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Unanswered prayer

How can a person’s faith be maintained when it seems like God hasn’t answered important prayers?

By Linda Stamps-Dissmore

The day will forever be imprinted on my mind. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving in 1990. My husband, Don Stamps, had been having stomach problems. The gastroenterologist had given him several tests to try to determine the problem. We were to call the doctor on Monday afternoon to find out the results.

However, when the doctor called us on Monday morning, we knew it meant the news was not good. Cancer. The dreaded diagnosis of the 20th century. We clung to each other and cried. How could this be? We had one year left to finish the study notes for the Full Life Study Bible. We had been obedient to God in starting the project while we were missionaries in Brazil eight years before.

Surely, the diagnosis was wrong. If it was right, God would heal Don to bring honor and glory to His name.

The weeks and months that followed were a haze of surgeries and radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Don continued to write the study notes when he could. He worked at his desk with a machine pumping liquid food through a feeding tube into his body. On the other side of his desk was a large plastic wastebasket where he could vomit the bile that continued to rise from his cancerous digestive system. I continued to type the study notes and meet the deadlines for Zondervan Publishing House.

People all around the world were praying for my husband.

One Sunday morning I was sitting by myself on the last pew in my home church. Don was too sick to be there. The doctor had told us a few days before that they had done all they could. If God did not heal him, it was just a matter of time. My future looked bleak. Suddenly in that service, I felt an unbelievable peace flow through my spirit. Whatever happened, I could trust God for Don’s future, my future and the future of our three children.

In the month that followed, Don finished the study notes, and we watched him die. He did not waver. He said with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15). Watching him trust God, my teen-agers and I were able to trust God for our future.

At times I was concerned that my children would turn away from God because our prayers for their dad’s healing went unanswered. I have watched as each has answered the call of God to serve overseas, proclaiming the good news that God can be trusted with our lives. My oldest unmarried son, Toby, is a cartographer. He recently left to spend at least two years in a sensitive country that needs the gospel. My youngest son, Todd, and his wife, Leslie, and son, Andrew, are in school preparing for missions. Tiffany, my 23-year-old daughter, is in Israel teaching in a Christian school.

We have had questions about prayer, but God’s grace has been sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). We have learned that God is faithful even when our prayers seem to be unanswered. As I have gone to the Word of God for answers, some of Don’s study notes have led me to the Scriptures that I needed. In the article on divine healing, he wrote, "Know that God’s delays in answering prayers or not answering are not necessarily denials of those requests. Sometimes God has a larger purpose in mind which, when realized, results in greater glory of God and in good for us. Realize that if you are a committed Christian, God will never forsake you or forget you. He loves you so much that He has engraved you on the palms of His hands."

Isaiah 55:8,9 says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Only eternity will tell how God answered those prayers for my husband’s healing.

Linda Stamps-Dissmore is Women’s Ministries director of the Oklahoma District.


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