How God Answers Prayer: A Scriptural Study

By Dr. Donald Whitchard


“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

  • John 15:7 (NKJV)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God.”

  • Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)

“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”

  • 1 John 3:22 (NKJV)

Here is a question. If prayer, in its basic definition, is talking to and listening to God, then why don’t we pray more often? Perhaps we fell that our prayer will not be answered or that we do not know how God answers prayer or perhaps we have lost our faith in believing that God will see us through. It is all too easy to fall into that mindset in light of the chaos that seems to be exploding in growth and frequency these days, but we also need to get that line of thought out of our minds right now and realize that God is Sovereign. He will see to it that His will is carried out and that the request you bring before Him has not been set aside for further evaluation or study.

God hears the prayers of the penitent and those of His adopted sons and daughters by the redemption of their sins through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the fact of the Resurrection. Teachers, preachers, and those saints of God who a lot more studious than I am in the matter of prayer have generally come to the conclusion that the LORD answers prayer in several ways, and will be examined in this article. This will help us to gain not just more head knowledge as it pertains to talking with the LORD, but to also face the uncomfortable reality that He may answer our requests in manners we do not particularly like or expect, but it is done for a reason that affects our spiritual growth and maturity. When we pray for a need or request, the LORD may impress upon us that He will answer “Yes”, and that is the answer that we love to hear or have confirmed.

We thank the LORD for hearing and answering heartfelt requests, such as the salvation of a family member or friend, or funds to pay the rent, or for food, or clothing for the children, or for a job. Read what the Scriptures say regarding our needs and God’s compassion:

   “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he falls, he shall not be cast down, for the LORD upholds him with His hand. I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful and lends and his descendants are blessed.”

  • Psalm 37:23-26 (NKJV)

   God will grant the petitions we ask of Him (Ps. 118:5-9; 138:1-3), especially when we put Him first in our lives. The Lord Jesus did tell us to seek the kingdom of God and all His righteousness first (Matthew 6:33). Solomon taught his people to trust the LORD with all our hearts (Prov. 3:5-10). For God to answer “yes”, we must first ask according to His will and doing His will in our lives as believers. Right now, ask yourself if that is the case with you. Are you following in the world’s muddy footsteps trying to please yourself and put your concerns as the top priority, or is the Lord Jesus on the throne of your life and your fleshly nature sufficiently put on the cross to die? (Romans 6:6, 8:13, 13:14, Galatians 5:16, 24; Colossians 3:5; 1 Peter 2:11, 4:2).

Remember this when you feel that nothing is happening in terms of your request being answered, and that is that the Sovereign God of the Universe does not need to be reminded, and that He is not unaware of your predicament. He knows what to do, how to do it, and will put everything into place to make your answer come about. Ask in faith. You do not have to beg and grovel like He is some tyrant oblivious to your existence or need. He loves you and remember that He has the world and your situation under control. It will be all right, just let Him handle it.

All right, with that settled, let us look at the next way that God answers our prayers, and it is often not a way that we would like to hear or expect. Sometimes God will answer “Yes” to a prayer but add the following impression – “wait”. Look to the Scriptures as to why this answer is given at times.

   “Wait on the LORD. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD!”

  • Psalm 27:14 (NKJV)

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.”

  • Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)                                                                          

“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation. I will wait on you.”

  • Psalm 25:5 (NKJV) 

God is the process of answering your prayer, but in His own time and for His own purpose. We live in a day of instant gratification and service. We need to have it NOW. We can not sit and let the day pass. We are on the move and so should everything else around us, or so we think. God tends to say, “STOP AND WAIT!” on a lot of what we believe are urgent requests, but instead are items or situations that will not give Him glory or recognition. That request that came so soon from your lips may just be for your personal gratification disguised as a spiritual situation or thought. He will make us wait to teach us that we run on HIS time and not the other way around. Stop and consider that there are people and events that need to be in their proper and exact place in order for the prayer in question to be answered so as to give God glory and a testimony of His faithfulness to you.

Those of us who have yearned for the LORD’s appearing in the clouds (Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28; John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 3:`10, 19:11-21) are at the point of exhaustion and getting tired of the ridicule from the world’s skeptics and scoffers (2 Peter 3:1-9). He promised to return (Acts 1:1-11) and when I read of His promises in Scripture, they were always kept and will be kept according to His Word. I do believe that this world’s time is running down and will not go on much longer, either in the scientific realm or spiritual depravity in which it exists (Romans 8:20-22). Something has got to give and soon. Those of us who are looking for His return (Luke 21:28) will not be disappointed. I believe it will come upon this world quicker than any of us expect (Matthew 24:27). Always remember that our priority in coming to God with our needs is to ask Him to open the eyes of those loved ones and friends who hare spiritually blind and need to be transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.

Another way that God tends to answer our prayers is to assure us and impress upon us that He says “Yes”, but in a way that you might not expect or think. The LORD has the authority, right, and power to do that which pleases Him and does not go against His character or nature. He does not always approach situations or problems in the way that we might expect, and that really is what makes our relationship with Him personal and unique. The Scriptures tell us that His thoughts and methods are much more different than our own:

   “For My thoughts are not your thoughts. Your ways are not My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJV)

For example, we may ask the LORD for strength and perseverance. In turn He may give us some troubles to bear which in turn develop into the virtues for which we prayed (Romans 5:3-4; Philippians 1:23-30). Do not limit God’s options. We need to be careful and not dictate to Him on how the prayer should be answered. There are forces at work beyond whatever we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). In addition, we do not always know how to pray as we ought, and that is where the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26). He knows exactly what to say and how to present it to the Father.

Limit the “how” and we just might limit the result. An example would be praying for the healing and recovery of a friend or family member. The LORD, in turn, might use the skills of a physician or medication specifically designed to tackle the problem and He will impress upon us to let Him heal through that method. He can perform the miraculous as well. Either way, He gets the glory for healing the sick individual. Read what James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus Himself says for us to do when this situation happens:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let Him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the LORD will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-16, NKJV)

     We also need to come to the reality that God does not answer some prayers. He has the authority and right to tell us, “NO” (James 4:3). When this does occur in our walk with Him, we must trust that He knows what is best and that not answering our prayer might be for our own good (Hebrews 12:5-11). When He says, “NO”, we may not fully understand, but we can trust Him, nevertheless (Habakkuk 3:17-18) and that all will be well in due time (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will provide the grace and mercy for us to do without the request. Paul experienced this personally and wrote about it as a testimony to the sovereignty of God (2 Corinthians 12:7-12). Whatever way God may choose to answer our prayers, we can have confidence that it will be for our own good. If you are reading this and do not have a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the first prayer you need to present before Him is to confess that you are a sinner and cannot save yourself. Ask Him to forgive you and to surrender your life to Him and confess that He is Lord (Matthew 11:28-30; John 3:16; Acts 4:12, 16:31; Romans 10:9-10). Look to Him for direction, wisdom, guidance, and as the loving Father who will keep you in His ways and bring you to heaven at time’s conclusion forever (John 14:1-3). His promises are sure and true, and He is wonderful. Amen.

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Luke 21:36 "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

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