Receiving Answers to Prayer

I’ve been Studying John 15 along with the Doorposts blog Busy Mamas Bible Study.  On Friday, I studied John 15:7, which says:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

So, the whole premise of the lesson on the Doorposts blog (lesson 18, if you want to look for it), is “what does ‘whatever you wish’ mean?”

Obviously, we know from personal experience that God is not a genie, sitting there to grant all of our most selfish and self-serving wishes. When we compare scripture with scripture, we can see that.

The Doorposts study guides you into using Torrey’s New Topical Textbook to find out what kinds of prayers get answered and what kinds don’t.  If this is work you want to do on your own, go check out the study.

Since Torrey’s New Topical Textbook is a public domain text, I’m going to share some of those reasons and supporting verses.  Today, I’ll be sharing what prayers get answered by God, and tomorrow I’ll be sharing the kinds of prayers that don’t get answered.

These are the types of things that you want to do if you want to see your prayers answered:

Seek God.  The weight of Biblical evidence shows that God only answers the prayers of those who are actively seeking him.  Psalm 34:4 says:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Written to the exiles in Babylon, Jeremiah 29:12-13 says:

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Although the historical application of that verse is to those Jews in captivity, I think it has a great practical application for us today.  We need to seek God with all our heart and not keep a part of it back for ourselves.  We can’t have a heart that is divided between God and other loves if we want to see our prayers answered.

Not only do we need to seek God, but we also need to wait upon the Lord. Psalm 40:1 says:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

So many times, I’ve prayed and not had the patience to wait on God and on his timing for my desired answer to prayer.  Just the other week, I was reading about Abram and Sarai, and how they got impatient for the Lord’s answer and decided to solve their problems themselves.  Don’t we all do that?

Not only do we need to seek God and wait on him, but we also must return to God. You will not see a prayer answered when you are away from God.  2 Chronicles 7:14 is one of the more famous verses used for this point, but that mean it’s not true.  This verse says:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Once you’ve sought the Lord, waited upon him, and returned to him, the next thing you need to do to see your prayers answered is to ask in faith.  Matthew 21:21 says:

And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea.’ it will happen.”

We also have James 5:15, which says:

And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Not only do we need to ask in faith, but we also need to ask in the Name of Christ.  John 14:13 tells us:

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

As an aside, this is more than just tagging on “in Jesus’ name, Amen.” to the end of your prayers.   It has more to do with the next characteristic of prayers that get answered.  We are to ask according to God’s will.

This is one that is personally important to me, as I often ask for good things, and I find myself disappointed when my prayer is not answered in the way that I expect.  Learning to accept God’s will for our lives can be incredibly hard.  I John 5:14 tells us:

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

I am reminded of George Muller, who often had his prayers answered, and I will always remember reading of him that his explanation of this was that he prayed with his Bible open.  In other words, he prayed in accordance with the revealed will of God in the Bible.

Have you ever prayed and not been honest with your motives?  I think we all have at some point, but if you want your prayers to be answered, you need to call upon God in truth.  Psalm 145:18 says:

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

The very next verse, Psalm 145:19, tells us that not only do we need to call upon God in truth, but that we also need to fear God.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.

Even the fearing is not a being terrified of God.  I would equate it more with a very healthy respect and belief that he will do what he says.  So, we should also know that God answers the prayers of those who set their love upon God. Psalm 91:14-15 tells us:

Because he has holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.

It’s not enough to just set your love upon God.  You must also keep God’s commandments. John 14-15 tell us quite plainly that if we love God, we will show it by keeping his commandments. The relationship of this to answered prayer is found in I John 3:22, where it says:

and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

There are some specific times when we are told that God will answer us if we call upon him.  The first situation is when we call upon God under oppression. Isaiah 19:20 tells us:

It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior, and defender, and deliver them.

Another specific time when God answers prayers is when we call upon God under affliction. There are so many verses we could point to for this.  A favorite of mine is Psalm 18:6, where David says:

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

Of course, the original verse under examination tells us that God answers our prayers when we abide in Christ.  If you need a refresher on John 15:7 (since this has been a long blog post), Jesus says here:

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We are also told that the prayers of people who humble themselves are answered.  Of course, we can turn back to 2 Chronicles 7:14 to remind ourselves of this one.

God also answers the prayers of those who are righteous.  James 5:16 reminds us:

Therefore,confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Finally, we can see that God answers the prayers of those who are poor and needy.  Isaiah 41:17 tells us:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

These are the kind people who have prayers that God answers.  Check back tomorrow as I share with you the people whose prayers are not answered!

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