How do you know when God is answering prayers whenever we pray to him?
Over the years, I’ve discovered from Scripture and experience that God loves to answer our prayers. Here are five of his most frequent answers:
“No, I love you too much.”
The Lord of the universe isn’t under obligation to say “yes” to every prayer. That’s a good thing, considering some of the things we request!
But sometimes God says “no” to our most heartfelt requests. Have you discovered this to be true in your own life? I certainly have. When my friend Diane started losing her hearing. When my mother-in-law came down with polio. When my nephew contracted AIDS.
I would be known as Luis Palau, Jr. if it weren’t for the fact that God said “no” to my most earnest childhood prayers. Shortly after my tenth birthday, my father, Luis Palau Sr., contracted bronchial pneumonia and died ten days later.
Death became, to me, the most undeniable reality under heaven. Everything else can be rationalized and wondered about and discussed, but death is there, staring you in the face. It happens. Even to the most godly people. No matter how hard we pray. Why? Because we still live in a fallen world.
I’ve been reminded of this repeatedly since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. Tens of thousands of lives were spared. But God said “no” to the prayers of thousands of others. Will good come of their deaths? I believe so.
Without a doubt, the death of my father has had more impact on my ministry than anything else in my entire life, besides my own conversion to Jesus Christ. My wish and desire is that people get right with God, settle the big question, and die knowing—like my father—that they will be with Jesus, “which is better by far” (Phil. 1:23).
Does that mean we shouldn’t bother to pray? Just the opposite. Over the years, traveling throughout the world, I’ve discovered four other ways God frequently answers prayer. Believe me, he loves to say “yes!”
“Yes, but you’ll have to wait.”
Immediate answers to prayer: You want them. I want them. But God simply does not always work that way. And to get his best, we must be patient. In some cases, we must wait until the stroke of midnight for his answer to come.
Phil Callaway didn’t know what to say when his young children asked if Mommy was going to die. His wife, Ramona, suffered horrible seizures.
Hundreds of friends and relatives prayed, but Ramona’s condition worsened. Medical specialists tried everything, but by the fall of 1996, the seizures were occurring daily, sometimes hourly.
Phil rarely left Ramona’s side. He wondered if she would even make it to her 30th birthday. One evening, when things looked utterly hopeless, Phil paced their dark back yard, then fell to his knees. “God!” he cried out. “I can’t take it anymore. Please do something!”
Suddenly a doctor’s name came to mind. Phil called the doctor, who saw Ramona the next morning and diagnosed a rare chemical deficiency.
Within a week, Ramona’s seizures ended. Her eyes sparkled again. The miracle was so incredible Phil says, “God gave me back my wife.”
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7).
“Yes, but not what you expected.”
Have you ever asked God to use you? If so, expect the unexpected!
But our everyday expressions of need are not the burden of the New Testament when it comes to prayer. While Scripture encourages us to pray for all manner of things, God also clearly exhorts us to focus our prayer lives.
God hears and answers every prayer, but there are a precious few to which he always says, “Yes.” The prayers always answered positively are the prayers which explicitly ask God to deliver on his promises to us. God will always say Yes when we ask him to do his work through his word.
I have found at least six basic prayers God will always answer.
Glorify yourself through me.
The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
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).
Reveal more of yourself to me.
I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord (Jeremiah 31:33–34).
Give me wisdom.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5).
Strengthen me to obey you.
As you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12–13).
Spread your gospel to the lost.
This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
How do we know God will answer these six prayers? Because he says he will in the first place, and then, even more, because these prayers sum up what God has promised to do through the gospel. This is what God has said he would most surely do.
Ready to Answer
If we want to grow and mature in prayer, we don’t need to set a timer. We don’t need to learn new contemplative methods, or build a prayer closet in the woods. But we do need to become better ask-ers. We need to realize that we are all walking disasters apart from grace, men and women who need God every step of every day. We would all make a shipwreck of our life and the lives of those around us if God did not intervene.
The gospel yells at us, You are weak and sinful, flawed, and needy — but God is strong, gracious, and good — and ready to answer. Ask him to do what he has already promised to do for you. And keep praying, until that day when we won’t need to pray anymore from a distance, because we will see our great Promiser, Provider, and King face to face.
Prayer is one of our greatest privileges as God’s children, and even if God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers at first, don’t stop praying. God loves you, and no prayer goes unanswered.
Jesus once told a story about a poor widow who repeatedly asked a corrupt judge to do what was right. (You can read it in Luke 18:1-8.) Repeatedly the judge refused–not because her request was wrong, but because he just didn’t care. But because of her persistence, he eventually gave in and granted her what she deserved. In a far greater way, Jesus said, God (who is righteous and does care for us) hears the prayers of His people, and we must never give up.
But let me add two things. First, realize that sometimes God is actually answering our prayers when we don’t realize it–and the reason is because His answer may be “No” or “Wait.” Yes, we think we know what’s best for us–but God sees the whole picture, and sometimes He lovingly refuses to give us what we request, because He knows it isn’t according to His perfect plan.
Second, remember that we have the privilege of coming to God only because Jesus Christ died for our sins. Have you given your life to Him? If not, let your first prayer be one of confession and faith, asking Him to come into your life as your Lord and Savior.
Your Relationship To God
Our relationship to God is key to everything in our life. This is illustrated in the life of the prophet Samuel who had been directed by God to select a new king for Israel. The current king, Saul, had sinned by being disobedient and then lied to God. Saul was quick with words. He was quick at lying. God had told him to kill all of the animals of a nation the Israelites had just conquered, but Saul did not do that. When confronted, he claimed the animals were saved so they could be sacrificed to the Lord. Here is Samuel’s response.
And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (NASB) 1 Samuel 15:22-23
So God told Samuel to find another king. God sent Samuel to the family of Jesse. The first son of Jesse that Samuel saw was very handsome. So handsome in fact that Samuel thought this was the new king, but he was wrong. What does God look for?
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (NASB) 1 Samuel 16:7
God looks at the heart and not at our personal success, our bank account, our home or our good looks. He is not interested in our family connections, friends, our relationship to our pastor/priest/rabbi or our denomination. He is interested in our heart.
Is God interested in our heart when it comes to prayer? Our answer is found in Proverbs 15:29.
The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous. (NASB) Proverbs 15:29
The wicked or godless person is a person who does not seek after God. He is satisfied with his sin and does not desire to change. There is no remorse, regret or sorrow for his or her sin. So it is not surprising that God is far away from them. God is not talking about ignoring one who wants to turn away from their sin and to Him. This proverb is one of contrast. God ignores the prayers of the wicked but not those of the righteous. He listens to those who desire to live a holy life. This is the first key to answered prayer. What is your heart relationship to Him? Are you a Christian? Are you confessing your sins – admitting each sin to God? Do you really desire to live for God or just when you want your prayers answered? God is more interested in our heart.
Answers To Prayer
If our heart is right with God, He will hear our prayer.
And this is the confidence which we have before 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 which we have asked from Him. (NASB) 1 John 5:14-15
If our heart is right with Him, we will ask according to His will (see study on God’s Will) and He will grant that specific request. God does not always give us our request because we sometimes ask with selfish motives (James 4:3). So God often answers with “No!” How do we know when He has answered? Sometimes the answer is no and other times He takes a while in answering. The Lord took a long time, one month, in giving the prophet Daniel an answer to a simple question (Daniel 10). Sometimes He takes longer, as was the case with Simeon and Anna waited for the coming of Jesus (Luke 2:25, 36-38).
If you have a decision to make or you are seeking direction, let me suggest that you ask God for a sign. I often do that. He has always answered. God is more interested in our relationship with Him. Be sure you are a Christian and that your heart is seeking to be holy.
YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY. (NASB) 1 Peter 1:16
How do you know when God is answering prayers?