“The Whole Church Prayed And We Believed, But He Died” Part 1

Today I’m writing about a subject that is very sensitive, because many people have had disappointing experiences similar to the one that I am about to describe. Yet even though this can be difficult to talk about, I am sharing it because I feel that it has helped me so much!

In my post on God’s Correction, I noted how the devil tries to take truth that is meant to encourage and help us, and twist it into condemnation and discouragement in our minds. I believe that when we have the right perspective on what I am about to say, it will be extremely encouraging. This post is really raw and sincere, but it is because I believe that what I have to say here can help people if it is understood. I hope I can give you a perspective in this and in Part 2 that is true to scripture as well as full of grace and encouraging.

Death From Cancer

A few years before I got started in healing the sick, a man in the church got cancer. He was a highly respected man of great character, loved by many. This church was charismatic with Word of Faith influences, and divine healing was part of its doctrine.

He confessed that he would be healed, and everyone started praying for him. There were regular reports and testimonies of improvement in the prayer chain. People were confessing and “declaring in faith” that he would be healed. In the end he died.

This was a big discouragement to many people. When another situation came up, they remembered what had happened. People said “The whole church prayed and we believed, but he still died.” I have heard the same statement from many people with similar experiences.

The Promises Of Scripture

What about Jesus’ promises?

Mark 11:23 (NRSV) Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.

Mark 16:17-18 (NRSV) And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

John 14:12 (NRSV) Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

 There is a scriptural problem with saying “We believed, but it didn’t work.” It that is true, than the promises of Jesus such as in Mark 11:23, cannot logically be true. If Mark 11:23 is true, and the mountain was not cast into the sea, then we must not have believed without doubting as Mark 11:23 says.

But it hurts so much to even go there! We prayed so much. We tried so hard. We did the best we could.

 Jesus’ Disciples

In Matthew 17 we read the story of Jesus’ disciples failing to cure a boy who was afflicted by the devil.

Matthew 17:14-20 (KJV) And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Jesus gave his disciples a hard pill to swallow! Consider that Jesus had already sent them before, giving them authority to cast out demons and heal every sickness and every disease. (Matthew 10:1) They had already healed many sick people and cast out many demons. Yet they couldn’t do this. Why? Because of their unbelief. This is the only reason given in scripture for Jesus’ disciples failing to heal someone.


It may be because of bad experiences, or because of the pain of disappointment, that we may be so quick to recoil or get angry at even the suggestion that the problem was our unbelief. Was Jesus condemning his disciples? No, he was encouraging them. I’d rather know that something is possible, than hear that “sometimes it just doesn’t work and we don’t know why.” It’s more encouraging to hear that there is something I can change, than that there is nothing I can do! Jesus did tell them that they failed because of their unbelief, but he also healed the boy, showing them what was possible!

I’m certainly not suggesting that if a person is not healed you can blame it on their unbelief. I already wrote in this post about what is wrong with that. I’m talking about our success or failure in ministering healing to others.

Let’s Be Honest

Let’s go back to the situation where the man we all prayed for died of cancer. How many of us had been regularly laying hand on the sick before that? How many of us would lay hands on a person with a bum knee if we saw that they were limping? How many of us laid hands on our family members or neighbors when they got a cold? How many of us were regularly living out Jesus’ command to heal the sick?

None of us were. A life-and-death situation came up. We got afraid and we all started to desperately “believe.” But isn’t fear the opposite of faith? And is faith desperate? Fear cannot drive faith.

Were we praying because we were beholding the Lord’s glory and wanting to see Jesus’ glorified, or because we were afraid of a man dying? If we were praying as motivated by the glory of the Lord’s presence filling our hearts, we wouldn’t have waited for a life-and-death situation to “believe.” We were motivated by fear and not by heavenly reality.

Facing Discouragement

Guys, I know what it is like to feel discouraged. When I first got started in healing the sick, I felt like it was impossible for me to have faith. I didn’t feel like I had any faith, but at least I believed that God could do the impossible thing of helping me to be able to have faith. God did abundantly more than I asked or imagined!

I know what it is like to pray for a person and see them die. There was a neighbor here in Brazil with cancer. The first time I laid hands on her she was healed-the constant, excruciating pain left. But later something triggered a relapse. For more than three months I visited her almost every weekday, laying my hands on her for an hour or two each time and commanding healing. Often when I did so, the pain left, but later came back. She eventually died.

Yet I haven’t stopped, because I know what I have seen God do, and I will never stop. It takes courage to do this. It takes courage to love people and confront suffering with the power of God. I just got a report of a child healed from leukemia. Would he have been healed if I decided I was going to stop moving foreword because of the pain from losing our neighbor?

I’m Honest With Myself

I’ve been a part of many wonderful miracles. I saw my great-aunt’s crooked back straighten. Once I declared and a severed finger grew back. I helped a man out of a wheelchair. But I have often struggled with unbelief. There have been many times where if felt like the fear and perceived greatness of a bad situation weighed heavily on me, when my heart should have been so filled with joy in the Lord’s presence that I would just laugh at whatever the devil was trying to do.

I am learning to confront those fears and lies of the devil. I have already written about confronting the voice of fear in my heart, and a breast tumor disappearing, and I have other similar experiences which I plan to share. I’m growing.

I think I have learned by experience what faith feels like. It feels like my heart is exploding with strength, as I am strengthened by the Holy Spirit. I have learned that there were times that I thought I had faith and I really was not in faith. I also think that there were times when I didn’t feel like I had faith, but I did. I will write about that in future posts. But I can honestly say, I do not believe that I have ever once laid hands on a person in faith, and continued to stand in faith, but they were not healed. Every time I have believed in my heart and not doubted the mountain has moved.

An Encouraging Perspective

This way of thinking is so challenging that it may seem it would be very discouraging. Yet I think it is really hard from a scriptural perspective to say that we can believe yet it just doesn’t work sometimes. Then faith becomes a hit-and-miss thing, meaning we don’t know when it will work and when it will not. That’s just not what scripture teaches, and viewing faith in that way undermines our ability to have faith.

However, through wrestling with these issues, I have come to have a perspective on this that is extremely encouraging and keeps me going. Since this post is already getting a bit long, it looks like I will have to write a ” Part 2″  for next week. I believe it will help you if you have struggled with these things.

The week after that, I will share the recent stories of a boy healed of leukemia and of a man coming out of a coma. These stories should encourage you! Then I’ll post on “The Power Of Faith Or The Goodness Of God?”, to share more of my perspective on what effective faith is and what it isn’t.




2 comments on ““The Whole Church Prayed And We Believed, But He Died” Part 1
  1. Kevin says:

    Such an awesome honest post that in no way detracts from scripture nor leaves one feeling condemned. This is the very message I teach and preach. Some of my greatest failures in praying for the sick have been my most powerful motivators to press on and grow up in Christ.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Kevin! I remember Dan Mohler sharing of how they ministered to a four-year old boy who had the fastest-spreading kind of Leukemia possible.

      The doctors gave him 6 months to live. He lived for three and a half years. He lasted a lot longer than anyone expected. But he died.

      They could have quit. They could have started to doubt. But they kept going.

      Not long after that they encountered the same disease again. The same kind of cancer-virtually no human hope. Another child.

      This one lived. The cancer disappeared. There was no way it wasn’t God!

      God will be faithful to complete the good work that he has started in us! Our responsibility is to keep going. Just because we failed the first time doesn’t mean we need to keep failing. It may seem so hard, but God by the Holy Spirit is able to strengthen us in our innermost beings until nothing is impossible for us.