Christians pray a lot. We’re supposed to, in fact, “pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17) Sometimes we pray for really important things, like for a loved one to be healed from illness. Other times we pray for seemingly trivial things, like a lot of green lights when we are late for an appointment or to work. God has promised to always listen to our prayers. (Matthew 7:7) However, people often wonder – does God actually answer our prayers?
The answer is, yes He does! I John 5:14-15 says that when we ask God for something in accordance with His will, He will give us what we ask Him for. Of course, prayer is intended to get us to focus on God and our relationship with Him, not to see what we can get from Him. Also, if we ask God for something that goes against His will that has been revealed through the Bible, He is highly unlikely to say yes.
Not only does God always answer our prayers, He typically answers them in one of three ways: yes, no, or wait. There are certain times in the Bible when God gave those answers, and there are certain reasons that He gives us those answers today.
When God Says Yes
There are many examples in the Bible of God saying yes to a prayer. In 1st Samuel Hannah had been unable to have a baby. During Biblical times, women were scorned for having fertility issues. So Hannah prayed and poured out her soul to the LORD, because she really wanted to be a mother. In fact, a priest who witnessed her praying so passionately believed she was drunk. God heard her prayer, and His answer was yes. She later gave birth to the prophet Samuel.
God says yes to us:
- When we ask in His name in order to glorify Him (John 14:3)
- Because it is His will for us (Romans 8:28)
- When we ask for wisdom (James 1:5)
When God Says No
Sometimes, we pray to God about something so important, and He says no. It can cut us to our very core. We might lose our marriage. One of our loved ones might die. Being told no in these instances can sometimes shake our faith and cause us to question God’s wisdom and goodness.
In John 11:1-43, Mary and Martha (who were very good friends with Jesus) begged Him for one of those really important things. Their brother Lazarus was sick, and they knew that if Jesus didn’t intervene, he was going to die. They just knew their friend Jesus would take care of everything. But then, He didn’t. Lazarus died.
Of course, three days later, Jesus came and raised Lazarus from the dead. He said no to Mary and Martha, because he had something even bigger in mind for Lazarus. Sometimes we are standing too close to the canvas to see God's "bigger" picture. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
God says no to us:
- When there is a bigger purpose that we often cannot see (Lazarus in John 11:1-43)
- When we are asking with impure motives (James 4:3)
- When we are asking without faith (James 1:6)
When God Says Wait
It can be very difficult when God essentially says not right now, but we can be confident that God’s timing is perfect. He sees the big picture, and to Him one day is like a thousand years. (2 Peter 3:8) Even when we are in a period of waiting, we can remember that God has a positive plan for our lives. (Jeremiah 29:11) We are to continue in prayer and trust that He is a loving God. (Psalm 46:10, Romans 12:12) Eventually God will work out whatever the situation is, and it will be for our ultimate good. (Romans 8:28)
Christians are to live a life of constant prayer. We can take everything before the throne of God – all our worries, fears, problems, relationships, etc. (Philippians 4:6) God will not only listen, He will also answer, even though sometimes we won't like the answer. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."
What do you think? Please share your thoughts below.