Does God Answer Prayers Today? – Praying For Medical Exams

As winter came and the days grew shorter and darker, another challenge confronted me – exams. Still coming to terms with grief, the prospect of the fast approaching mid-year medicine exams nagged uncomfortably at the back of my mind. I was very unprepared. After my sister passed away, I had taken time off university, missing many weeks of learning in the lead-up to exams. Studying was impossible during those weeks – I only had motivation to read The Bible and certainly not medical textbooks.

One morning, I met with one of the doctors who coordinates the medical school to discuss my situation. I asked if there was a chance I could be excused from the exams on compassionate grounds, but I was gently told that that wouldn’t be possible due to university policy. There was no way out – I would have to sit them. This floored me – I had been praying that God would make a way for me to be excused from exams, and the reality that I would have to face them sat uncomfortably in my stomach. On top of the grief, the possibility of failing the year and repeating the entire year flashed into my mind.

But the doctor encouraged me to ‘have a go’ at my exams. Even if I failed, if I still managed to get “20 or 30%” in my exams, my chances of not having to repeat the entire year would be a little better than if I flunked the exams entirely (though not a lot better). The risk of repeating the year was substantial – medicine is the only course that doesn’t offer supplementary exams if one fails, so failure of mid-years greatly increases the risk of having to repeat the entire year (if one fails mid years, their only hope of passing is if they perform very well in their end of year exams).

As I left the doctor’s office, still a little stunned at the fact I would have to sit exams, somewhere deep in my soul I knew that there was still hope. In the car home, I asked God to help me do the best I could. I would need it. I was struggling even to put pen to paper at that time, so just getting a 20 or 30% would be a victory for me. That day, I prayed “Lord, you can do all things. There is no way I can get through these exams without you – I am helpless. I need you, and you’re the only one who can help me”.

Struggling At University

However, when I finally did return to university after a few weeks off, the situation was still bleak. I could barely manage more than half an hour of study every few days (compared to the multiple hours of daily study expected by the university). Concentrating on medicine was near-impossible. Grief still paralysed me. Motivation was at rock-bottom and I often attended classes with no preparation and didn’t participate –  even though class participation assessment went towards our grade. Medicine had become meaningless to me – which made studying for upcoming exams and classes impossible. Severe lack of motivation was holding me back.

But 2 and a half weeks before exams, things began to change. After weeks of praying and talking to God and reading the Scriptures, my heart began to shift. I was in the car one morning when I suddenly began to realise that there was still purpose in doing my absolute best with the duties set before me in medicine (I immediately wrote these realisations on my phone, and then fully articulated them here: Why I Study Medicine: Motivation, Meaning and Exams). Right there and then, I said to myself – I have to do this. The change was significant, and I had something new in my step. With these realisations, I started to braced myself to face the approaching challenge.

However, as I began to strategise how I could catch up, it quickly dawned on me just how enormous this mountain would be to climb. Time was now very short – there was only 2.5 weeks till the first of 3 exams on June 18, and I had to:

  • spend the last week of term attending classes/lectures and working through the last case of the semester
  • catch up on what I had missed during my time away (effectively 3 cases of learning – which all my colleagues had spent 3 weeks learning)
  • revise every other case from the semester (11 cases in total)

Furthermore, after spending so many weeks doing nothing academically, being self-disciplined enough to get back into the ‘rhythm’ of study would be challenging to say the least. On my own strength, failure was inevitable. My only hope was in God, and I wrote in my journal on 29th May:

Asking God for help like this became the prayer of my heart. In prayer, my worries would dissipate and I would feel at peace. God had promised me during my previous exams in medical school that he would get me through – and the same sense of assurance came to me this time as well. In my time of prayer, I became convinced that God was promising me that he would get me through my exams (and on June 9, I wrote this promise on this blog – “I know God will get me through exams as in previous years”). With his promise, I felt a new courage to tackle the challenge of exams head on. As Paul says in The Bible, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NIV)

Hasty Preparations

The 1st week went quickly. To my surprise, I managed to keep up with the last case of the semester which was a victory for me. But on the other hand, I was finding very little time leftover to attempt revising any of the cases I had missed. This just reaffirmed my realisation that I would not be able to do this alone without God. Thankfully at that time, I was also encouraged to keep going by prayers and support from some of my Christian colleagues at university.

When the 2nd week came around, things changed quickly and in unexpected ways. In the 2 week study break before exams, I suddenly found myself with a persistent determination and strength within me that I have never experienced before. I began working from 8am to 8pm at night, studying daily at the library, except Sundays. This was bizarre – I had never before worked for such long periods in my life. I had never even worked in the library before – I was used to studying in the comfort of my own home, often taking regular breaks to procrastinate. But now, I was more focused than ever and much less prone to becoming distracted. Others noticed – my girlfriend commented that she had never seen me work this hard. My parents were also puzzled as to what had come over me.

Perhaps more strangely, I began to genuinely enjoy working in the library for God. My mindset changed. Passing exams stopped being foremost in my brain – instead, doing the best I could for God became my principal goal and motivation. I began to cherish Paul’s advice in The Bible: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

As days went by, I became constantly aware of a wonderful feeling within me of satisfaction – I was delighting in the realisation that God was helping me to run the race again and was changing something deep in me. My attitudes towards work and medicine were well and truly changing. Work was no longer just a chore – something to grind out in obligation to human masters – but it was now a privilege and a joy under God. This was big for me – something I carry to this day whenever I work. But perhaps more visibly, for the first time in months, I felt happy. Not an emotional happiness all the time, but a sense of…satisfied joy. I knew that something supernatural was occurring in me and that I was not alone. I realised that in my weakness and inability, God had become my strength. I was beginning to see what it meant in The Bible where it says: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV)

I was also surprised to find myself not alone in this time. Some other students began to meet with me at the library to study together, the first few times by coincidence, but eventually we began to intentionally meet together daily to share the workload. Some were old friends, but also some were acquaintances I had never had a chance to get to know before. This was a new experience for me – I have always worked solo in the past, but working cooperatively in the company of my colleagues was truly a joyful surprise given to me by God. What a blessing the encouragement and smiles and laughter of those around you can be, to both your soul, and your mind! I discovered that laughter is the ultimate stress-reliever and I found myself making new friends with some of these acquaintances whose friendship I cherish to this day.

I began to look forward to each day working with this new group of friends. Though my knowledge was still lacking, their company was invaluable in learning from them and I was amazed to see myself catching up. Seeing this turn-around, I thought to myself -, whether I pass or not, this is such a victory. As I look back at those times, I remember them with fond memories – definitely not the stressful exam period status quo that I often see around me. I was happy and at peace – every night I would come home, have dinner and pray and read the Bible for a few hours before bed. Everytime the temptation to entertain stressful thoughts or doubts would come, reading the comforting words of The Bible would take them from my mind and make me remember that God was in control.

Exam Day

Time flew by and before I knew it, exams were already upon me. Nothing was certain. I definitely did feel I had caught up a lot, but it had gotten to the point that I was delicately holding my head to make sure that no knowledge fell out! I had filled my brain faster than I ever have in my life, but had little chance to consolidate any of it. But though I lacked total confidence in my own abilities, I trusted in the promise of God. With moments to go before the call of “you may begin writing”, I calmed my nerves praying to God, knowing that it was all in his hands.

*                                  *                                  *

The exams themselves didn’t feel amazing either. For the first time ever, the medical school had changed the format of the exam to a shorter time-frame. I have never written faster (or messier) in my life! Everyone felt the time pressure, and I saw a few medical students crying after their exams, thinking that they had failed. I too wasn’t completely confident – but I felt at peace that I had done the best I could, and that God would help me through.

Days went by and with every exam I completed, my thanksgiving to God increased and the light at the end of the tunnel seemed closer and closer. Finally, when the examiners called out “pens down” at the last exam, I let out a sigh of relief and smiled up to God. No matter what the outcome, I was thankful that I had been given the strength to bounce back and give it my best, and that alone was God’s victory. We may fall and fail, but God somehow always manages to “work things to our good” – taking the things that are meant to harm us and using them for our good!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

The Results

Weeks rolled by. June was soon over, and in late July, I received my results. Medical students are marked on a scale where:

  • A = above satisfactory competence
  • B = satisfactory competence
  • C = borderline competence
  • D or E = failure

As I held my breath, I opened my results – Exam 1: B, Exam 2: B, Exam 3: B. All B’s! I had never been so happy to see such results – I was smiling ear-to-ear and shouted out aloud in my bedroom. It had all been worth it! This is what it feels like to stand at the summit of a mountain you once saw as impossible.

I praised God, remembering the conviction I had that God would get me through my exams – God always keeps his promises! Without the strength that he gave me that turned me from doing nothing, to studying almost 12 hours daily…and enjoying it – without this I surely would have failed. Even so, the exam results were only part of my joy. My joy was made complete knowing that God loved me and was so good to me! That he was faithful to his promises and that he would always give strength to me for every obstacle if I put my faith in him. The reality of the words of Jesus in The Bible had become embedded in my heart:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIV)

God had been so faithful to my prayer – so how could I not live the rest of my life in total faith in him? As long as we seek him and serve him first above all things, I have realised that there is no challenge in this world that he will not help us overcome – nothing is impossible.

29 thoughts on “Does God Answer Prayers Today? – Praying For Medical Exams

  1. Thank you, Nathan – your story is so incredibly encouraging to me! I am sure I shall be drawing on this encouragement as I approach my own exams.
    God is so GOOD!

  2. Congrats! or as they say here, ‘Marbrook!’
    Really, the praise goes to God. I think its great to have these difficult situations in which we realise the truth – we so desperately need God for everything!! we are deluded most the time in thinking we can do things alone, but its God that gives us life and breathe, and the ability to study!
    praying for you!! give my love to esther and pk!

  3. Thank You and Thank you Jesus for leading me to this post. It is just the encouragement that I needed. God is faithful and I know now after reading this that He WILL see me through my exams. I’m going to print this off and keep it in my journal as a constant reminder. May God bless you richly.

  4. This is sooo encouraging. Right now I’ve just finished an exam paper and felt as though I have failed. Although I have more to come. I’m just afraid.

    *Sigh

    Everything you wrote about in terms of not feeling confident is what I am experiencing.

    I just pray that God sees’s me through.

    Thanks again.

  5. God answers everybody besides me…I studied and prayed for bachelors pass during my matric exams and I got a Diploma pass,I didn’t get into university,now I’m at private college and I failed my marketing and accounting exam…God has abandoned me 😦

    • Hey mate, I am truly to sorry to hear what you’re going through. It must be really hard. But take heart and courage. Jesus Christ does not abandon anyone and he will NEVER abandon you. That’s his promise to you by his word: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

      Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers. But I have faith that when he doesn’t – it’s because he has wisdom and knowledge beyond what we can see and he has good reasons to guide our lives in a different way. Hold onto knowing that he is a good God that will work all the negatives of your situation into positives – “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) The devil will attack you and tempt you to doubt and curse God – but don’t give in. Rebuke the devil – and I have faith that one day, if you hold onto God, that you will be able to see the good purposes of the Lord revealed from these hard times. Then, you will be able to look back on your trials and say to the devil: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph had to wait many, many years to see what God was accomplishing through his intense trials and slavery. Perhaps for you it will be shorter or longer, only God knows. But what we DO KNOW is that he loves you and has plans and purposes for your life that he wants to bring about and will do what is necessary to train, teach and mold you – sometimes using the trials of life. “He disciplines those he loves” – like a Father training and growing his very child.

      So hold on to him, remain in him, and you will see why he let things happen the way they did. That’s what I have found in the unanswered prayers of my life. Let us both be like Job who said: “the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away – regardless – let the name of the Lord be praised!” Rebuke the devil – God has not abandoned you and he never will. I’ll be praying for you in this time and that he would increase your perspective so that you would see things from a different perspective. At the end of the day – one failure does not change the way God feels about you – nor does it change the fact that he has GOOD plans for your life story if you remain in him. May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance! (2 Thess 3:5)
      Grace and peace and perseverance to you – Nathan

    • PS. Thinking about your situation and also this verse came to mind: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

  6. Nathan, this has been so encouraging to me as I’m heading towards my accountacy exam in 3 weeks. But the worst part is this exam is going to be my 8th attempt for a subject. Jesus only can understand the agony I’m going through. But I wonder why this is happening to me when I see everyone
    progressing in their lives. I’m stuck in the middle, one more subject to complete before
    the final exam. Most of my study time is
    spent in thinking of my past failures rather
    than studying. I’m fighting a battle to keep
    myself focused while studying…….There are
    times I doubt if this was what god wanted
    me to study…..if so why is our loving father
    allowing these continuous failures in my life.

    “God please see me through, I really need your help”

    • Hi JM, I am terribly sorry for my late reply. How did your exam go? Though you’ve had to go through the same trial many times, I pray that you would never give up and trust that God has purpose in all of this. Take heart and know that people in the Bible have had similar stories. Take King David – he was told that God would make him King one day – but his circumstances seemed to point otherwise: he spent many, many years running for his life, hiding in caves as a fugitive and even fleeing the country. How could that promise have been God’s will? But it was. Joseph was promised by God in his dreams that he would be mighty and successful – but he spent many, many years as a slave, in prisons, wrongfully accused, forgotten and betrayed by man. How could that promise have been God’s will? But it was. And he declared: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) Don’t let Satan harm you by casting doubt on you and making you focus only on past failures. Know this – God will use all these difficulties with which Satan meant to harm you – and will work them for good! “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). My situation has been different – but perhaps will speak to you in some way… I wrote about it here: https://thegloryofgodismanfullyalive.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/an-unexpected-spiritual-journey-applying-for-medical-electives/

  7. Dear Nathan!

    This has been a very comforting read. I’m currently doing my Master’s and I’ve struggled with it to the point where I’ve felt to give up and even drop out altogether! I have been calling out to pass them or for God to postpone them. In reading your post, it’s taken me to when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; especially in verse 9 where The Lord says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

    God richly bless you for this post and may He never disappoint you. Thanks a lot and I can face my last exam tomorrow with the “peace of God that surpasses ALL understanding”

    Thanks again 🙂

  8. Hi Nathan,

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It has given me a lot of encouragement. I am doing my Juris Doctor at one of the best law schools in the world and I have 3 upcoming exams in the next few weeks. I am feeling really stressed and overwhelmed right now. I’ve never failed anything in my whole life, but for the first time I feel really concerned. Fear of failure is terrifying me at the moment. There are times when I just want to give up but another part of me knows I have to push on. I have gotten so many blessings in all forms since starting this degree & I know it’s all from God & because he wants me to be studying here & I feel so blessed & grateful. But another part of me feels so fatigued & as though I have this insurmountable mountain to face. I love God so much and I just want to make the most of all the opportunities he’s giving me. I keep praying to God to give me strength, to be more like Daniel who walked up & faced the lions with such great faith. But I’m still feeling so nerve wracked.
    Any words of wisdom would be so warmly welcomed.
    Many blessings xx

  9. hi Nathan
    may the lord God bless you and guide you in all that you do. thank you so much for this blog. your story in truly inspiration. I have 10 exams I am going to sit starting from the 22nd of June and I was worried but reading your blog reminded me of how God turn my weakness in to strength for his glory. I want to testify to everyone what would have done for me. he done it for me last yr. I had about 12 exams to do and I has only probably 2.5 weeks left to revise and I have never been focused in my like then and I could feel his presence around me all day all night and whatever I read the day before came in the papers. it is such a shame that when God pulls us through our trials we are quick to forget what he has done for us. I struggled the addiction of smoking weed but praise be to the most high this year I smoked way less than last year and I haven’t touched a spliff in months and I have no cravings. my problem is procrastination. I thank Jesus that he hasn’t left my side because I was convicted to look towards him. your story is encouraging and I want to thank you for it. may God bless you in the days of you life. please lift me up in prayer as I’ve got these exams and this is my last chance as I have repeated before I have no more chances of repeating if I fail this year. I am England studying osteopathic medicine. The course is so intense and I pray that as God brought down the walls of Jericho and parted the sea as the Egyptians were approaching he can pull me through this situation so that I can start clinic next year.
    many blessings

  10. I always fail my exams even if i study hard. It’s tiring. I know we should trust the Lord but if He already has plans for me then why should I make plans for myself? I want my course but what if He doesn’t? Does that mean I have to just accept that He wants me to fail and shift to another course? Sometimes I think that the world is a big big dollhouse and we are all the dolls.

    • Hi Alma, stay strong mate. You are much more to God than a soul-less puppet! I know he has a plan for those that love him, so do not despair. I do not know what God has for you, but I pray that his plan for this time in your life will become clearer to you. Have patience and continue to wait for him. Psalm 27:14 says ‘wait for the Lord, be strong and courageous and wait for the Lord”. Even Jacob wrestled with God. I pray that you would find a word in the Bible that speaks into your situation! Don’t hesitate to email me if you need more prayer.

  11. Thank you Nathan and this testimony is very encouraging and my daughter right now is doing her final medicine papers – short case. She is a very spiritual girl but stressed out studying. There is an assurance that she will pass her exams by the Grace and Mercy of our Almighty. All the Bible verses has strengthened me.

  12. Hi Nathan,

    I randomly came across your blog and reading it has truly been a blessing. I am currently applying to medical school and I am thankful that God has given me strength and courage by reading your blog. God bless you and thank you for allowing God to use you! Praise God.

  13. Dear Nathan,

    Im a 5th year medical student. I failed my final MBBS exams 6 months ago. I’ve had major problems with anxiety and in the practicals they seem to get the better of me. When i saw the results, I remember lying in bed, I felt nothing, had no thoughts, nothing at all. As time passed, i still felt nothing, and occasionally had brief moments of depression, and self pity. God had always been there for me , for every exam. I never failed exam in med school before and to me it was the grace of god because i knew with the amount of effort i put in, its no other explanation. But this time , life caught up to me. Although i hadn’t gone to church in years actually because of school in another country, i still had faith in god. But there were times always when i prayed , that i had doubts , like would he really listen to me, I’m not a good servant, i only call on him when i need him. all those thoughts ran through my mind.

    i’ve been praying for god , not for my grades but to change my life. You see, because of the anxiety, I’ve had serious problems making friends in university. Ive hardly ever went out and all the relationships i formed were empty. So i prayed for god , that i find myself.

    Failing my exam, yes it was embarrassing, but god gave me so much more. In the past 2 months so much changed, he gave me so much. I finally got the courage to tell one of my friends that i had feelings for her, and today she’s my girlfriend. Although, the anxiety and self doubt in practicals are still there, he gave me strength to seek out help. I saw a psychologist and psychiatrist and was given a benzo. It still doesn’t do much because my mindset is difficult to change just over a few weeks, but because Jesus has done so much in my life, It was stupid not to think something supernatural was happening in my life. Seriously i never thought my life would change so drastically, so so drastically.

    Since then I’ve re written the final exams, and although my performance was not stellar, i know God will give me what i want, if i asked for it. I’m actually awaiting results to come out this evening. I’ve had doubtful thoughts run through my head overtime i prayed and I’m trying to stay strong in god. Hopefully God will answer my prayers and give me my pass. In his name, everything I ask for shall be done. IN JESUS NAME, IN JESUS NAME, AMEN. 🙂

  14. Hi Nathan
    I came across your blog while i was searching the net for helpful scriptures which could be used by university/ college students. At this very moment i was trying to study but lacked the motivation to do so and i have exams this coming week, I’m still studying to get my computer engineering degree and left with just 2 more years. Iv had the worst semester ever these past few months, thank you for helping me get on my feet again, i have hope now that everything will work out well for me because of God’s favor. I will work to my level best and leave the rest to the Lord.

  15. I’m so so thankful to Jesus for showing me this! Nathan, you’re such an amazing instrument of God in inspiring your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ! Now I’m feeling so relaxed and even happy about my upcoming GCSE exams (important exams taken at the end of Year 11 in the UK, knowing that I will he working for Jesus and that He will never let me down. I CAN DO THIS WITH GOD! 😀

  16. Dear Nathan!

    Thank you for this truly encouraging gold-mine blog, it is a great source of motivation! I too am in a difficult situation, very little time to study but because of my procrastination. On top of that I want to surrender myself fully to our Lord Jesus Christ, but I can’t quit smoking and I think this holds me back from doing so. I don’t have the heart to ask Him to help me through my exams, although I had received enormous help in the previous exam periods when I was still smoking. What are your thoughts?

    Yours truly,
    Gyula

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