Jesus prayed, I prayed, and neither of us were answered: how to pray for healing

When I sit down to pray for my sick loved one, I want to pray for healing.
That’s natural.
And yet I know that immediate physical healing is not always in God’s plan. Are there other specific things I should be praying about then?
Or ought I simply add a disclaimer, like “may your Will be done”?

right way to pray for healing 2 #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #spoonie #faith #God #Hope

I’ve written about prayer in Why we need to make up our minds about prayer and Why we should pray for healing from chronic illness.

I’ve asked whether the Bible promises to answer prayer in Why praying for healing is tricky.

Now it’s time to answer the question: what should we pray?

To answer this, I think it’s helpful to look at how Jesus prayed.


  • Jesus prayed contradictory prayers
  • Jesus prayed huge prayers
  • I have prayed prayers that were not answered and others that were (God healed my sister but not my mum)
  • This is why I keep praying

Jesus prayed contradictory prayers (Luke 22:42)

Please heal

“Take this cup from me.”

In Gethsemane before he died, Jesus prayed for healing. He prayed for relief from present and future agony. He prayed against physical and spiritual pain.

He didn’t get it.

As the Son of God, He put His stamp of approval on such prayers. He sanctified them for us. More than that, He knows and understands what it is to pray them.

So far, so good.

Please display Your glory.

Not my will but yours be done.”

We cannot know how God will be glorified in the specific instances of life.

We know not how the angels are looking down at earth and praising Him all the more because He is using suffering to make His name great.

Sometimes we may catch glimpses, tiny acknowledgements that God is indeed working through our situation.

Most of the time, however, we simply walk on, waiting for that glorious day when all will be made clear.

We don’t know the future. We scarcely know the present. It is because of this we must pray this prayer as well.

God’s glory is the most important thing. More important than healing.

Often I need to pray for the humility to accept this.

Jesus prayed huge prayers (John 17)

It’s important to remember that our Loved Ones, though they may have ruined physical bodies, their eternal souls are still intact!

Anything we would pray for a ‘well’ person, we can (and should) pray for them. Their greatest need is still Jesus.

Jesus gives us an example of praying for other Christians by praying for His disciples the night before His death.

I praise you God for the glory my friends bring to You.

All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 17:10

I pray for unity in relationships.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. Vs.11

I pray for protection from Satan and sin.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. Vs. 15

I pray that you will give them a love of your Word and a desire for Godliness.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. Vs. 17

I pray for their relationship with God.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory vs. 24

May they grow closer to Him and feel His love.

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Vs. 26

I don’t pray prayers like this nearly enough. Do you?

right way to pray for healing 2 #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #spoonie #faith #God #Hope right way to pray for healing 2 #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #spoonie #faith #God #Hope

I have prayed prayers that were not answered and others that were

I once read that when God heals someone miraculously, He is giving us a glimpse of what will come in the future.

This resonates with me.

He is whetting our tongue, giving us a foretaste. In Heaven our Loved One will be healed. One day, our prayers for healing will be answered.

This is certain.

Yet we (understandably) want our Loved One to be healed. Can’t God give a glimpse of Heaven through them?

When He doesn’t it’s easy to become discouraged. To forget that God can work miracles. That God can answer prayer.

God didn’t heal my Mum

I have prayed for my mum’s healing for over fifteen years. Other people prayed long before I came around. And you know what? My mum hasn’t been healed. Her illness has only gotten worse.

This is hard, so hard to bear.

God did heal my sister

When my sister was seventeen the doctors found a brain tumour. She was in hospital for three months. Had 10 different operations.

In the end, God healed her. He healed her without an operation. The surgeons went in to try again – and found the problem was gone. They couldn’t believe it.

We could.

The recovery was long and slow. We wanted her home before Christmas. I’d been praying for 3 months. I was dry and exhausted. I was sick of it all. I had even half given up praying.

One day I could take it no longer. I sat down and I begged God to bring her home on the day before Christmas Eve.

The next day the doctors told us she definitely wouldn’t be able to come home on that day.

She came home. God answered prayer.


right way to pray for healing 2 #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #spoonie #faith #God #Hope

This is why I keep praying

I’ve prayed detailed prayers.

I’ve prayed exhausted prayers.

They haven’t always been answered in the way I want. Do I know why my sister didn’t need another operation, but my mum is still sick?


What can I say? What encouragement can I give?

God does what is best according to His glorious purpose. Do I always like His purpose? Definitely not. Does that mean His purpose is wrong or cruel?

Absolutely not.

I have a hard time remembering this myself, but I think it is true:

We do not need to know the outcome of our prayer before we pray, we simply need to know whether the One we pray to is trustworthy.

That is what makes the prayer worth it.

Oh my friends, if I know anything, it is this. He is trustworthy. He is worth it.

So let us pray.

// do you have trouble knowing what to pray? Do your prayers for your Loved One differ from your prayers for others? How often do you pray for people as Jesus prayed for His disciples?

This is part of a series:

Why we should pray for healing (and why it’s so hard)

Why praying for healing is tricky (those troublesome Bible passages!)

Why we need to make up our minds about prayer

Come join the conversation or comment below!

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Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

2 thoughts on “Jesus prayed, I prayed, and neither of us were answered: how to pray for healing”

  1. Do you have trouble knowing what to pray? Yes I certainly do, especially when I am going through a rough patch in life
    Do your prayers for your Loved One differ from your prayers for others? To be honest, I thought all prayers were the same, no matter who you are praying for
    How often do you pray for people as Jesus prayed for His disciples? I don’t actually know how to do this yet and I really should learn
    I pretty much struggle with everything that you have written in your story today and I have been very encouraged by this prayer series because I struggle with prayer every time I want to do it and I want to learn and grow in my prayer life and half the time I don’t know where to start and you have taught me a lot through this series and encouraged me and I just want to say thank you ❤️️☺️

    1. Hi Paige! Thank you so much for sharing. Prayer is definitely a journey, and one I struggle with quite frequently – there is always something to learn, or a lack of trust to repent from. I find it hard to remember that prayer is more important than action, because God is the One who works and not me!
      Thank you for your encouraging words 🙂 and I will pray for you as you continued to seek Jesus! Your desire to do so is important and beautiful.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you, friend.