QUESTION: Will God choose to heal our 13-month-old daughter with heart failure based on our faith in Him, or does that not matter? Does it make a difference how many people are praying for her? Does it help if we have her anointed with oil by an elder?
RESPONSE: Only God knows if He will heal or not heal your daughter. Whatever He does, however, will be perfectly good for her and perfectly good for those who love her and are praying for her. We know this because He is perfect. Too often we let what we think that He should do prejudice our expectations of what He will do. That's a distortion of the verse that says, "unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think..." (Eph:3:20 ). In other words, God is way beyond us in knowing what is best regarding our situation and request.
Why, then, should we even bother to make requests, if God's answer is "above all that we ask or think"? It wouldn't make sense if prayer were simply a wish list, in which we more than likely wouldn't get exactly what we (and, in particular, our flesh) wanted. Prayer is so much more, especially regarding its relationship to faith. "But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb:11:6).
So praying to God is an act of faith. It's a matter of believing that He exists and that He will reward those who seek Him. Obviously, faith matters (although thankfully, God's working in our lives is not restricted to or dependent upon our faith). The so-called "faith preachers" tragically distort faith, turning it into a method (like magic or witchcraft) that forces God to act on a person's behalf. They claim that when the healing or finances do not take place as expected, it is due to a lack of faith on the part of those who prayed. George Müller, whose life was an incredible testimony of God's answers to prayer, had it "spot on," biblically, as he responded to someone who had complimented him on being "a man of great faith." He said, "No, I'm a man of little faith...but it's in a great God!"
Does it matter how many people are praying for her? No. Prayer is not a quantitative process that pressures God to respond to numbers. Yet the more believers who are involved in prayer, the more will be seeking God, and the more will be blessed by God's answering their prayers. But what if your little child dies? Wouldn't that grieve all those praying for her healing? Yes. It grieved Jesus when Lazarus died, even though Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Why did He weep? Because He knew that death, which began when sin entered the world, involves separation. We don't want to be separated from our loved ones, who we know will be with Jesus, even though it is only for a brief time (temporally speaking) until we see them again.
Our prayer is that God will heal your little daughter for your comfort's sake, just as Paul was spared "sorrow upon sorrow" by the healing of Epaphroditus, who "was sick nigh unto death" (Phil:2:27) . Nevertheless, we pray for God's will, i.e., "above all that we ask or think," for you and your daughter, knowing that He will answer our prayers in the best way possible. That's where faith has an important role in this. God does not and cannot show us all the details of how He is using your daughter's condition in her life, in your lives, and the lives of other loved ones, and how He will further use her and you and others to His glory and for their benefit. He may give us some insights now, but the "explanations" must wait until we see Him (1 Cor:13:12). Therefore we trust Him--completely.
Trusting Him completely is an act of faith. Scripture tells us in numerous places that "the just shall live by faith." This means that we are to follow God's instructions by an act of faith. If the Lord puts it upon your heart to have the elders of your church pray for your daughter and anoint her with oil in His name, do it as an act of obedience by faith (Jas 5:14) .