- How does God answer prayer?
- Does God answer prayer the same way all the time?
- Is God obligated to give us whatever we ask for if we ask in faith?
- If I ask should I expect an answer?
- What if God doesn’t answer my prayer?
- What if He answers my prayer but I don’t like the way He answered it?
- How come God answered someone else’s prayer immediately, but He hasn’t answered mine yet?
- How long should I wait for an answer?
These are good questions and some of them are difficult to answer. But we are going to answer some of them today.
To understand God’s answers to prayer, we need to understand that God does not answer all prayers the same way.
When we pray asking God for something or to do something He will either answer with a yes or a no. There are variations to the yes answers and variations to the no answers.
When God Answers No
Let’s take a look at the times when God answer no. When God answers no, He is not being mean or cold. When God says no He is saying, “No, because I love you too much.” If you have kids, grandkids, or when you are around kids when they ask you for something do you ever say no? Each no is not the same because as a parent you say no because it’s not safe or you say no because it’s unhealthy or you say no because it’s not the right time or you say no because they are not mature enough to handle it. God does the same thing when He says no to you. There are legitimate reasons for why God says no.
So, why would God say no to your request for something or someone?
No, because you are being selfish
For one, God may say, “No, because you are being selfish.” Listen to James 4:3 which says, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure” (NLT). Sometimes what you ask for is selfish and God knows it. The prayer request is all about you, what you want, what you like, what you desire, what’s best for you, and what you think will make you happy and comfortable. It’s not about God’s kingdom, not about His glory, not about seeking the lost, not about helping other followers of Jesus become stronger in their faith…. It’s about you. God’s purpose is to be the center of your prayer, not you. If you have wrong motives, then God will say “no.”
No, it’s not My will for you
Number two, God may say, “No, it’s not My will for you.” Look at 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him” (CSB).
- The phrase “he hears us” is not referring to merely hearing us, like we would hear someone talking, but not really listening. To “hear us” means He is listening, paying attention, and will respond to what He has heard.
- There is a qualifier which says, “If we ask anything according to his will.” I am about to over simplify the description of what this means, but I hope you catch the idea. There are things that are according to God’s will and there are things that are not. For example, as a dad my kids would ask me for things all the time. “Dad, will you buy me a car?” No, because that’s according to my will. “Dad, can I borrow the car to go to work on Saturday?” Yes, because that’s according to my will. There are some things that are according to Gods’ will and some things that are not. As you get to know the Heavenly Father and His Word you will be able to know more and more of God’s will.
But sometimes, God answers no because it’s not His will.
No, because you are not praying in faith
Number three: God may say, “No, because you don’t trust Me.” Notice what James 1:5 says about this, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do” (NLT). This is in the context of trials, difficulties, and hard times. There are two aspects to this trust and faith in God when it comes to prayer.
- First, you trust God to provide an answer. During your difficulties you are going to need wisdom on how to deal with the problem in your life. When you start asking God for wisdom and for what you need to do in this situation, you need to trust God to provide the answer. He will either provide the answer through His Word, godly counseling or some other way that will be clear to you.
- Second, you trust God to apply the answer. Here is how this works, you have been praying. God provides an answer and gives you some direction, but you don’t like it and you don’t want to do it. God has made it clear that the answer is in your obedience to apply what He has told you.
You have been praying for your marriage… God has told you to sacrifice for your spouse or submit to your spouse, God has told you forgive them, bless them, love them, and show respect toward them. But you decided not to do that, it’s too hard and you don’t trust God with that being the best answer. So, you don’t trust God to apply the answer.
You have been praying about your finances and God answered your prayer by showing you some Biblical principles of financial management, but you have not applied them to your finances yet. You don’t trust God to apply the answer.
Here’s what happens. We pray for God’s answer and God’s wisdom on what to do. He gives us some direction, we apply it sort of and then we go back to doing whatever we want and then we get into another mess and ask God to gives us wisdom and He does so we apply it a little bit, but then we go back to doing what we want to do. As a result we become “a person with divided loyalty” and we are “unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” We never really trust God with applying the answer that He gives and as a result we “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” We should not expect any wisdom or guidance from the Lord because we have not really intention or commitment to do what He says. Sometimes God will say, “No, because you don’t trust Me.”
No, because of your disobedience
Number four: God may say, “No, because of your disobedience.” We are told in 1 John 3:21, “Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. 22 And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him” (NLT). Sometimes God will say no because He knows we are going to be disobedient with what He gives us. For example, if my son approaches me and says, “Dad, can I borrow the car?” But the last few times he’s borrowed the car he took it drag racing, went on an adventure in the woods and got it stuck, and was pulled over for speeding and driving recklessly. My answer is going to be, “No, not today.” The reason is because he knew the rules about using the car and he was disobedient and did not honor them. Which is a demonstration that he is not ready for the car.
When God Answers Yes
We have looked at how God answers when He says no, but what about when God answers yes?
Yes, but you will have to wait
Number one: God may say, “Yes, but you will have to wait.” Look closely at Romans 8:24, “We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) 26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (NLT). There is a lot going on in those verses, but one thing we are told is there are things we just have to wait for. There are times you are wanting something so bad: you want to see that person saved, you want to see that relationship reconciled, you want to see that ministry take off, you want to find that partner for life, you want to have children, or you are praying about that problem and asking God to remove it and God has says, “Yes, but you will have to wait for it to happen.”
The reality is that God is not always in as a big a hurry as we are. When we go to God in prayer we want what we want when we want it. We want it right now. God works on a different time table than we do. So God may say “Yes, but not right now.”
It’s in the waiting that some things can take place that better prepare us for when the answer does come. Maybe during that time of waiting we grow spiritually, we mature and we develop to a different level spiritually so that we will be able to recognize the answer when it arrives.
It could be there are some changes we need to make in our lives or changes in our circumstances. God wants to answer the prayer and God is going to answer the prayer, but we need to make some changes first. So, God may say “Yes, but you will have to wait.”
Yes, but not how you think
Number two: God may say, “Yes, but not how you think.” This brings Proverbs 3:5 into the situation, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT).
- You are told to “not depend on your own understanding.” When we pray we sometimes already have it all figured out in our minds how God is going to answer the prayer. We already know how God is going to do it. We have a preconceived path that God is going to take to get this thing done. Sometimes God says, “I hear your prayer and I am going to answer your prayer but it’s going to go down a different path than you ever thought it was going to take. It is going to be a different thing altogether.”
The reason we get so irritated with God and impatient with God is because He doesn’t answer our prayer the way we understand it should be answered. This is where you have to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” and “not depend on your own understanding.”
God answers prayer in the most unlikely ways all the time.
- The couple who prays for a better marriage didn’t understand that it wouldn’t come through the conference they attended but through the illness of one of them.
- The man who prayed God to use him didn’t realize that he would lose his job and be placed in another company in order to make a new friend that he would lead to the Lord.
- The single person praying for a lifelong mate didn’t realize God was going to introduce them to their future spouse at a Life Group that they have been procrastinating about for months.
Sometimes God will say, “Yes, but not how you think.”
Yes, and here is more
Number three: God may say, “Yes, and here is more.” Sometimes God says, “I’m going to give you what you are asking for and I’m going to give you more than you ask.” Sometimes God will answer the prayer in abundance. He decides to fill your vessel to overflowing and just give more and more and more. For some reason we like to set limits on God and simply ask Him to fill up this little box of ours when He is thinking about filling it up and overflowing it.
You get a glimpse of this when Jesus feeds thousands of people with a boy’s sack lunch. You get a glimpse of this when Jesus takes Peter fishing and Peter catches so many fish his boat begins to sink. You hear this in Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings” (NLT). Sometimes God will say, “Yes, and here is more.”
Yes, I thought you would never ask
Number four: God may say, “Yes, I thought you would never ask.” Sometimes God is simply waiting for us to ask. He already has what we need in His hand and He is simply waiting for us to ask. James 5:16, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (NLT).
Sometimes I think we don’t believe talking God will do any good, so we don’t or we just go through the motions without really meaning or believing what we are praying about. I think we give up before we really ask. We think God is not going to do anything, so we don’t pray.
Bu God is thinking, “Just ask Me, call on Me and I will answer. I am ready to give, I am ready to intervene, I am ready to make a way, I am ready to open that door for you.” This reminds of Jeremiah 33:3 which says, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come” (NLT). God says, “I thought you would never ask.”
What is on your heart today? Whatever decision or whatever problem you are facing talk to God about it and ask Him your question, lay a request at His feet. But remember, however God chooses to answer you will be the best answer for you. Because He is loving it will be a loving answer. Because He is wise it will be the wise answer. Trust Him to answer. Trust Him to obey the answer.
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- If you need someone to talk too or pray with….