Does God Answer Prayer?
Read 1 John 5:14-15 (ESV)
And this is the confidence that we have toward 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 that we have asked of him.
Why do you think God doesn’t answer all of our prayers with a “yes”? Why do you think He sometimes makes us wait a long time before granting our requests?
In the 90s, Garth Brooks topped Billboard’s country charts with a song about thanking God for not giving him what he thought he wanted. The famous line of the song in “Unanswered Prayers” is “...just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Now, I don’t know where Garth Brooks stands spiritually and many would point out that no prayer actually goes unanswered. Sometimes God’s answer to our requests is “no” and sometimes He makes us wait for a “yes.” But Garth’s old hit song brings up an important concept about prayer that we often overlook when we are praying fervently for something that we really, really desire. And that is the fact that God answers prayers according to His will and not our own. Sometimes, He doesn’t give us what we pray for but He always cares and He always works for His glory and our good. When God says no to a prayer, over time we can often look back and see how God worked through that no. His plans are always better than ours!
In today’s verse, the apostle John wrote that “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” But what does that mean? How do we know God’s will? In the song, Garth said, “I guess the Lord knows what he’s doing after all.” Yes, yes He does. He knows better than we do because He can see all aspects of a situation and He knows the future. We don’t know all of the details of God’s plan for our individual lives, but the Bible spells out God’s will for us very clearly.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul wrote that all believers should “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In Romans 12:1-2, Paul also told us that we will begin to discern God’s “good, pleasing, and perfect will” when we live holy and obedient lives and allow God’s Word to transform our minds. And in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul wrote: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” He went on in verse 7: “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”
In other words, God revealed His will for our lives through His Word and that will is to continue to be sanctified and live holy lives. When we pray according to God’s will, we are praying for what God wants, not what we want. The more we get to know Him, the more our will bends to His. The more we begin to want what He wants.
Jesus’ brother James said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). James was saying that God is not obligated to answer our prayers simply to gratify our selfish desires. He isn’t a genie in a bottle. He will not answer prayers with a yes that do not bring Him glory and will not fulfill His purposes. He answers prayers according to His good and perfect will.
Friends, God always answers our prayers but sometimes it may not be the answer that we were hoping for or in the timeframe that we wanted. Still, we can be confident that if He says no to our heartfelt prayers, that what we were praying for was not His will for us. He knows what is best for us. He sees the complete picture. And we can trust Him. He knows what He’s doing after all.
Lord, thank You for answering my prayers according to Your will. I know that Your will for my life is always right even when You don’t answer prayers the way that I hoped. I trust You with my unanswered prayers. Amen.