Does God Really Answer Prayer?
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The short answer to this question is “Yes!” God has promised that, when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will for our lives, He will give us what we ask for.1 However, there is one caveat to add to this: we may not always like the answer.
We pray for a lot of things—some good, some bad, some really pointless. But God listens to all of our prayers, regardless of what we ask.2 He does not ignore His children.3 When we talk to Him, He has promised to listen and respond.4 His answer may be some variation of “yes” or “no” or “wait, not now.”
Keep in mind that prayer is not our way of getting God to do what we want. Our prayers should be focused on things that honor and glorify God and reflect what the Bible clearly reveals God’s will to be.5 … God’s wisdom far exceeds our own, and we must trust that His answers to our prayers are the best possible solutions.
When God says “yes.”
In the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, Hannah prays and asks God to give her a baby. She had been unable to conceive which, in biblical times, was considered a mark of shame for a woman. Hannah prayed fervently. ... God heard Hannah, and He allowed her to give birth to a child.
Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”6 If you have prayed specifically for something and God has granted it to you, then you can be assured that it is His will. Nothing happens without God allowing it to happen.7
When God says “no.”
In John 11, Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal their dying brother, yet Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. Why did He say “no” to these grieving women who loved Him so much? Because He had greater things planned for Lazarus, things that no one could possibly have imagined. “No” is one of the hardest answers we can receive. But, once again, it is important to remember that God is all-knowing and is aware of the entire timeline of history. ... He sees the “big picture”; we see a partial brushstroke. Proverbs 3:5 says to “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” When we get a “no” answer, we must trust that whatever we asked for was not God’s will.
When God says “wait, not now.”
Sometimes hearing “wait” is even harder than hearing “no” because it means we have to be patient.8 While waiting is difficult, we can be thankful God is in control and trust that His timing will be perfect.9
God wants the best for your life. He does not want you to suffer needlessly. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Be patient and know that He is your loving Father.10—From gotquestions.org11
When you pray for someone or some situation, the first requirement is faith. “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”12 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”13
There are also a few other basic principles to prayer.
It may seem to go without saying that you need to ask, but you’d be surprised how many people get stuck in “worry” or “wish” mode; they continue to “have not because they ask not.”14
Sometimes “when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”15 You need to make sure that your aims are right, and you need to trust that God knows what’s best for you and be willing to accept His answer, even when He doesn’t answer your prayer in the way you wanted or expected Him to.
God loves you and has your best interests at heart. If you can believe those two points, you will find great cause to thank and praise Him. When you praise and really mean it, that shows you’re putting your confidence in God. Prayers prayed with faith in God’s power, when coupled with thankfulness for all He has already done and all He will yet do, are prayers full of praise.
Prayer and praise go hand in hand, and practicing them together is a wonderful way to bring God more into your daily life and thoughts. Whenever things are going well, praise Him for that. Whenever you run into a problem or things aren’t going well, thank Him that things aren’t always like that, show confidence that He will work things out for good in some way, and pray for His solution.
When you have that praiseful, trusting attitude, it pleases Him and it’s His pleasure to answer your prayers, even if it may not be in the way you expected, but in the way He knows is best. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”16—Alex Peterson
Prayer is one of our greatest privileges as God’s children, and even if God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers at first, don’t stop praying. God loves you, and no prayer goes unanswered.
Jesus once told a story about a poor widow who repeatedly asked a corrupt judge to do what was right. (You can read it in Luke 18:1–8.) Repeatedly the judge refused—not because her request was wrong, but because he just didn’t care.
But because of her persistence, he eventually gave in and granted her what she deserved. In a far greater way, Jesus said, God (who is righteous and does care for us) hears the prayers of His people, and we must never give up.
But let me add two things. First, realize that sometimes God is actually answering our prayers when we don’t realize it—and the reason is because His answer may be “No” or “Wait.” Yes, we think we know what’s best for us—but God sees the whole picture, and sometimes He lovingly refuses to give us what we request, because He knows it isn’t according to His perfect plan.
Second, remember that we have the privilege of coming to God only because Jesus Christ died for our sins. Have you given your life to Him? If not, let your first prayer be one of confession and faith, asking Him to come into your life as your Lord and Savior.—Billy Graham17
My compassions never fail; they are new every morning. You can begin each day confidently, knowing that My vast reservoir of blessings is full—to the brim. This knowledge helps you wait for Me, entrusting your long-unanswered prayers into My care and keeping. I assure you that not one of your prayers has slipped past Me, unnoticed. I want you to drink deeply from My fountain of limitless Love and unfailing compassion. As you wait in My Presence, these divine nutrients are freely available. You may drink without cost from the spring of the water of Life.
Although many of your prayers remain unanswered, you can trust in My great faithfulness: I keep all My promises in My perfect way and timing. Among other things, I have promised to give you Peace that displaces the trouble and fear in your heart.
If you become weary of waiting for answers to your prayers, remember that I also wait, so that I may be gracious to you and have mercy on you. I wait till you are ready to receive the things I have lovingly prepared for you. Blessed are all those who wait for Me—expectedly, lovingly, trustingly.—Jesus18
Published on Anchor September 2020. Read by Jerry Paladino.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 1 John 5:14–15.
2 Matthew 7:7.
3 Luke 18:1–8.
4 Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26–27.
5 Luke 11:2.
6 John 14:13.
7 Romans 8:28.
8 Romans 8:25.
9 Romans 12:12; Psalm 37:7–9.
10 Psalm 46:10.
12 Mark 11:24.
13 Hebrews 11:6.
14 James 4:2.
15 James 4:3 NIV.
16 Psalm 37:4.
18 Sarah Young, Jesus Lives (Thomas Nelson, 2009).