Does God Answer Prayer?
I had someone recently tell me that they don't feel like God answers their prayers. They believe God exists and yet their personal life doesn't seem to demonstrate that God is really listening to their requests. Does God answer prayers? Is he even listening?
I have to admit, although I know it is slightly scandalous to say, that I have often felt this way. I can think of prayer requests that have gone unanswered for years. If I look at the "blessings" of my life compared to my unbelieving neighbors I can't tell the difference, at least on the surface. To be more concrete, I have prayed fervently for God to abundantly supply for the financial needs of the Worship Arts Conservatory and yet we are still sorely underfunded for the task ahead.
Does Prayer Make Any Difference?
So, where is God? Does He care? Is He listening? Does prayer make any difference?
Some Christian take the cop out answer here. I have heard it many times. "Prayer changes us. Prayer isn't about getting answers, it is about God changing our hearts." There is a lot of truth in that statement. Prayer certainly isn't only, or I would argue, primarily about getting answers. And I agree that prayer can and should change us.
We Are Told to Ask
But lets be honest. The Bible does tell us to ask. It tells us that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). It tells us that our Father loves to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and if we ask for bread he won't give us a stone (Matthew 7:9). There are numerous other verses, not to mention the reports of answered prayer that fill scripture. God does promise to answer prayer. So why is it so hard for us to see? Why do some of us feel like He is not answering our prayers? Why is it sometimes so hard to tell the difference between the Christian's "answered prayer" and the unbelievers "good luck?"
I wish I had an easy answer. Faith sometimes is not easy, but it is reasonable. Let me suggest five answers to this dilemma:
- God is not a Genie. I wish God always answered my prayers with an immediate yes followed by an immediate visible result. But think of the horrible dangers of such a tool in the hands of even a good person. God must say no to many or even most of our prayers. It is obvious that an all-wise God cannot in love always answer yes to foolish humans. God often has much better plans for us then we do for ourselves.
- Miracles are rare. If miracles happened to every Christian on a regular basis they would no longer be miraculous. God has chosen to primarily work in this world through normal and natural means. That doesn't mean He isn't working or that He isn't answering our prayers, but it does mean that most of the answers may appear to be normal or natural. This does make it hard to prove God answers prayer, but it does not make the answers any less true.
- God is God even when I don't see Him. I believe in God for many reason other than answered prayer. In fact, answered prayer is not really even on my list of reason why I believe in God. I believe in answered prayer because I believe in God not the other way around.
- Prayer is much more than answers. I do believe that prayer is more than supplication, just not less than supplication. I believe prayer is primarily about building a relationship with God. Supplication is just one small part of that relationship.
- Try thanksgiving. Maybe we miss the blessings of God because we are only looking for answers to our specific requests. What about all the other ways God has shown kindness to us? Spending time in thanksgiving. It will help readjust your thinking.
How do you handle the dilemma of persistent unanswered prayer? Please leave a comment.
by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory