DOES GOD ANSWER PRAYERS?
By Bodé Adeboyejo
“For who has known the mind of the Lord as to instruct Him?” 1 Corinthians 2:16
“For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” Psalms 90:4
I once read a joke about a man who asked God if it were true that a thousand years were like a day in his sight. He then figured that if a thousand years were a day, a thousand dollars would probably be like a dollar to God too. So, he went ahead to ask God if he could have a dollar. God replied to him, “Sure, in a day!”
While that joke may be funny (if it didn’t go over your head), it is not in anyway funny when you have an urgent prayer before the Father, only to realize that a thousand years is like a day before God. In desperation, you want to cry out “but I don’t have a thousand years to live! Besides, I need You now!” When you have an urgent prayer before the Father, you’d wish that a day were a day and not a thousand years before Him. And when you read scriptures like Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayers and supplications let your requests be made known to God,” you are like, “but I made my requests known to God through prayers and supplications a long time ago, but nothing has happened yet!”
Be anxious for nothing? Yeah, right! You say, “why don’t you try and be anxious for nothing when you have just received a memo from your employer, warning about an impending downsizing. When you have just received an unfavorable report from the doctor regarding your health. When your house rent or note is due against a lower account balance. When you are living from paycheck to paycheck. When you are in your mid-thirties approaching forty with no prospect of a husband or a wife.” “Be anxious for nothing? Pleaasseee!”
I believe that at one stage or the other of our Christian walk, there have been times when we have been anxious for things, contrary to what the Scriptures say. Perhaps even gone as far as asking ourselves the question, “Does God answer prayers?” Either because of some prayers we have offered to God, which either took a long time to manifest, yet to manifest or never manifested. Matter of fact, there are times when I think that I have more unanswered prayers; than I have answered! At least so it seems in the natural.
Let’s address some questions and get them out of the way before we go any further. So, does God answer prayers? Yes! If He does, does He answer everybody’s prayer? No! If not, whose prayers does He answer? Only the prayer of a Believer! Really? Yeah, really! “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” John 9:31. So, if God only hears the prayers of the Believer, who do unbelievers pray to when they pray? Don’t know! But I do know that they can’t be praying to the living God of the Bible. The only prayer God hears from an unbeliever is the prayer of salvation.
So, if God hears only the prayers of a believer, does He answer every prayer of the believer? Yes and No. “Yes and No? That’s really helpful,” you say. Let me explain what I mean.
I say, “No, God doesn’t hear every prayer of the believer.” Looking at the scripture in John 9:31, it says ” …but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” What does it mean to be a worshipper? In this context, a worshipper would be a true believer, who tries as much as in him or her lies to live the Bible, walk or do the will of the Father. You can be a believer and not do His will. And as long as you don’t do His will He doesn’t hear you. You may pray till you turn blue in the face; He does not hear you!
I say, “Yes, God hears every prayer of a believer,” because I believe that God answers us in three ways. Each time we pray I believe that God answers us by either saying, “Yes,” “Wait,” or “No.” Whichever way He answers us, I believe He answers us when we pray. It’s like a child going to his father for something. The father can either say, “Yes,” “Wait,” or “No.” But if you ask the child what his father said, he probably will tell you that his father said “No,” where his father may have said “Wait.”
To the child, “Wait “ means “No,” and “No,” means “Never.” So it is with us Christians. The only way we think God hears us is when He says “Yes.” When He says, “Wait” or “No,” we do not consider that an answer. But if God answers all our prayers most of us will probably be either dead by now or most miserable! I believe that every one of us can think back to a petition we had before God about a thing, a situation or a person, but which looking back now we can only thank God for not answering that particular prayer.
Now, why would God not answer our prayers? It’s because each time we pray, we pray with our humanistic, limited ability. We pray based on our emotions or feelings at a particular time. So, often times we pray subjectively not objectively. We pray for a thing, a situation or a person, because that thing, situation or person looks good to us. Or we see it as a means to an end, if not an end in itself!
But the Omniscient God who was in our yesterday, our today, and in our future knows exactly what we need to run this life race successfully. Sometimes God says ‘wait’ because He either has something better than what we want right now, or because the time we want that thing is not right. That is, that thing, situation or person could make us lose focus or purpose. And when He says “No,” it is because that thing, situation or person is not good for us. But because ‘the eye cannot see beyond its nose,’ we fail to see the wisdom in God’s decision.
What to Pray?
Jesus, our High Priest showed us how to pray. He said “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name (Worship). Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (Submission). Give us this day our daily bread (Provision). And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Forgiveness). And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Repentance and Deliverance): For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever (Adoration). Amen.
Jesus is not saying that our prayer should be limited to this prayer. But that our prayer should be characterized by those elements (worship, submission, provision, forgiveness, repentance and deliverance and adoration) when we pray. Bottom line, our prayer should not be selfish. As Christians, the best prayer we can say is that God’s will be done in our lives, in all situations and circumstances. It was the same prayer Jesus prayed at Gethsemane, “…O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
What Kind of Prayer Does God Answer?
An unselfish prayer is the kind of prayer God mostly honors or answers. Prayers for our friends, families and foes. Not self-centered prayers. Not “God-give-me-this” kind of prayer. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8
Another type of prayer God answers is one that asks that His will be done. Someone once said that when we pray we say “Listen Lord, for your servant speaks;” instead of saying, “Speak Lord, for your servant listens.” So rather than telling God what we want Him to do for us, we should be asking what He wants us to do. We should not only pray that His will be done in the earth but in our lives. We should pray and ask what we can do to let His will be done in the earth. Perhaps you ask, “What is God’s will?” His will is to seek and save the Lost. His will is to destroy the works of the devil. His will is to set the spiritual captives free. His will is that no one should perish but have everlasting life.
God is not a robot! Neither is He a Cosmic Santa Claus that gives us what we want, when we want. God did not put us in the earth for us to just work, eat, sleep and die or just have an abundance of things. God put us in the earth to serve and worship Him, in truth and in spirit.
How Does God Answer Prayers?
I become very suspicious whenever people tell me that they prayed for a particular thing, situation or person and God answered them exactly just as they had prayed. God does not answer us the way we expect Him to? How do I know? Because He said “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9.
A lot of times when we pray, we pray with suggested solutions or advice to God. When we pray to God about a problem, we pray with the solution in mind; even telling Him how we want Him to solve the problem. Our prayers are like prepared payment vouchers. All we want God to do is endorse and stamp it! Most times (if not all the time) when God answers our prayers, He answers not the way we expect Him to. Never! When God answers our prayer, most times we are ignorant of it initially. Because it’s not what we are expecting or the way we expect it, we hardly recognize it when He does. While we are waiting in the West, God comes from the East!
In closing let me address those of you who are not Born-Again believers (and I’m not talking about just haven’t been to the altar to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior without a corresponding lifestyle). Let me reiterate that the only prayer God hears from an unbeliever, and will hear from you is the prayer of salvation. So, not unless you are born-again; i.e., accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior would He hear your prayers. Now, you may say, “but God has been answering my prayers, what do you mean, He doesn’t answer unbelievers’ prayers?” Has He? You may think it’s God that has been answering your prayer, let me put it to you that Satan answers prayers (or accommodates requests) too! Even the prayer or request of a believer outside the will of God!
Likewise, if you as a believer have been praying to God and your prayer is not in line with God’s will, you may as well stop praying, because you know God is not going to answer that prayer. God only honors a prayer that’s in line with His will (John 9:31). Remember, even if you still say you don’t know what God’s will is, just pray that His will be done concerning a situation, thing or person. Pray that He gives you the spiritual strength to accept whatever is His will concerning what you pray about. And be willing to do or accept His will; knowing that He has your best interest at heart.
Does God answer prayers? Absolutely! He answers with either a “Yes,” a “Wait” or a “No.” Whichever way He answers you “… know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28