“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). There are several reasons why God does or doesn’t answer our prayers. Many times God is gracious and answers our prayers very soon after we ask. There are also many times that we have to wait for God to answer our prayers. Then there are times that it seems that He has said, “No” to our prayers and we never see an answer that we can recognize as an answer to our prayer. No sinful human knows all the reasons why God does or doesn’t answer our prayers. God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways” (Isaiah 55:9-10).
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Every time the Syrian king would try to make war against Israel, God would show Elisha what he was going to do and Elisha would tell the king of Israel how to avoid the Syrian army. So the Syrian king sent his army to capture Elisha, and Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” The Lord struck the Syrian army with blindness, and later Elisha asked the Lord to open their eyes, and the king of Israel fed the Syrian army and sent them back to their own land (2 Kings 6:8-23). God answers our prayers according to His sovereignty.
Daniel was taken captive as a young boy and taken to the Babylonian Kingdom and now he is an old man and is seeking to understand more about God’s purposes for himself and the nation of Israel. He knew what the prophet Jeremiah had written that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years. Now the 70 years are about over and Daniel is wondering what God will do next. So Daniel began to pray (Daniel 9). As Daniel is praying the angel Gabriel came to Daniel and said, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision” (Daniel 9:22-23). When Daniel began to pray God gave Daniel insight into the future of what was going to happen to the nation of Israel from that time until Jesus comes again.
Hannah, the wife of Elkanah was wanting a son. But years went by and she couldn’t have a child. She prayed and prayed but there seemed to be no answer from God—She was still barren. She was desperate and prayed, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:10-11). Hannah had been praying for a son with the wrong motive. Now she says that she will give her son to the Lord all the days of his life. The Lord gave her a son and that son was named Samuel who became one of the great spiritual leaders of Israel. Many times our prayers are delayed because we’re praying with the wrong motive. James wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3).
The Lord used Paul to perform miracles of raising people from the dead, healing, casting out demons, and gave Paul the insight and wisdom to write several books of the New Testament. Yet when Paul asked the Lord to heal him from his thorn in the flesh, the Lord refused. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). The Lord didn’t heal Paul because He didn’t want Paul to become conceited. Many times the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers because what we are praying for will cause us harm.
When we read of how God answered Elijah’s prayers, and used and blessed Elijah we sometimes say, “But that was Elijah.” James says that Elijah was a man just like we are, he’s no different from you and me. It encourages me knowing that Peter was no great spiritual giant when the Lord chose him: he was just a common man, a fisherman, but by the power of God’s Holy Spirit he became a man of faith and prayer. God uses men and women of faith and prayer to accomplish His purposes. “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
“He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:10-12). If we’ll pray with a humble heart and seek God’s will for our life He will answer our prayers according to His will, which is what every Christian should be praying for. “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21). Living a lifestyle of pleasing God brings His blessings into our life.