- Does God Answer Prayers?
- Habakkuk 1:2
- Lyndol Loyd May 26, 2019
Sometimes we have questions – big questions – that bounce around inside our minds, but we feel hesitant to ask them. Maybe it is because many people have asked questions and been shut down, led to think that questioning is wrong. Some people see questions as a sign of a weak faith. They discourage the practice of asking questions and don’t create an atmosphere where wondering is invited.
This was not the way of Jesus. Jesus was a rabbi, and rabbis were famous for answering a question with another question. This led to deep and meaningful theological conversations. For example, when Jesus interacted with Nicodemus, the conversation was propelled forward by a series of questions from both men.
Last week, Pastor Brian preached a sermon which referenced the story of the woman at the well. The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is also peppered with questions.
Think about those two conversations for a moment. Nicodemus is a wealthy, powerful, educated, Jewish male spiritual leader. The woman at the well is a poor, powerless, Samaritan female. In both cases, they felt free to ask Jesus the questions that were on their hearts, and Jesus engaged them in rich conversation. There is no sense that Jesus was offended by their questions. In fact, there is every indication that Jesus invited and encouraged their questions.
Jesus still loves to hear our questions. Those who ponder, wonder about, or even question things do not bother God. He is ready to help us grapple with our concerns and wants us to discover that there are answers.
When we can’t find neat and tidy answers, He wants us to know that it is still healthy to dialogue.
In the weeks ahead here at LakeRidge we are planning to take on some “God Size Questions,” the kind of questions that many of us have, but often feel reluctant to ask out of fear of what others might think or how it might make us look. Questions like:
- Does God Still Heal People?
- Why Is There Suffering?
- Is Christianity a Straight Jacket?
- Would God Really Send People to Hell?
- Is God in Control?
- Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
Answers to these kinds of questions are not simple or simplistic. Only God has the vantage point needed to help us. He has a perspective like none other. I believe that as we walk through these questions together in the weeks ahead that we will discover that Jesus still welcomes questions, and He is ready to help us find the answers we are searching for. Today we start with the question, “Do you believe God really answers prayer?”
Really and truly, do you believe that God hears your personal prayers and cares enough to respond? Your answer to those questions probably dictates if, when, where, and how you pray.
Prayer can serve many purposes, but generally speaking, it’s an intimate conversation with God. Prayer involves Him stirring our hearts, us communicating with Him, and then listening for how God may respond to us.
Now, when it comes to prayer, there are a lot of folks who have the idea that God doesn’t want us to ask Him questions. But that’s not true! God delights in His children asking Him questions. In fact, as we already noted this morning, God was asked questions, big and small, all the way through the Bible.
One of the people who literally put God “on trial” was a man from the Old Testament named Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a prophet in Judah, and he felt the full weight of the problems, pressures, sins, and difficulties of his family and his nation.
Although Habakkuk lived a long time ago, his story is extremely relevant, especially when you look at modern history and all that we’re dealing with in today’s world.
In Habakkuk 1:2, Habakkuk asked the following of the Lord:
“How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear?”
This was one of those big, deep, tough, “life” questions that Habakkuk was asking God. In the midst of all the chaos surrounding his life, he was asking, “God, where were you when I needed you the most?”
Habakkuk was grappling with something each of us deals with as believers, unanswered prayers. He was complaining about the silence of God, and in his heart, he desperately wanted to know why God wasn’t answering his prayers.
Many of us have probably felt this way before whether we want to admit it or not — anyone who’s been walking with the Lord for any amount of time has. We want answers when we pray. It’s frustrating when it seems like God is silent.
If you’ve ever felt this way, or even feel this way today, I have a word of encouragement for you. God does answer prayer.
One reason we know God is listening to our prayers is because He has promised to do so – and God does not lie. In 1 John 5:14, the Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
God isn’t just half-listening to us (as we do sometimes when someone is talking to us). He gives us His full attention because He loves us, and is concerned about everything that concerns us. After all, if He didn’t love us or care what happens to us, what reason would we have to pray?
But He does love us, and because of this, He has given us the privilege of coming to Him in prayer. We can know God loves us because He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to give His life for our salvation.
However, I think it is important that we understand when it comes to hearing our prayers there are in general three different ways in which God answers them. Sometimes the answer is “No.” Sometimes the answer is “Yes,” and sometimes the answer is “Wait.”
Sometimes the Lord says “No” when we pray. While this can be a very difficult answer to receive, it’s still an answer regardless if we understand His decision at the moment or not. There is a purpose even when God says, “No.”
When I have trouble accepting this response from God it is usually because I have predetermined the response that I expect God to give me. I want God to do my bidding. Sometimes we have a tendency to wrongly treat God like some sort of heavenly Santa Claus who is supposed to fulfill the wishes on our list. When He doesn’t do, that we feel a sense of disappointment.
God’s answer of “No” doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love us. I think about this from the perspective of being a parent. There were times when my girls were growing up when Joni and I would have to say “No” to them for their own good. I would tell them “No” because I loved them even if they didn’t understand why at the time.
“No, you can’t eat as much of your Halloween candy as you want right now. It will make you sick.” All the parents in the room know that there are hundreds of verses to that same song that you have to repeat throughout your child’s lifetime.
Only God can see the future and know the implications of what we desire and ask for in prayer. I’m reminded of the Garth Brooks song from the ’90s, “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers.” A better title may have been, “Thank God for Saying ‘No’ to Prayers.” We can all look back and realize things we once prayed for so fervently and did not receive were some of our greatest blessings.
Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
There is true power in prayer. When we pray in Jesus’ name, He may also say,”Yes.” “Yes, I’ll forgive. Yes, I’ll heal. Yes, I’ll step in to help.”
God says, “Yes” to any request that is in accordance with His will. That may sound a little vague and unsatisfying to some of us; however, as we mature in our faith, it becomes much clearer.
His will for our lives is revealed in the many promises found in Scripture. We are to pray with worship and adoration, unselfishly, and with thanksgiving while petitioning God based on His promises. Don’t be lazy in your walk!
Search and study Scripture to discover God’s promises and the full measure of what He desires for each of us as His children. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 reads, “Jesus says yes to all of God’s many promises. It is through Jesus that we say, ‘Let it be so,’ when we give thanks to God. God is the One who makes our faith strong in Christ. He has set us apart for Himself and has put His mark on us to show we belong to Him. His Spirit is in our hearts to prove this.”
Here are just a few of the prayers that God is always going to give you a yes to:
- Forgive Me: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
- Reveal Yourself to Me: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:33–34
- Give Me Wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5
Sometimes the toughest answer to receive from God is “Wait.” I am, by nature, a let’s-get-things-done kind of guy. Let’s go. Let’s do it. Let’s make it happen. For me, waiting is difficult. Its why I don’t like to fish. To me, it is just waiting which tends to stress me out, rather than causing me to relax and unwind.
With that being the bent in my personality, I tend to ask God, “If You want this, and surely You do, why not now? Why can’t you make it happen today?”
When God’s response is “Wait,” we need to remind ourselves that God is in control and can certainly handle our situation. We need to allow Him to continue working in whatever way He sees fit. We can’t try to take back the situation, but must truly be patient and wait on God’s timing!
This is exactly what God said to Habakkuk, “Even though you don’t think I’m listening, Habakkuk, I am working on a plan that is so much larger than you.”
The truth is, even though Habakkuk couldn’t see it, God was working the whole time! The same is true in your life as a follower of Christ. If you’re in a holding pattern, trust that God is working and that He is sovereign over all the details in your life.
Living a life of faith means we do not know either the timing or the outcome of our prayers. We are called to remain active in our walks and steadfast in the knowledge of who holds the future as we live fully in the present. God sees above the circumstances of life. His timing is impeccable.
Remember the story of Lazarus? Everyone thought Jesus was four days late responding to the news of Lazarus’ death. Scripture tells us, though, that Jesus was right on time, as He raised Lazarus from the grave, thereby magnifying the power and glory of God.
God will allow His children to wait until we are ready and/or until He is ready. In other words, we learn patience and other valuable spiritual lessons while we wait. His glory is put on display as He responds with His perfect answer and His perfect timing. Consider a “Wait” answer from God as a time of preparation, not a time of punishment.
Hosea 12:6 says, “Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually.”
Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”
Are you frustrated waiting for answers to prayers? Isn’t that the most difficult answer? Have you considered that God is stretching and growing you as you wait on Him and His perfect answers to prayer?
Thank you that you are a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering, miracle-working God. You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We praise you that we can count on your unfailing love and the perfect plans you have laid out for our lives. Help us to grasp that you alone are God. You alone know what is best for your children. Lord, we ask you to increase our faith and our wisdom as we look to you with the full knowledge that the answers to our prayers are purely perfect. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.