Faithful in Prayer
How can we be faithful in prayer during a cancer journey or other hardships?
By Daniel Nicewonger
A lot of us would like to remain faithful in prayer even when we face seasons of hardship.
The phrase “faithful in prayer,” comes from the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:12:”Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.”
Faithfulness is not easy, even when life is going well. We are easily distracted, and our attention shifts to new or different things.
And especially when we face seasons of hardship, including physical illness, it can be that much harder to remain faithful in prayer.
Yet I believe it is possible. Let’s take a deeper look at these words and how we can do it.
The Challenge of Faithfulness
I have started many a diet or exercise plan that failed due to unfaithfulness. A couple of book projects lying around my office suffer from a lack of faithfulness. My dog, Avila, is semi-trained because one of us lacked faithfulness.
Faithfulness is hard.
Faithfulness is even harder when we are not feeling well. Six years ago, I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and I have been facing that journey ever since.
Avila’s training program began as I started a round of chemotherapy. It was all I could do to make the weekly sessions with the trainer. Spending hours of practice at home was beyond my ability.
What does it mean to be faithful in prayer when our bodies are weak and all we want to do is sleep?
I have learned it is acceptable, even wise, to change how I move through the world while fighting cancer. I no longer try to do what I used to do. Wisdom has taught me to shift expectations for what my mind and body can do.
What might that look like in our prayer lives? In the midst of treatment, I struggle to find words. Reading is a chore, and rarely do I remember what I read. The patterns of my “normal” devotional life are less than life-giving. I struggle to remain faithful.
In my weakness, the Spirit has shown me it is less about what I do and more about being quiet and still. As a result, I have grown in my ability to simply sit in silence and invite the Spirit to be present with me. This form of prayer has been life changing. It has allowed me to see the Spirit moving all around me, even amidst my weakness.
Simple breath prayer has helped me. Finding a meaningful phrase or passage of scripture and repeating it over and over has served to focus my attention and energy. When my body and mind are weak, I can sit (or lay) in silence and pray, “Lord Jesus, help me be the person you want me to be.” Slowly repeating those words allow me to be faithful in prayer.
Your phrase or passage of scripture will be a gift from the Spirit. Discovering it will help you remain faithful in prayer during seasons of pain and struggle.
When The Answer Is Not Yet
Faithfulness in prayer is hard when we do not see the results we crave.
If I start a new diet and see the scale move in the right direction, I am motivated to be faithful. I can turn down desserts with ease if the pounds are coming off.
As soon as I hit a plateau, things get more challenging. My mind questions the wisdom of remaining faithful to my diet. Why keep denying myself what I want if I am seeing no results? Faithfulness is hard when we do not see the results we desire.
When we hear Paul’s call for us to be “faithful in prayer,” it is helpful to remember he prayed for his thorn to be removed, yet it remained. Paul owns the fact that God did not choose to remove his thorn. While God heard and answered Paul’s prayers, it was not in the manner Paul envisioned.
The Purpose of Prayer
Why does Paul encourage us to remain faithful in prayer? He knows that while prayer can affect situations, it ultimately changes us. Paul knew he was changed by remaining faithful in prayer. Paul’s vision of the world, the people around him, and his role in the world changed because of prayer.
Remaining faithful in prayer is hard when I am not hearing the doctors speak of remission or cure. Remaining faithful in prayer is even more complicated when my oncologist says the tumors are growing and we must restart treatment.
How are we to remain faithful in prayer during situations like these?
Why do I keep praying for healing when cancer and chemotherapy continue ravaging my body?
When the Answer is Not Yet
I have learned that I often speak my truth in the midst of a moment or experience. Then, later on, the depth of what I spoke takes root.
Some friends from a local church offered to pray for my healing a few years ago. They invited me to a special time of healing prayer. Ten or twelve people gathered around me and prayed for my body to be healed. After fifteen minutes, someone asked me a question.
“Dan, do you believe God can heal your cancer? Do you genuinely believe that God wants to heal you?”
The implication was clear: if I did not believe it possible, God would not likely heal me.
Our certainty of healing
For the first time, I spoke my truth about my healing. My words revealed a deep belief and conviction—not just for me but others seeking healing, too:
“I believe I am already healed through Jesus. It is not a matter of if; it’s when and how.”
What I meant is that God may choose to heal me of cancer miraculously in this life—I have prayed for this often.
The Spirit may work through the wisdom and treatments of my doctors and nurses. I may experience healing as God works through their efforts. I pray for this during each treatment cycle.
Regardless, I will be healed when I am called home and stand with Jesus in heaven! In this, I am confident.
The Freedom to Be Faithful
Speaking those words set me free. Over the following months, they served to help me remain faithful in prayer. As a result, I ceased questioning God’s healing provision—or lack thereof—in my life.
Some of us will experience God’s healing in this life. We need to continue to pray for that to happen; it’s all part of being faithful in prayer.
For others, like me, who are still looking for healing in this life, know this is true for you, too:
God will heal everyone who has a relationship with him when Jesus calls us heavenward.
This reality should give us hope; and it should also help us remain faithful in prayer.
Faithfulness in prayer is not always easy. Sometimes the best we can do is plead for the Spirit to help us remain faithful. In those seasons where there are no words, may we be confident that the Spirit speaks on our behalf.
I believe that the simplest of prayers brings joy to the heart of God. So, when we struggle for words to speak, may we draw strength to remain faithful in prayer from the truth that the Spirit already knows the depth of our hearts.
May the Spirit grant you grace in the midst of whatever life brings your way.
May we remain faithful in prayer, even if our only words are just, “God, please help me.”
Daniel Nicewonger is a Hope Has Arrived contributor and author of The Journey Continues.
To read the first article in the series, see Joyful in Hope.
To learn more about prayer, see Asking God for Help.
To find hope on your cancer journey, read The Pathway to Hope.
Note: We are not doctors and we cannot answer your medical questions. However, we welcome your questions about finding hope and knowing God.