DOES GOD ALWAYS ANSWER PRAYER?
As Christians, we’re encouraged to regularly pray to God for help with problems we’re experiencing personally or maybe even issues going on globally such as the recent Ukrainian war when millions of people around the world prayed for their rescue. Our own lives and problems can pail into insignificance when we look at what’s going on universally.
It seems to me, from my own experience, that my prayers are sometimes not answered straight away and often, when they are answered, not necessarily in the way that I’d hoped. It seems strange that, many times, things work out completely differently or even better than I’d expected in some cases.
I really value my time with God at the end of each day and look forward to the peace and solace. Often things crystallise during my communication with Him and it gives me time to think about my life’s blessings and to pray for those less fortunate than me.
I know there’s absolutely no way of evaluating the power of prayer and it’s not something that can be studied scientifically but do you have a view on this Graham?
Rev Graham replies:
Who hasn’t got a view or asked the specific questions you are posing, Carol, about the value, validity and reality of prayer and knowing if our prayers are answered or ignored.
In the Old Testament there are 150 Psalms that are full of questions that are like prayers connected to everyday circumstances and cause us to wrestle with God concerning outcomes, to patiently wait, and then rejoice in God’s presence and peace.
which you might want to refer to. In Psalm 71 the writer takes refuge in the Lord and offers up prayers of complaint alongside hope, patience and praise.
As we pray, God can reveal his future plans or give us reasons why actions have or haven’t taken place. God speaks to the ordinary as well as to kings, queens and rulers who seek His wisdom.
Throughout the bible there are many personal conversations and prayers between individuals of faith and no faith to our Creator God and Jesus when he walked on earth. In Genesis 32 we read of Jacob who was quite anxious about meeting up with his brother Esau. He made plans and then was surprised during the night when an angel of the Lord spoke to Jacob and then together they wrestled until early morning.
Jacob only let go of the man after having received a blessing and a name change from Jacob to Israel, which signified that Jacob, in struggling and wrestling with the Lord, had prevailed. Prayer is not just about asking and getting what we want – it is about walking and talking and even arguing with the Lord until we find a presence, peace and rest.
Consider for a moment the beautiful Psalm 40 that begins with the words: ‘I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry’. The person was lifted up and placed on a solid rock. A new song was sung and a realisation that God didn’t require our service, asking or doing. God wants our friendship that is experienced in a relationship of prayer, trusting and believing that the Lord will always be with us and care for us.
In the bible, God speaks quietly and loudly and through all the daily situations we encounter. Jesus, in the midst of a very busy ministry and lots of demands placed upon Him, took time out to pray and wait and seek God’s’ presence, strength and will. Remember some of Jesus’ tough prayers. ‘Not my will but yours be done’. ‘Father, forgive them’. ‘Into your hands I commend my spirit’. The surrender to God’s will is central to knowing the perfect will of God for our daily living however that might pan out according to our pleasure or displeasure. .
Job, in all his troubles and later blessings, was able to share and register his complaints with his friends and with God in prayer knowing that the Lord gives and takes away at His discretion both for good and with trouble. Then, after time, he accepted God’s will for him and offered up prayers of thanksgiving which is always easier said than done. Many prophets in the bible sought the mind and intent of God on behalf of the communities they represented and had to face up to people’s complaints when the way of God seemed unpalatable. Acceptance of the present and trusting in God for the future is very difficult to maintain.
Practising the presence of God.
In reflecting on your question, Carol, I have found myself reviewing my own experiences of prayers that I know have been answered and those that haven’t in the way I may have wanted. Each day I quite naturally pray seeking God’s guidance, help and presence. I have experienced numerous answers to prayer that have included material gain and provision, physical healings, restored and renewed relationships and so much more.
However, I feel that the over-riding aspect to knowing the value of prayer is that in, whatever circumstances we find ourselves, when the Lord grants us his gift of peace in the present day and situation then we can have hope and confidence that, whatever the outcome, God has His best interest for us and those we love and are concerned for.
We live and pray with faith, and not human sight, which makes a life of prayer so exciting and mysterious.