to be like Christ, or do we love Him only for His benefits? We must remember God's ways are much higher than our ways (Isaiah 55 8-9). Thankfully, we have a sovereign God in whom we can always trust! I think it's ok to ask for healing, and I still do from time to time, but we must "move on" from only desiring healing. After all, as Alcorn said, " all healing in this world is temporary."
God can and does still heal. But for some, suffering is the means He uses to conform us to the image of His Son. And this is what we should be striving for because the kindgom of God is forever, unlike our physical bodies. So maybe when praying for ourselves and others who are suffering we should pray, "Lord, give her grace, joy, and peace in you. Give her strength when she's weak. If it be your will, please heal her, but if not, help her to suffer well and fight the good fight of faith for your glory."