We can ask many questions about prayer. Does God answer prayer the same way all the time? 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? To help answer these questions we need to examine five ways God answers prayer.

“No, because I love you too much.”

The supreme God of the universe who is all wise, all knowing, and all powerful can say “no” to us and is in no obligation to say yes simply because we ask Him for something. Why would God say no? God may say “no” because we ask with wrong motives (James 4:3). Sometimes what we ask for is selfish and God knows it. God may say “no” because it is not according to His will (1 John 5:14). If you want to pray according to His will, pray according to His word. God may say “no” because we are not praying in faith (James 1:6-7). Prayer is not wishful thinking. It’s coming to God with faith, trust, and hope. God may say “no” because of disobedience in our life. There is a connection between obeying God and receiving from God.

“Yes, but you will have to wait.”

There are times you want something so bad: you want to see that person become a follower of Jesus, a relationship reconciled, a ministry grow, or a problem solved. Sometimes God will answer our request by saying “Yes, but not right now” (Romans 8:24-26). The reality is that God is not always in as big a hurry as we are when it comes to answering our prayers.

“Yes, but not how you think.”

We pray and God says, “Yes, I’m going to do it, but the way I’m going to do it is going to look different than the way you thought it was going to be” (Proverbs 3:5-6). The temptation is to think you have God figured out and you know how He is going to do something. God will often take a surprising path to answer your prayer: the provision comes through an unlikely person, the healing occurs because you applied godly advice, the reconciliation happens in the midst of a tragedy, or the encouragement you needed comes from a stranger.

“Yes and here is more.”

Sometimes God says, “I’m going to give you what you are asking for and I’ll give you more than you ask for” (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 23:5). God may answer your prayer in abundance. He decides to fill your vessel to overflowing and just give more and more and more. Think about Jesus and the boy with the sack lunch, Jesus and the wine at the wedding, and Jesus and all his miracles.

“Yes, I’m so glad you asked.”

Sometimes God is simply waiting for us to ask. He already has what we need and is ready to give. God is saying, “Just ask Me, call on Me and I will answer. I am ready to give!” This reminds me of Jeremiah 33:3 where God says, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” God says, “Yes, I’m so glad you asked.”