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How does God answer our prayers?

How does God answer our prayers?
How does God answer our prayers?
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer

Background text: Psalm 37:4

Devotional text: 1 John 5:14-15

Last week, we looked at scripture to discover the answer to the question: “Does God always answer prayer?”

We learned that we first need to believe in God before we pray to him, and that God is not a magical being who will give us whatever we want if we just say the right prayer to him.

We discovered that, once we come to believe in God through his son, Jesus Christ, our prayers need to be based on trust in God, knowing that he always wants what is best for us. In prayer, we ask for God’s help, mercy and compassion according to what he wills for us, for God always knows what is best.

As we pray, we seek to be right before God. In doing so, we are called to forgive others, as God has forgiven us. As believers, we welcome his perfect will in our lives. No one can fathom the mind of God. We know that God, in his perfect majesty, will do what he will do. It is up to us to truly trust in his timing as we wait for his answer.

There are some wonderful scriptures about how to pray, but some of them can also be confusing.

In Psalm 139:23-24, David prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 37:4 expresses our earnestness in seeking God: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

When David spoke about delighting one’s self in the Lord, he was talking about taking great pleasure in who God is and how we should seek a close relationship with him. That relationship brings us delight.

The meaning of God giving us the desires of our hearts is a phrase that is connected to our desire to live in the will of God. God does not give us desires that are hurtful to us or to others. In this scripture, it is God whom we desire first and foremost.

The following scriptures often need some deeper explanation, or it is possible to misunderstand what they are saying to us.

In 1 John 5:14-15, we read, “This is the confidence we have when approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us — whatever we ask — that we have what we asked of him.”

Matthew 21:22 tells us, “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

Mark 11:24 is like it: “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you  have received it, and it will be yours.”

And finally, from John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.”

I don’t know about you, but, if we just take these portions of scripture, it looks like all we have to do is ask in the name of Jesus and we will have whatever we want. Maybe we should stop a minute here and look at the fine print.

In the 1 John quote, there is an important phrase that says, “according to his will.” In essence, we are acknowledging that the right outcome to our request is not based on what we believe should be the right answer, but in knowing that God’s answer will come according to what God knows is right for us.

Matthew’s verse reminds us of our need for faith. When we ask, we must also believe that God will give us the best answer for our circumstances, because it is God who sees the big picture of our lives, past, present and future. Therefore, it is God who leads us in the right path.

Jesus was speaking to his disciples in Mark, letting them know that, as they pray for what is good and right and in accordance with God’s will, God will answer their prayer. Don’t forget what he adds in verse 25: “ … when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

God was reminding us to be forgiving people.

Moving on to John 14:14, Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying, “ … you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” In this portion of John 14, Jesus was preparing his disciples for his arrest and coming crucifixion. On the surface, it looks like Jesus was giving his disciples carte blanche. However, let’s look at verse 13 for the real meaning of verse 14: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

In John 14:13-14, we find that Jesus answers our prayers, and those answers give glory to God, the Father. It is when we have those wonderful prayer stories to tell to others — those stories that show how God has blessed us through prayer — that help to bring new believers to God.

You see, Jesus was not giving his disciples an open invitation to become selfish or greedy. He was speaking to them as his faithful followers of three years. These were the people who traveled with Jesus, experienced his miracles and learned the true way to live for God’s kingdom.

They were to ask in the name of Jesus, as they had grown to know that God’s will for us is always the right path for us, whatever our circumstances. In doing so, they came to understand the glory of answered prayer was not so the disciples would be glorified. Answered prayer brings us to the understanding that God is the one who does — and should — receive the glory.

God can never be manipulated into answering our prayers according to our will. To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray in the will of God.

Next week, we will continue this series on prayer, as we trust God as our shield and protector, and learn the best outcome as “all things work together for good … according to his purpose.”

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