I will never forget the day several years ago when my friend Julia called me on the phone. Her father, who had not given his life to Jesus, was dying from a sudden, unexpected illness “Please pray with me,” she pleaded, “that God will work a miracle in his heart before it’s too late!”
I was quite busy at the time, but I put aside my work and began to pray as God challenged me to stand in the gap and continue to fast and pray with Julia until we saw a spiritual breakthrough. However, initially, something kept me from really wrestling in prayer. It was a small area of compromise in my life. At first, I argued with God, “This is ridiculous; it’s so small!” But then I felt His Spirit convicting my heart, “Is it more valuable than a soul for whom I died?” Ashamed, I surrendered my sin of compromise to God, and as I did, strength and power came into my prayers.
That day and through the night and for several days after that, I prayed with Julia around the clock—almost without stopping—for this miracle. It was a fierce spiritual battle, and at times Julia and I both felt discouraged and wanted to give up. But God heard our prayers of agreement, and in the end—praise the Lord—the spiritual victory we prayed for was accomplished before her father died.
Today, God is inviting every person to deeper, more persistent prayers of agreement. He’s calling us not just to pray for but to perseveringly pray through.
We all know how to pray for something, but praying through literally means I’m committing to pray with persevering faith until I see victory or until I see an answer come! Praying through is not easy because we must be committed for the long haul—maybe long days and nights, or maybe long years. But when we are willing to pray through with a surrendered heart, God will give breakthrough! I know this because I’ve experienced it so many times.
Writing to believers, Ellen White, who wrote articles for this magazine for more than 40 years, encouraged, “To every sincere prayer an answer will come. It may not come just as you desire, or at the time you look for it; but it will come in the way and at the time that will best meet your need.”1
Of course, praying through can be successful only if we are rooted in God’s Word. It’s not about our determination to outlast God’s resolve. No, it’s about our confidence in God’s faithfulness. “We should not present our petitions to God to prove whether He will fulfill His Word, but because He will fulfill it; not to prove that He loves us, but because He loves us.”2
However, what about the times we don’t see the prayed-for breakthrough coming? What about when it seems as if God is not answering our prayers? What about the times when tragedy strikes?
Two summers ago, before COVID-19 hit, I woke up one morning to the soft beep of a text message that had come in on my phone. It was another one of those text messages that no one wants to receive “Pray for the Knutson family,” the message read. “MaryAnn and her girls have just been in a horrible car accident!” I swallowed hard as tears came to my eyes! “Oh no, please Jesus, no!” I cried.
My friend MaryAnn, along with her three daughters, had just a few hours earlier been in a horrific rollover crash. In the crash, MaryAnn’s oldest daughter, nine-year-old Sierra, had been killed. While her younger two daughters escaped with relatively minor injuries, MaryAnn herself had suffered a C-6 cervical fracture and, as a result, was paralyzed from the neck down.
MaryAnn and her husband T. J. are good friends of mine from my years living in Southern California. When we first met, T. J. was a medical student at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and MaryAnn was a teacher in the local Adventist elementary school. They were fresh in love as young newlyweds and full of life, energy, faith, and hope for a bright future.
Now, almost 13 years later, T. J. was working as a successful and respected ER physician, and MaryAnn was a busy stay-at-home mom, raising and homeschooling their four beautiful children while keeping up the gardens on their country farm. While life was not without its challenges, things were going very well for the Knutson family. That is, until suddenly, one fateful July morning, their world was turned completely upside down.
Of course, no tragedy ever catches God by surprise. No death, no heartache, no hurricane, no earthquake, no tornado or fire, no pandemic or paralysis or persecution escapes God’s notice. And God’s Word reminds us that even in our most difficult trials, when it seems as if our cries to Him are being ignored, His faithfulness and goodness never change (see Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; Romans 8:28, 31; Job 23:10; and Lamentations 3:22, 23). But knowing the truth spoken in God’s Word and living these truths in the midst of life-shattering events are often very different experiences. And so my heart cried out for my friends that day. “Dear God, please help T. J. and MaryAnn to sense Your nearness and your goodness, even in the midst of their tragedy. And please help MaryAnn not to be permanently paralyzed!”
Eventually, I flew to California to spend a few days with her at the hospital while T. J. traveled home (three hours north) along with his family to bury their daughter Sierra, who had been killed in the accident.
The following weeks went by in a blur as MaryAnn slowly began to heal. We all prayed, and some even fasted. However, while there were improvements, her paralysis largely remained.
While reality was setting in and the dramatic healing we prayed for didn’t seem to be happening, I was amazed how MaryAnn’s faith remained firm as she confidently reminded everyone that God was working all things together for good, even though it didn’t feel good now.
“God knows what He’s doing,” MaryAnn told me one evening as I wiped tears from her eyes. “Even in our heartache, we see how He’s been so good to us! And I know, someday, all this pain will make sense.”
It’s been a couple years now since the accident that forever changed the Knutsons’ family life. And MaryAnn still uses a wheelchair, dreaming about heaven when she will walk and see her precious daughter again. Yet despite the challenges of life as a quadriplegic, MaryAnn and T. J. continue to hold fast to their faith in Jesus, surrendering their lives into His hands, trusting that someday, the unexplained will be explained, and the brokenness will be made beautiful.
Ellen White writes “All that has perplexed us in the providences of God will in the world to come be made plain. The things hard to be understood will then find explanation. The mysteries of grace will unfold before us. Where our finite minds discovered only confusion and broken promises, we shall see the most perfect and beautiful harmony. We shall know that infinite love ordered the experiences that seemed most trying. As we realize the tender care of Him who makes all things work together for our good, we shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”3 May we be people who pray and hold on in faith, not just to the God who gives breakthroughs in answer to prayer but to the God who can be trusted even in times of heartache. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18, NKJV).
1. Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald®, 1915), 258.
2. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press®, 1898), 126; emphasis in the original.
3. Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Washington, DC: Review and Herald®, 1952), 542.
Melody Mason is a prayer ministries leader and author. If you would like to read more inspirational prayer stories like these, you will enjoy her books Daring to Ask for More and Daring to Live by Every Word.