When Healing Prayer Fails

When healing prayer fails

The last time I was in India, the ministry team I was with visited an organization that assisted men who were blind. Some of the men had been blind since they were born. Others were blind because of health-related issues. And still others were blind from traumatic life experiences.

I remember the first time we walked in the room I was overwhelmed with this conviction to pray for their healing. It was that time in life where I strongly believed every physical handicap could be healed through prayer. I heard story after story of God opening blind eyes, of lame people walking, of deaf ears being opened. I knew it could be done and I was convinced this was the place for us to witness it first-hand!

Healing prayer. Photo by Vinoth Chandar. Creative Commons.

Our first day we were limited on time, so after a brief visit, we told the men we would return the following week and do some teaching (they requested it). I knew when we left what I was going to do: I was going to fast and pray over the weekend for God to do something miraculous in that place on Monday morning!

When Monday rolled around, I was expectant as we made our way to their building. I had fasted and prayed all weekend, trusting that when we walked in, I would pray and their eyes would be opened and they would no longer be bound to darkness.

That morning after we finished our teaching, I stood in front and asked who in the group wanted prayer. Everybody raised their hands. Asking what they wanted prayer for, they said things like: “I want to start my own business,” or “I want to own my own home,” or even “I want to go to school.”

Not a single person wanted me to pray for their blindness to go away.

It was a humbling experience because in that moment I realized I had never stopped to ask God what He was doing in that place. I never took a step back and asked the Spirit: Where are you moving? How can I help you in this place?

The Kingdom of God is now but not yet

In Luke 13, Jesus tells a crowd and — more importantly, the religious people — what the kingdom is like. He said, “It’s like yeast that a woman works into enough dough for three loaves of bread — and waits while the dough rises” (vv. 20-21).

It’s like Jesus is saying: the Kingdom is here and at work, but not fully realized.

This is in stark contrast to the story that proceeds it of Jesus healing a woman with arthritis on the Sabbath. She had been crippled by it for 18 years, but Jesus touched her and she was healed in an instant.

By his actions, Jesus demonstrated that the Kingdom was a tangible, present reality — no waiting.

So, which one is it — is the Kingdom now or later?

The paradox of the Kingdom of God

I think that’s the paradox we’re supposed to live in. We’re not to only plant the seeds of the Kingdom but we have the opportunity harvest them as well.

We don’t know that woman’s story, whether there was a word, a promise, or a prayer planted in her heart years before. What if God had whispered to her in her prayers: you will be healed? What if she held that word in her heart and cherished it? And what if Jesus heard the Father say: Now is the time?

Maybe Jesus was simply harvesting the reality somebody else had planted.

Two questions that guide me

Knowing all this forces me to ask myself two questions:

1) What seeds am I planting?
2) What seeds am I harvesting?

These are the two questions I should have asked myself when I walked into that musty room in India, a room crammed full of blind men. Perhaps I would have realized it was my opportunity to plant, not to demand a harvest.

The beauty of these two questions is that they require me to listen and look for God when I walk into a room. They mandate I examine the places the Spirit wants to work and where the Spirit already is at work.

What about you?

In the comments, share a story of a time you didn’t heed God’s direction during ministry.



About Matthew Snyder

Matt is a thirty-something writer and young adult minister. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Merridith, and their dog, Finn.


  1. Yes! I needed to hear this today as I am in the throes of praying for healing for a friend. I need not to assume I know her need or how God will choose to move in this situation.

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