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When God Says No

What Does It Mean When Prayers for Healing Seem to Go Unanswered? According to Father Matthias Thelen, It’s Only the Beginning of a Journey in Faith

For every story of healing, there are countless stories of unrelenting suffering. Death. Hearts broken by sadness and loss.

The question that never seems to fade is, why? How can a loving God not help His creatures when they are hurting? Did the sufferer do something to deserve what’s happening?

“Not at all—not at all!” says Father Matthias Thelen, president of Encounter Ministries and pastor of St. Patrick's in Brighton. “God either delivers us from suffering or he delivers us through suffering. That's the power of God. God did not come just simply to say, ‘I'm going to come and solve all of your problems.’ No, he's like, ‘I'm going to unite myself to you and you may have to suffer with me in and through this, but I'm ultimately victorious.’" 

At Encounter Ministries, healing is an ongoing activity. The organization is leading the way in terms of rediscovering the power of evangelization, worship, and inner restoration, but they know well that not every prayer is answered immediately.

“As someone who prays for the sick and all these ministries, we don't have an issue when people aren't necessarily healed because God's still going to deliver them. God is still at work. He still loves them,” Father Thelen says. “Because the mystery is that he invites us to be with him where there is no more suffering, no more wailing, no more pain, no more death. And that's the good news of the gospel.

“But he never promised that this was going to be heaven. In other words, part of what I always tell people is that it's God's job to heal, it's our job to pray. We just simply become obedient to that command to pray for the sick. And if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. But we really press into his goodness.”

Father Thelen says he was drawn to healing ministry almost by accident. “Some friends were going to downtown Detroit evangelizing on the street. We were praying and I'll never forget this woman who was basically blind, couldn't read anything in front of her—that day, she was radically healed on the spot. It really had a deep impact on me. 

“I remember doubting what I’d seen. Was she blind? Was she not? But we had seen it and witnessed the change. Both her ability to read things far away and her screaming and her praising God and her joy—all of it. And I remember thinking to myself (was), this couldn't have happened because I'm not worthy. And then I realized that, oh, I thought this was about me and my holiness. It's not about me at all. It's about Jesus loving this woman.” 

Father Thelen, who has seen many healings since that day, says his perspective has changed completely.

“Healing is all around us,” he says. “They didn’t stop happening, and they’re not done by only a select few. It’s just simply a laying on of hands—or maybe not—and just asking God to bring healing and then just testing it out. It's honestly that simple. It's essentially us stepping out in faith and praying for a brother or sister who's sick.

“God not only can do these things today, but if we give him a chance he wants to.”