Why doesn't God answer prayer today? Or does He? Can you be sure? Do you know anyone who continually receives answers to prayer — actual, concrete, demonstrable answers? Read in this article how you can make sure YOUR prayers will be answered.
WHY doesn't God answer my prayers?"
Every minister has had this question thrust at him in the course of counseling with some of his congregation. At one time or another, nearly every member of the "Christian world" has asked himself the same question. Oftentimes the thought remains unspoken simply because we would rather not have to acknowledge, even to ourselves, the lack of real answers to prayer in our lives. The God of your Bible claims to hear and promises to answer the requests of His followers. Why then don't many in our Christian society receive an answer to their prayers? Were these claims made only to people of ages gone by? Or are they valid today? Can you, in 1969, expect this same God to fulfill the same promises? Are there any conditions imposed in order to qualify to receive these promises? What are the stipulations to be met before God will hear and actually answer your prayers?
Message Must Get Through
When you go to the Western Union office to send a telegram, you are relatively confident your message will arrive at its destination. Bad weather or an accident may knock the line out temporarily and your message is delayed. But as soon as the lines are repaired, the message is delivered. The same principle applies to our prayers to God. We are sending a message. Generally it is an urgent message — a request for help — so we should be sure our lines of communication are operating properly. If the lines are "down" because we haven't met the proper requirements, the help isn't going to arrive. Therefore, we need to be sure we haven't short-circuited or broken the lines. Surely none of us would knowingly sever his connection with God. Yet in our Western world of Christianity, millions of us readily admit we rarely pray except at a time of severe crisis. Then we aren't sure God has heard us and end up only hoping for an answer instead of actually expecting one. We haven't severed our connection with God. We have never ESTABLISHED one! Look at the conditions which exist between you and your God. Have you made it a point to be in continual contact with Him so if there is ever a need, you can receive a speedy answer? Or have your" lines of communication deteriorated so badly that you don't even expect a reply? If so, remember, the fault rests with you.
God Has Not Grown Senile
One of the first reasons or ways we break our contact with God is found in this message to ancient Israel, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear..." (Isa. 59:1). God hasn't become so old and feeble with the passing of a few hundred years that He is impotent and no longer able or willing to act on the needs of His people. Neither has He become so ancient of days and dull of hearing that He is oblivious to our prayers. He simply hasn't become senile and incapable of performing as in the past. Continuing in Isaiah 59:2, "But YOUR INIQUITIES have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear." OUR PRAYERS AREN'T ANSWERED BECAUSE OF OUR SINS! It is our personal and national sins which have withheld the Creator's intervention from us. It is an eternal truth that God won't hear sinners. This message was given to Israel and then repeated to the people of Christ's time. It is ageless and has been recorded for our admonition as Christians today. "Now we know that GOD HEARS NOT SINNERS: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He hears" (John 9:31). Sin is the transgression of the laws of God (I John 3:4). We break our relationship with God and fracture our lines of contact by disobeying the very One to whom we make our requests. Then we wonder why our prayers aren't answered. The solution is obvious. If we want an answer to prayer, we must first honor the only One who is capable of granting our needs. Obedience to His way of life and to His laws honors Him. That obedience removes one of the biggest obstacles to our receiving an answer to prayer.
More Keys to Receiving Answers
Once we begin to obey God, we also begin to apply a second principle needed in order to receive a response — WE MUST SEEK GOD'S WILL. It is easy to pray and parrot the words "thy will be done." It is much more difficult to set aside every carnal and selfish desire and MEAN WITH ALL OUR HEART to seek God's will. Our carnal nature will lead us astray unless we realize how deceitful our heart is. Any prayer offered to God or soliciting His aid must be in keeping with His way of life. We can't ask for someone else's misfortune or pray for problems to befall our fellowman. We can't pray with only a selfish motivation and expect to be heard. To be answered, our request must be in accord with God's desire for us and the rest of mankind. Jesus Christ was and is our perfect example in everything He did. He said, "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30). What is the "will of God"? How can you know whether or not you are actually seeking His will? "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:3-4). God's will then is that ALL MANKIND COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH which produces salvation. God's Word — THE BIBLE — points out the way to salvation and is the source of all truth (John 17:17). A Christian comes to understand more of God's will by understanding more of the Bible. It pinpoints what His will is in every facet of human life. It gives instruction on how to have a happy married life. It directs parents in the proper methods of child rearing. And the Bible tells all mankind how to conduct itself toward God and man. A truly converted Christian will be not only seeking but deeply desiring to live according to God's will as it is manifested in the Bible. He will want God's way — in everything. He will seek to overcome "the way that seems right to a man" and will attempt to live every moment as Jesus Christ would. All of his prayers will be made with the knowledge of God directing him. A real Christian will want what God wants and if he has any doubt, will strive to find exactly what is right from God's Word. The result is continual acknowledgement of his requests. Concrete answers to his prayers.
We Must Ask in Faith
In our modern-day society, thousands of people have real faith in the ability of a Don Meredith or Joe Namath to connect with their pass receiver on a touchdown play. The reason? They have seen them in action every Sunday afternoon on television. They have faithfully followed the statistics of the game and know what their favorite quarterback's ability is. They know their man. These same people as well as most churchgoers would find it difficult to have a deep abiding assurance that the great Mastermind of all life's plays is capable of delivering their needs as they go through the game of life. The reason? We haven't been diligent in following our God. We don't know the statistics in the record book. We, and Christianity as a whole, haven't read and talked enough about the past performance record. Too MANY OF US DON'T KNOW OUR GOD! How then can we expect Him to produce the desired result? Oftentimes we aren't too sure He exists. Or if we claim to know He exists, we frequently only hope we will receive an answer to prayer. Hope isn't enough. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). If we aren't sure He is, we certainly can't be sure He will grant our requests. How then do you receive the faith which guarantees an answer? What is faith? Can we "drum it up" by thinking positively? Or do we sit back and wait for it to occur? Faith is a product. It is the result of diligence in seeking God's will. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). When we diligently search the record book (God's Word), we learn of His past performance and ability to deliver what He promises. The Bible shows how He has produced under pressure. There are hundreds of examples of past prayers which have been answered. This knowledge of past performance helps to produce a real assurance of what God will do. THAT ASSURANCE IS FAITH! "Now faith is the substance [margin renders it confidence or assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). In other words, faith is simply the knowledge and assurance that if what we are asking is in accord with God's way, we know He will answer. "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him" (I John 5:14-15). This is the kind of faith which assures us of an answer to our prayers. Faith is the realization on our part of having met the requirements. It is the knowledge we will receive an answer one way or the other. But it doesn't mean we will receive a "yes" answer. Perhaps God's will for us is in the form of a negative reply. The prayer still has been answered. Real faith accepts whatever the answer may be knowing it is the right one.
We Must Ask
It sounds a little foolish to say that in order to receive an answer we must make a request. Yet such is the case. We don't expect people in this physical life to provide for our needs automatically without knowing the need. They would have to be mind readers, and more, to do it. Our Creator is just that — HE IS A MIND READER! And what's more, He can supply the need. One of the numerous facets of His character is the quality of being "omniscient" or all-knowing. He knows our need before we ever ask (Matt. 6:8). Why then do we have to bother to ask? Why doesn't God supply the need as He sees it? First, we have to ask because we are told to. "Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; ye fight and war, yet ye have not, BECAUSE YE ASK NOT. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:2-3). Second, God simply doesn't supply our needs automatically. As a loving Father, He wants His children to recognize their need. And He wants them to realize He is the One who can provide the need. If we automatically have our wants supplied for us, it is only a short time before we cease to appreciate the things given. Soon, we cease to appreciate the Giver. Any father enjoys providing good things for his children. In spite of the pleasure of providing for a loved one, a physical parent wants the child to realize who gave it. God is the same. He wants us to know our wishes are provided for by a loving, generous Father who is looking after our welfare. He wants us to realize that, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). When we ask our spiritual Father for help, a job, health or welfare, we acknowledge Him as our Father. That acknowledgement brings honor to Him and helps us maintain a proper relationship with our Creator. The fact remains that we must ask before we receive or can expect to receive an answer. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: FOR EVERY ONE THAT ASKETH RECEIVETH; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matt. 7:7-8). Strange as it may sound, if you haven't received an answer to prayer, perhaps it is because you have never asked. Think about it for a minute. When was the last time you sincerely asked God to supply a particular need? If you aren't careful, you may be one who has limited your Father simply because you have never bothered to ask Him for your needs.
Must Be in Right Attitude
You have at some time or another asked for something in prayer. Everyone has. What was your attitude in asking? Was it a demanding "give it to me now" attitude? Was it an "I don't think He will, but I'll ask anyway" attitude? All of the points previously mentioned are summarized in one very basic scripture which epitomizes an overall proper attitude. This one scripture takes into account seeking God's will. It includes the other facets of asking in faith and in a proper manner because all these are necessary in order to have the right attitude. Yet it specifically points out the kind of man, woman or child God will answer. "... But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2). Poor? You mean we have to be in the lower strata economically speaking before God will hear our prayers? What about those people who have been blessed financially? Won't God answer their prayers? The rest of the scripture explains what is meant by "poor." It is describing the attitude of humility and sincerity found in the true Christian. By speaking of a "contrite spirit," the writer is picturing the individual who deeply respects and holds in reverence and honor the God of the universe. Jesus Christ is said to have been heard and answered because He feared (Heb. 5:7). He wasn't in a continual state of trepidation. Jesus knew the absolute majesty and the unimaginable power of His Father. He knew and fully understood the overwhelming consequence and penalty of sin and how sin could keep Him from ever rejoining His Father. He knew the holiness and righteousness of God's Law. As a result, He revered, honored, respected and loved His Father. He also feared being denied access to Him through disobedience. Therefore, He feared to sin. We need to follow His perfect example. Real Godly fear is the beginning of wisdom. "And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and TO DEPART FROM EVIL IS UNDERSTANDING" (Job 28:28). The proper fear and respect for God causes us to depart from evil and to stop sinning. If this is our basic attitude, we will be attempting to manifest all the other points previously mentioned. In addition, we will make our requests and then patiently await whatever answer God sees fit to provide. We will know that the answer received will be the one which is best for us as a Christian.
Ask in Jesus' Name
There is one final point to remember in our communications with our Father. Without it all the other steps in prayer could become ineffectual. It is the key for tapping all the vast power of the universe and putting it at our disposal. We should make our requests in the name of or by the authority of our elder brother Jesus Christ. "And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, WHATSOEVER YE SHALL ASK THE FATHER IN MY NAME, He will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24). Jesus gave an absolute guarantee which assures us of an answer to prayer when properly used. These promises were made to the disciples of Jesus who walked and talked daily with Him. They knew Him. They were familiar with and loved Him because they had talked by the hour about the everyday things of this physical life as well as the things of the World Tomorrow. Later when they prayed, they were sure He would see their prayers were answered because He was their Friend as well as their Savior. He told them personally, "If you shall ask anything in my name, I WILL DO IT" (John 14:14). How about you? Are you really on speaking terms with your Creator and Savior? If you are, you will be applying every one of these points and you will be receiving an answer to your prayers. Every one of these promises is ironclad for the real servants of Jesus Christ. YES, GOD DOES ANSWER PRAYERS TODAY! He does provide concrete, demonstrable answers to those who truly serve Him. Are you receiving your share? If not, perhaps you are not approaching Him in a proper manner. Or perhaps you aren't as much of a Christian as you had thought. Apply these principles of prayer and you can correct and strengthen your lines of communication. God will do the rest.