Does God Always Answer Prayer?
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
A. An Important Question
1. Today we are going to deal with one of the most important questions that anyone can ask.
a) So much depends on the answer we find.
b) Don’t avoid this question! Deal with it fairly, honestly, and most of all, Biblically!
c) Does God always answer prayer?
2. We can all agree that God does answer prayer – some prayers, and some times.
a) But does he always answer true prayer?
b) Some so-called prayers he does not answer, because he does not hear them.
c) When his people were rebellious, God said in Isaiah 1:15 “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen. . . .”
3. But normally a child of God should expect answers to prayer.
a) God has promised that every prayer will have an answer.
b) Not a single real prayer can fail to have an effect in heaven.
I. The Riches of God in Christ Jesus
A. We Belong to Christ – 1 Corinthians 3:21-23
1. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23
21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours,
22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,
23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
a) Paul’s words declare “For all things are yours” and “you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s”, but that sometimes seems so untrue for most Christians.
b) But it is true – “All things are yours”, but so many of us do not possess our possessions.
2. The owners of Mount Morgan, in Queensland, Australia worked hard for years on those barren slopes, eking out a miserable existence.
a) The whole time they never knew that under their feet was one of the richest deposits of gold in all the world.
b) There was vast, undreamed of, unimagined and unrealized wealth right under their feet!
c) It was “theirs,” but it was not yet theirs.
B. “Knowing Of”
1. Christians know of the riches of God in glory in Christ Jesus.
a) But they do not seem to know how to get them.
b) Jesus tells us that they are to be had for the asking.
c) We need to pray that Jesus will give us all a right discernment in “the things of prayer.”
2. When we say that no true prayer goes unanswered, we are not claiming that God always gives just what we ask for.
a) Have you ever met a parent who was so foolish that they gave their child everything they asked for?
b) No one gives their child a red-hot poker just because the child is crying out for it!
3. If God gave us all that we prayed for, we would rule the world instead of God!
a) If you are truthful then you would agree that you are not capable of doing that – “Bruce Almighty” movie – chaos.
b) More than one ruler of the world is an absolute impossibility!
c) The Lord God Almighty is the only one worthy of absolute authority.
C. God’s Answers to Prayer
1. God’s answer to prayer may be “Yes,” or it may be “No” or it may be “Wait.”
a) Most of the time God’s plans for us are a much larger blessing than we can imagine!
b) Also, most of the time God’s answer to our prayers involves a lot of other lives as well as our own.
2. God’s answer is sometimes “No.”
a) But that “No” is not necessarily a proof of known and willful sin in the life of the one asking.
b) Although “No” can be a result of the sin of ignorance.
c) God said “No” to Paul sometimes (2 Corinthians 12:8–9).
d) Most of the time God’s “No” is due to our ignorance or because we are asking selfishly.
3. Romans 8:26 “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought”.
a) That was what was wrong with the James and John’s mother.
b) She came and worshiped Jesus and prayed to Him.
c) He quickly answered her, “You do not know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22).
d) Elijah, a great man of prayer, sometimes got “No” for an answer.
e) But when he was swept up to heaven in a chariot of fire, did he regret that God said “No” when he prayed “O Lord, take away my life”?
4. God’s answer is sometimes “Wait.”
a) He may delay the answer because we are not ready to receive the gift we are asking for — as with wrestling Jacob.
b) Augustine once prayed a famous prayer – “O God, make me pure—but not now”,
c) Our prayers are sometimes like that.
d) Are we really willing to “drink of the cup” – to pay the price of answered prayer?
e) And sometimes God delays so that He may receive a greater glory.
D. God’s delays are not denials – Isaiah 65:24
1. Isaiah 65:24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
a) We do not know why he sometimes delays the answer and at other times answers even “before we call”.
b) George Müller, we talked about last week.
(1) He is one of the greatest men of prayer of all time.
(2) He prayed over sixty-three years for the conversion of his friend!
(3) Who can tell why?
(4) Müller said “The great point is never to give up until the answer comes. I have been praying for sixty-three years and eight months for one man’s conversion. He is not converted yet, but he will be! How can it be otherwise? There is the unchanging promise of Jehovah, and on that I rest.”
c) Was this delay due to some hindrance from the Devil as with Daniel in Daniel 10:13?
d) Was it a prolonged effort on the part of Satan to break Müller’s faith?
e) The rest of the story is that no sooner was George Müller dead than his friend was converted – even before the funeral!
f) Yes, God answered George Muller’s prayer was granted and it was a long in coming.
g) So many of George Müller’s prayers were answered that it is no wonder that he once exclaimed, “Oh, how good, kind, gracious and condescending is the One with whom we have to do! I am only a poor, frail, sinful man, but he has heard my prayers ten thousands of times.”
2. You may be wondering, “How can I discover whether God’s answer is ‘No’ or ‘Wait’?”
a) You can be pretty sure that God will not let you pray sixty-three years to get a “No”!
b) Müller’s prayer was based upon his knowledge of the truth that “God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
3. An email or text comes from someone who rarely writes.
a) A loved one has become ill.
b) Should he continue to pray for her recovery?
c) Is God’s answer “No,” or is it, “Go on praying—wait”?
d) All I can say is that “God will let you know.”
II. True Prayer Never Goes Unanswered
A. Hold On to the Truth
1. If we will give more thought to our prayers, we can pray with better knowledge and understanding.
a) Some Christian’s seem to put their common sense and reason aside before they pray.
b) Just thinking about it would show that God cannot grant some prayers.
c) During war every nation prays for victory – but it is perfectly obvious that all countries cannot be victorious.
d) Two people living next to each other might pray, one for rain and the other for fine weather.
e) God cannot give both these things at the same time in the same place!
2. But the truth of God is at stake in this matter of prayer.
a) We have been reading and studying those staggering prayer-promises of Jesus.
b) The breadth of their scope, the fullness of their impact on our lives, the largeness of the that one word “Whatsoever.”
c) Romans 3:3-4 “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar”
d) “Let God be found true” – God will always “be true”!
B. “How often would I . . . but you would not”! – Matthew 23:37
1. Has God answered all of my prayers?
a) He has not.
b) If He had said “Yes” to some of them it would have been a curse instead of blessing!
c) To have answered others was a spiritual impossibility.
d) I also was not worthy of some of the things I asked for.
e) Saying “Yes” to some of them would but have resulted in spiritual pride in my life.
f) When I look back at some of my prayers now in the light of God’s Holy Spirit some of these things seem pretty clear now!
2. If you look back and compare some of your earnest prayers with your service and spirituality, you might see how impossible it was for God to say “Yes” to the things that He longed to give to you!
a) It might have been like asking God to put the ocean of his love into a heart the size of a thimble!
b) And yet, God longs to bless us with every spiritual blessing!
3. Jesus cries out to us again and again, “How often would I . . . but you would not”! (Matthew 23:37.)
a) The saddest part of it all is that so many ask and do not receive because they are not worthy.
b) And then they complain that God does not answer their prayers!
4. The Lord Jesus says that God gives the Holy Spirit—who teaches us how to pray—just as readily as a father gives good gifts to his children.
a) But no gift is a “good gift” if the child is not fit to use that gift.
b) God never gives us something that we cannot, or will not, use for his glory.
(1) I am not referring to talents, but to spiritual gifts.
(2) We may misuse those talents or “bury” them.
5. I once was sitting next to my grandfather as he drove down the road in his car.
a) I was about 8 or 9 years old and I asked him if I could drive.
b) Now my grandfather loved me very much, but he looked at me and said, “No!”
c) He did not say, “Wait till you are older, or bigger, or wiser, or better, or stronger”?
d) He just said, “No!”
e) I think that happens to us a lot. God doesn’t say to us, “Wait”, He just says, “No”.
III. God Is Not Unwilling to Give – Matthew 6:26
A. God never gives us tomorrow’s gift today
1. He is not unwilling to give.
a) His resources are infinite, and his ways are past finding out.
b) It was after telling His disciples to ask, that our Lord goes on to hint not only at his providence, but at his resources.
c) “Look at the wild birds” (Matthew 6:26) “your heavenly Father feeds them.”
d) That sounds so simple, but have you ever thought about the fact that there is no human being who is wealthy enough to feed all “the birds of the air,” even for one day?
e) Your heavenly Father feeds them every single day and is none the poorer for it.
f) Won’t He even much more feed you, clothe you, take care of you?
2. Jesus “is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him”? (Hebrews 11:6.)
a) That means we should diligently seek Him in prayer even more!
b) According to 2 Kings 4:6 the “oil” of the Holy Spirit will never cease to flow so long as there are empty vessels to receive it.
c) We are always to blame when the Spirit’s work ceases.
d) God cannot trust some Christians with the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
e) They would suffer from pride.
f) God does not grant every Christian everything he or she prays for.
3. If we are praying in the name of Jesus, then there will be purity of heart, purity of motive, purity of desire.
a) God is even greater than His promises, and He gives exceeding abundantly more than we either desire or deserve.
b) But He does not always give what we ask!
c) So if any specific petition is not granted, we can be pretty sure that God is calling us to examine our hearts.
d) God has promised to answer every prayer that is truly offered in His name.
e) Let us repeat his blessed words once more—we cannot repeat them too often—
f) John 14:13–14 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
B. Interceding for Us
1. Remember that it was impossible for Christ to offer up any prayer which was not granted.
a) He was God—he knew the mind of God—he had the mind of the Holy Spirit.
b) Yet, He once prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.”
c) He is kneeling in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
d) Hebrews 5:7 “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence”.
2. We cannot fully understand this time of awe and wonder.
a) But this we know—that God never made a promise which He cannot keep, or that He does not mean to fulfill.
b) The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26), and God cannot say “No” to him.
c) The Lord Jesus makes intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25), and God cannot say “No” to him.
d) Jesus’ prayers are worth a thousand of ours, but He is telling us to pray!
C. We Have the Mind of Christ
1. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit and he said ‘We have the mind of Christ?’
a) Yet he asked God 3 times to remove the ‘thorn’ in his flesh.
b) Why did Paul not keep praying for this?
c) 2 Corinthians 12: 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
d) It was because God specifically tells Paul that He was not going to do it.
2. It is interesting, too, that this is the only petition recorded where Paul is asking for something for his own individual need and he was refused!
a) The real problem is why did Paul, who had the “mind” of Christ, ask for something that he soon discovered was contrary to God’s will.
b) I guess that means that Paul was just like us!
c) We, too, have the mind of Christ, yet we let our own desires hide His will from us.
d) That is why God has not given some things we have prayed for.
3. We can have the Spirit of God in us and still be wrong in our judgment or desire.
a) We are never filled with God’s Holy Spirit once and for all.
b) The evil one is always trying to put his mind into us to keep us from glorifying God.
c) At any moment we can become disobedient or unbelieving and betray the Holy Spirit with some thought or act.
4. There is an astonishing example of this in the life of Peter.
a) One moment, under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit, he cries, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
b) Our Lord turns to him and says, “Blessed are you, Simon, for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father, who is in heaven.”
c) Yet, 6 verses later, the Devil gets his mind into Peter, and our Lord turns and says unto him, “You get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:17, 23.)
d) Peter was now speaking in the name of Satan!
e) Just like Jesus told Peter, Satan still “desires to have” us.
5. Paul was tempted to think that he could do better work for Jesus if only that “thorn” could be removed.
a) But God knew that Paul would be a better man with the “thorn,” than without it.
b) It should be a great comfort for us to know that we can bring more glory to God under something we think is a hindrance than if God removed it in answer to our prayer.
c) “My grace is sufficient for you: for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
d) We need to remember that!
6. Paul was not infallible
a) Peter was not infallible.
b) John was not infallible.
c) The Pope is not infallible.
d) No person is no infallible.
e) We can and do offer up prayers by mistake.
f) The highest form of prayer is not, “Thy way, O God, not mine,” but “My way, O God, is thine!”
g) We are not taught to pray, “Thy will be changed,” but “Thy will be done.”