Back when the United States and the Soviet Union were the world’s acknowledged superpowers, they were constantly girding themselves for a nuclear showdown. Bristling with missiles, bombs and shells, each superpower had the capability to wipe out mankind several times over. As human life on the planet hung in this nuclear balance, it was vitally important that a communication link be established between the leaders of these two nations to prevent any untoward incident that might trigger a nuclear conflagration. A hotline was established—a dedicated telephone link that gave instant, reliable and secure access to both leaders, in case they needed to sort out misunderstandings, defuse tensions, and resolve conflicts between the superpowers.
God’s people have a spiritual hotline with Him: prayer. Whether we go to a private place to get down on our knees, or whether we say a quick silent prayer in time of need, we are utilizing this instant, vital medium God has provided us.
But can we be sure God is listening at the other end of the line? Does He reply? Does God answer our prayers? How does He answer? Can we ensure that God listens and gives a reply every time?
God Promises to Hear and Answer
The Bible, particularly the book of Psalms, is replete with passages reassuring us that God hears our prayers.
According to Psalm 4:3, “the Lord will hear when I call unto him.”
In Psalm 55:17, David writes: “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.”
In Psalm 65:2, God is addressed: “O thou that hearest prayer ….”
But does God answer? In the New Testament, Jesus Christ reassures us that God does answer our prayers (John 14:13-14).
How God Answers
1. Early in Solomon’s reign, God appeared to him in a dream and offered to give him anything he wanted (1 Kings 3:5). Although young and inexperienced, Solomon loved God and had the good sense to ask for wisdom instead of long life or riches. Did God grant his request? Verses 11-12.
2. In the New Testament, Acts 28 tells us the account of the Apostle Paul being shipwrecked and seeking refuge on the island of Melita (today called Malta). One of the residents of the island was sick with fever and dysentery. Paul prayed for him and laid his hands on him. Did God answer the prayers by healing the sick? Verses 8-9.
There are many examples throughout the Bible of God answering “Yes” to prayers.
But God answers in other ways too.
3. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, the Apostle Paul mentions an affliction (a “thorn in the flesh”) he suffered from. How many times did he petition God to have it healed? Verse 8.
4. How did God choose to answer? Verse 9.
The Bible reveals that it is always God’s will to heal, whether in this life or in the resurrection—which is the ultimate fulfillment of the healing promise. God chose not to heal the Apostle Paul in this life. The answer was not “No,” but simply, “Not now.” He used this affliction to keep Paul humble and loyal to Christ.
There are other instances where God tells us to wait. Perhaps we are not yet ready for what we ask for. Or maybe God wants to develop patience or faith or some other eternal character trait in us that far outweighs what we are asking for.
Consider the situation of the three young Jewish men in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Their refusal to follow the king’s edict to bow down to an idol brought them to the furnace. They must have prayed to God to deliver them right there and then, but God allowed them to be thrown into the fire! Only then did He make known His answer to their prayer. Miraculously, the men were not consumed—not a hair on their head was singed, nor did they even smell of smoke! God used their situation as a powerful witness to His supernatural power! Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den is another powerful example of this.
5. When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, God caused the child from that relationship to be stricken with an illness. When David prayed fervently for God to heal, how did God respond? 2
This was but one of a series of chastisements for David’s sin.
Sometimes, God answers by saying “No” to our requests. Perhaps we have asked for something that may not be good for us. Or maybe God has something better in mind than what we request.
6. What other reason would prompt God to say “No”? James 4:3.
God says He will deny our requests if we are praying for something for the wrong reasons or with selfish motives.
1. Does the Bible reveal there are times when our prayers can be “hindered”? 1 Peter 3:7.
Problems in the marriage relationship can prevent prayers from getting through!
2. Does God reveal that there are times He will not even hear prayers? Isaiah 1:15; 59:1-2; Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 1:28-29; Jeremiah 7:16; Ezekiel 8:18.
3. Can prayers become an abomination? Proverbs 28:9.
Being caught up in any sin will put interference on our spiritual hotline, unless we are praying for forgiveness and seeking after God’s righteousness (see 1 John 2:1).
4. Whose prayers does God listen to? Proverbs 15:29; John 9:31.
5. How will God respond to the prayers of those He listens to? Psalm 34:15-22; 91:14-16.
The inspiring passage in Psalm 34 shows how God’s ears are open to the cries of the righteous and that He will deliver them “out of all their troubles.” God promises to bless and defend those of a “broken heart” and “contrite spirit” who stay close to Him in daily, fervent prayer. Psalm 91 shows that when they call on Him, He will not only answer, but deliver and honor them!
The Key to Answered Prayer
Whether it be a “Yes,” “No,” or “Not yet,” God answers our prayers—if there is no “faulty connection.” His answers may not always be what we expect, because He looks at things from a different perspective (Isaiah 55:8-9). But whatever His reply, one thing is certain: God’s answer will always be for our utmost good (Romans 8:28).
Finally, how can we make sure that God will answer our prayers every time? That He will listen every time we use our spiritual hotline?
The key is very simple: Stay close to God in regular, fervent prayer. Romans 12:12 tells us to continue “instant in prayer.”
Let us therefore stay close to God so that whenever we use our spiritual hotline called prayer, we can be confident that He will hear and give us an answer that will be best for us.