I have heard it said many times that the answer to our prayers is in one of three ways: “yes”, “no”, or “not now”.
For the person asking, “Does God answer prayer?”, a “no” or “not now” seems like not an answer at all. Some people begin to wonder if God even hears them.
To answer our question, we need to look at the Bible where God speaks clearly about this subject.
Does God hear me? Not always
Picture a couple sitting at the breakfast table. He is reading the newspaper while she is talking to him. Does he hear her?
Yes, he knows she is talking. He hears the sound of her voice, but he is not paying attention to her words.
We all want God to listen to our prayers. But Scripture spells out some situations when we might as well be talking to a wall.
Of course, God knows all things and knows what we are praying for, but there are times when we may not get the attention we want from Him.
So when we ask, “Does God answer prayer?”, maybe our first question should be, “What are hindrances to prayer?”
- Loving our sin more than God
- Our refusal to follow God’s direction for our lives
- Asking for things that are only for our pleasure
Loving our sin more than God
” … and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” Isaiah 59:2 ESV
” If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Psalm 66:18
“We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” John 9:31
These verses are not talking about our irritability towards others on Monday morning because we are tired from staying up too late on the weekend.
Yes, bad attitudes need to be confessed and corrected.
But instead, these verses are talking about sin that we don’t want to give up because we cherish it, we love it.
Our refusal to follow God’s direction for our lives
“If one turns away his ear from hearing the law (God’s words), even his prayer is an abomination.” Proverbs 28:9 (explanation added)
To put this in modern language, it might read, “If one is stubborn and won’t listen to God, then his prayer is disgusting.”
Most of us have been around two-year-olds who demand to have what they want when they want it. They will throw themselves on the floor kicking and screaming when they want something at the grocery store. Most adults find this behavior unacceptable.
As adults, we too can be stubborn, refusing to follow God’s direction for our lives. And when this happens, we can’t expect God to pay attention to our requests.
Asking for things that are only for our pleasure
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:3 ESV
Does this mean we can’t ask God to give us the money for a guitar because we would enjoy playing Christian music at a nursing home? Absolutely not.
This verse is talking about wrong motives. In other words, our prayer is all about us. It does not consider our responsibilities to our family, job, church, friends, or God.
When does God answer prayer?
We have already seen in John 9:31 that when we worship God and do His will that He will listen to us.
Here are three situations when we never have to wonder, “does God answer prayer.”
- When we confess sin
- When we pray according to God’s will
- When we have deep respect for God and what He wants
Does God answer prayer? Yes when we confess sin
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 ESV
When we agree with God that we have done wrong, He is ever so willing to restore our relationship with Him.
You see, God is not focussed on punishment. That was already taken care of at the cross. Instead, He wants to do all He can to communicate with us.
God wants us to grow in our relationship with Him and in our relationship with others. Confession of sin is one of the first steps.
Does God answer prayer? Yes when we pray according to God’s will
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 1 John 5:14-15 ESV
Now you might be asking, “How do I know what is God’s will? Does it matter which house I choose to buy or what university I go to?”
Actually, knowing God’s will is not that complicated. In its simplest terms, God’s will is that we bring honor and glory to Him in everything we do.
So if that can happen in the house we buy or the school we go to, then go for it.
Does God answer prayer? Yes When have a deep respect for God
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” Psalm 145:18-19 ESV
Let’s not get hung up on the word “fear” in this Scripture passage. There are several different Hebrew and Greek words that translate into English as “fear”.
For instance, in the Bible, the Israeli army was in “fear” of the Philistines and Goliath.
Other Biblical characters were “fearful” when angels appeared to them. I think I would have had the same reaction.
These first two examples are a fear that is “dread”, like what is going to happen next? Will I live or will I die?
But the fear of God is different if we have a relationship with Him.
Yes, God has the power to strike us dead if He wanted to. But that is not how He chooses to operate with His children.
This fear is taking about a healthy respect for someone. It realizing that God is in charge and we are not.
So when we pray, we respect the fact that:
- He knows more than we know
- His plans are much better than ours
- What He wants is more important than what we want
Don’t be afraid of God. Respect Him. That is when God hears us.
If you are still asking, “Does God answer prayer?”, and would like to know more about how to pray, these articles are just for you.
Thanks to Bible Gateway for easy navigation of the Scriptures.