Recently, I took a piece of paper and began making a list of the basic beliefs to which I hold. What makes my “religion” different from all others? Why would I hold to a belief in the Bible, claiming that it is true above all other religious writings? Most of all, why do these differences matter? Why do they give me joy, peace, stability, and calm in a world of change, uncertainty, and confusion?
The third item on my list is that my God answers prayer! He hears me!
What a blessing to know that He chose me, that He knows my name, that He knows how many hairs are on my head, and that I am very valuable to Him! What a blessing to know that He intercedes on my behalf and that His Spirit helps me when I don’t know how to pray! As I picture my great and everlasting God, seated in majesty and holiness in His throne room, I am forever in awe that He would allow me to bring my requests and anxiety to Him.
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV).
When Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal, God proved His reality to Israel by answering the simple prayer of Elijah.
“[Elijah said,] ‘You call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of YHVH. The god who answers by fire—he is God…’
[The prophets of Baal] called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention…
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘YHVH, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, YHVH, answer me, so these people will know that you, YHVH, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’
Then the fire of YHVH fell…
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘YHVH—he is God! YHVH—he is God!'” (1 Kings 18, NIV).
Next to my kitchen sink, I have some little picture frames that are filled with Bible verses and good quotations. Here are some that I look at daily:
- “Faith in a prayer-hearing God will make a prayer-loving Christian.” (Andrew Murray)
- “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” (Oswald Chambers)
- “There is a general kind of praying which fails for lack of precision. It is as if a regiment of soldiers should all fire off their guns anywhere. Possibly somebody would be killed, but the majority of the enemy would be missed.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
So how do I get this kind of faith, the kind of faith that remembers to…
“…be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6, NIV)?
As I studied prayer this week, I decided to look up the word “ask” in the New Testament. It seems to be rather obvious that I don’t have this kind of faith because I simply don’t believe God and ask. Here are the verses (NIV) that I found:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19).
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14).
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16).
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20).
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:21-22).
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
So a question haunts me. (Have you ever asked yourself this?) Why doesn’t God always answer my prayers?
God isn’t a “genie in a bottle,” and I know that sometimes He must answer “no” because there are things for my good that I don’t understand.
However, I found many, many verses this week that say very directly that, most times anyway, only one thing keeps God from answering my prayer. Simply, I’m wicked and sinful — so He won’t hear me.
“He does not answer when men cry out
because of the arrogance of the wicked.
Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea;
the Almighty pays no attention to it” (Job 35:12-13).
“The eyes of YHVH are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
the face of YHVH is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out, and YHVH hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 35:15-17).
“Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
YHVH would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!” (Psalm 66:16-20)
“YHVH is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
YHVH watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy” (Psalm 145:18-20)
“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me.
Since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear YHVH,
since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke” (Proverbs 1:28-30).
“YHVH detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
YHVH detests the way of the wicked
but he loves those who pursue righteousness” (Proverbs 15:8-9).
“YHVH is far from the wicked
but he hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).
“If anyone turns a deaf ear to the Torah,
even his prayers are detestable” (Proverbs 28:9).
“When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:15-17).
“Surely the arm of YHVH is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).
“Then they will cry out to YHVH,
but he will not answer them.
At that time he will hide his face from them
because of the evil they have done” (Micah 3:4).
“They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that YHVH Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So YHVH Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says YHVH Almighty” (Zechariah 7:12-13).
“We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will” (John 9:31).
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:1-4).
Were these verses as convicting to you as they were to me? Ah, but don’t forget these beautiful verses:
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9, NIV).
I hope these verses were an encouragement to you today! May we accept God’s Word as truth — and pray like we mean it!