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One of the biggest questions people ask about the Lord is, does He hear our prayers. Or maybe you believe God listens to our prayers but you feel like those prayers for healing, for the salvation of a loved one, or a job or relationship fell on a deaf ear.
And that is a really honest feeling we have and one that many people struggle with when we spend a lot of time in prayer and feel we did not get a response!
So how can we know God hears our prayers? How do we know God answers prayers? Are there only certain types of prayers from only certain types of people that get answered?
Read on and learn more about how God views prayer requests as well as how He responds to our petitions as we look at 4 key questions we have about the nature of prayer and God’s response.
Updated from March 4, 2020
What is Prayer?
The best way I can answer this is to quote someone much wiser than I, Avraham Greenbaum in his book Under The Table & How to Get Up, a book that I am studying with my Rabbi as part of our Mussar or Torah spiritual growth classes that we do each week and this one is based on the parable (not Biblical parable) of the Turkey Prince by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
1. Does God Hear Our Prayers?
The short answer to this question is yes, God hears the righteous cry out to Him and He does answer! In fact, I will be so bold as to say I believe He answers ALL prayers of the faithful.
But that typically is not what is really being asked when we come across this question, because if one believes in the Lord as God then one typically believes in answered prayer.
The heart of this question is not whether God hears and answers prayer but does God answer MY prayers in the way I request. Is God’s response what WE want it to be?
You see, when we pray we often have a specific answer in our own hearts we hope to receive. Not always, but often.
If we are praying for a relationship, we have a certain result we are looking for.
So the heart of this question is not whether or not God hears our prayers and answers them but does He give us the answer WE desire.
The answer to that is no! No, God does not always give us the answer we want any more than we always give our children everything they ask for. Giving everyone everything they want would not be the right thing for us and not the right thing for a righteous God to do!
That is the important thing to remember when we pray! It is not so we get our own way!
But let’s break this down further in the upcoming questions so we can get an understanding of how God answers prayers specifically.
Let’s begin with the next question about how God views prayer!
2. How Does God View Prayer?
At the core, prayer time is a conversation we have with God.
So many times we have been taught that prayer is a petition in time of need but it is (or at least SHOULD be) far more than that. It should be a time in God’s presence, listening as well as speaking.
As believers in Yeshua, we are in a relationship with our loving heavenly Father who created us for just that reason; relationship. Prayer is how we engage in that relationship, the same way conversation is how we foster relationships with other people.
How would our earthly relationships be if our only communication was asking for things?
Yet many times, that is how we view prayer. We see it as bringing a list of our hopes, dreams, and needs before God. And certainly, that is PART of it.
But God wants to hear from you without you ONLY asking for things the same way we as parents want to hear from our children without them calling up only when they want something!
Your heart as a parent would be broken if the only time your kids talked to you was to read off a laundry list of wants and needs and never took the time to listen to you or share the details of their lives with you.
God is no different. He is our Father and wants to not only hear FROM us but talk WITH us. It is a conversation that flows both ways.
So while prayer involves petition, while our loving Father WANTS us to come to him in those hard situations life throws us in, it involves other elements, such as thanks, praise, remembrance.
Remembrance is important and it is a big aspect of Jewish prayer in fact. We recall all God has done for us in the past and all He has done for our forefathers and many of our prayers in Judaism do just that…they recall.
In doing this, we are reminded of how God has worked in the lives of His people since time began and if He rescued us from Egypt He is certainly powerful enough to rescue us from our problems today!
The Amidah, the Standing Prayer, the greatest prayer in Judaism along with the Shema, is a series of blessings and petitions with many of those petitions being eliminated when the prayer is said on Shabbat and Holy Days because those are days we focus on the Lord and not our own needs. Prayer should not just be a list of wants but also a time we show our love, our praise and our thanksgiving for the promises of God and all God does in our lives.
When we focus on that, we tend to focus less on the things God has NOT done according to our own will!
If you are not familiar with these other elements of prayer such as praise, adoration, thanksgiving, you can read my post on praying effective prayers and the ACTS method of prayer.
3. How Does God Answer Prayer?
God answers prayers in a variety of ways. But what we are really getting at here is not prayer but petition.
We are asking for something. So in that regard, it really depends on what the petition is and whether or not it is the will of God or if He determines something is right for you.
We may be asking for something we feel is good but not all good things are good for us in particular, or may not be good for us at this point in time.
The best way to know how God answers prayer is to look at how God has answered the prayers of others!
Look at Isaac! Isaac could pray to God for a child knowing God could answer that prayer. Why? He himself WAS the product of that same prayer!
If God has done it before, He can do it again. Does it mean He WILL? No. Not necessarily.
He does have other answers to prayer.
Marriage is good! Marriage may be something God has planned for you! You may have been praying to God for years about marriage and yet, nothing.
It could be that, while God has marriage planned for you, this time, this person, this circumstance, may not be right. It may not be God’s timing!
God is a loving Father and that means not always giving us what we want when we want it and we need to have enough faith to be willing to wait for His best for us.God is a loving Father and that means not always giving us what we want. Click To Tweet
He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He sees things we cannot even conceive of and He knows when a situation is right or wrong for us.
Sometimes we step outside the bounds of that protection and we make choices that are not best for us.
We fail to wait patiently for the Lord in those instances and He is not a puppeteer. He will not force Himself into all areas of our lives. We DO have free will.
Then oftentimes we get upset with God because things didn’t work out.
My dear friend, we cannot blame God for the results we incur when we step in and force ourselves into a situation that we should be entrusting to Him. He sees the big picture and we only see it in little bits and pieces.
While God hears our prayers and answers our prayers, we ourselves can interfere and cause the answer to be contrary to what it would have been had we just waited.
Think of a big jigsaw puzzle. We only see those little puzzle pieces and the more it gets pieced together, the clearer the image becomes. But God designed the fullness of the picture it becomes. He sees the end result of all those pieces and we can have full confidence that when we trust in His leading and His guidance, those pieces will be brought together in the way they are supposed to be.
God Hears Our Prayers – He is Working in Our Waiting
During those times when we feel God is silent, God’s attention is always on you and the good news is that He is working in the waiting!
We read stories in scripture of people like Abraham and Sarah, Noah, David, Moses, etc., and we get the impression that God spoke to them all the time. We come away with this condensed version of their life that seems as though God was an ever present voice, speaking with them constantly.
What we can miss is that decades and decades of silence sometimes went by.
Next time you read the narratives of people in scripture, make note of their age. Make note of how much time had passed since they started praying.
They waited! But God worked in their waiting and He works in yours.
We need to trust Him and trust that in the waiting, His perfect will is being worked out.
Do we want the NOW or do we want the best?We need to trust God and trust that in the waiting, His perfect will is being worked out. Do we want the NOW or do we want the best? Click To Tweet
Sometimes the Answer is “No”
We have a tendency to think that an answered prayer is one that works out the way we like.
But sometimes, like ‘not yet’, God gives us another answer, and that answer is ‘no’.
Yes, sometimes as a child of God, our Father tells us we cannot have something we desire.
I want to be a fabulous professional singer! God has told me no and that my “want” would be offensive to so many ears!
No matter how much training I do, I will not ever be a professional singer. It is not my gifting nor is it my talent! Oh it’s definitely not my talent! Trust me on this one!
God has a plan and purpose for your life and it is not going to look like someone else’s and it may not even look like what you THINK you want it to.
I can remember my husband looking for a new job at one point in time. He had always gotten every job he ever interviewed for. But this time, every single job was a ‘no’. We could not figure it out!
We are talking over a dozen jobs! Every single one was a ‘no’.
But when the ‘yes’ came, it was more than we could have asked for! God was answering prayers I had forgotten I had even prayed in the year prior to this!!
Seriously! I had literally forgotten about these prayers because I was so caught up in the stress of that given point in time and it wasn’t until I found a prayer list I had made the year before that was sitting in my “War Room” that I realized this! (Side note…always keep a war binder for this reason, so that you don’t forget what you prayed for in the past and what God has answered!!)
Giving it to God and trusting His answer is always best.
God’s ‘no’ is always a blessing for us. He is not trying to be a killjoy. In fact, quite the opposite. He is trying to save you from wasted time, pain, difficulty, heartache and hurt.
He is trying to position you where you need to be and where He can best use you. Remember, we should be seeking to serve God, not seeking for God to serve us!We should be seeking to serve God, not seeking for God to serve us! Click To Tweet
The ‘no’s’ are just as much a blessing (and an answer) as the yesses!
In fact, sometimes I think they are even more so!
We tell our kids no when we know something is not good for them. We all want our kids to be happy but letting your toddler eat candy all day, while they may love us for it, is not good for them and would cause them to be sick!
Praise God for the ‘no’ as well as the ‘yes’!
Check Your Heart
God hears our prayers but sometimes the answer is ‘no’ because we ask with the wrong motives.
We need to make sure we are praying with the proper motives. We need to be sure what we are asking for isn’t out of selfishness or greed.
We also need to make sure we are not harboring any sinfulness in our lives. We need to confess our sins and THEN ask of God.
God hears our prayers but if the answer seems to be ‘no’, be sure to examine your heart and make sure it is in the right place.
4. God Hears Our Prayers – But Does He Answer ALL of them?
So we have established that God hears our prayers and that He answers prayers but does He answer ALL of them?
Well, as I said earlier, I believe that God does in fact answer all the prayers His children pray. As I said, it may be a ‘yes’, a ‘no’ or a ‘wait’ but it IS an answer. But what about those outside the family?
Does God hear the prayers of sinners?
God Hears Our Prayers – But What About the Prayers of Sinners?
Now, I DO want to clarify here that the word “sinners” refers to unrepentant sinners or unbelievers. We are ALL sinners. But keep in mind, when we are repentant and turn from sin and confess our sins. God chooses not to see our sin any longer.
So sinners in this regard that I am speaking of are unrepentant sinners.
I use the term ‘sinners’ here instead of unsaved because I want to link it to the sinner’s prayer or prayer of repentance.
So does God hear and answer the prayers of sinners?
From everything I have studied about prayer and about separation from relationship with God, I have to conclude that God does not hear the prayers of sinners except the prayers for grace and mercy and repentance.
How did I form that opinion? Scripture!
Psalm 34:15-16 says:
In John 9:30-31, the man whose sight Jesus restored states:
God does not turn away anyone who cries out to him for grace and mercy, but other than this, God does not hear the prayer of an unrepentant sinner as only a person whose sins are atoned for through faith in Jesus can enter His presence and commune with God. This was true of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement and it is true for us in prayer.
The High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies once per year to make sacrifices for themselves and the people of Israel and then meet with God whose presence was on the Mercy Seat.
You have direct access to God but ONLY through atonement and Yeshua’s paying the price that was yours to pay.
Yet, like the sinner on the cross, one only needs to cry out to the Lord and seek mercy and grace to be heard, to acknowledge one’s own sinfulness and repent and turn from them.
God Desires Your Prayers
God hears our prayers and He wants you to speak with Him. He wants you to share the desires of your heart but He wants you to trust in Him and His answer.
When you abide in Him your desires change. What you wish for will align more with His will for your life and not selfish desire.
Spend time in the Word, spend time speaking with Him and listening as well and soon, you will recognize when something you are praying for might not be His best.
What are some ways God has shown you the blessing in ‘no’ or in ‘wait’?
Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society. Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.
Greenbaum, Avraham. Under the Table & How to Get Up – Jewish Pathways of Spiritual Growth. Jerusalem: Azamra Institute, 1991.