Public calls for prayer are common. In August 2017, for example, one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit America struck Houston and the southern Texas coast. Texas’s governor declared a day of fasting for the state. United States President Donald Trump declared a national day of prayer. Surely thousands, perhaps even millions, of people responded.
But just a few days later, the largest hurricane ever to strike from the Atlantic hit the Caribbean, Florida and other states.
How often do public prayers get results? Is God answering our prayers? We must ask ourselves this question.
Your Bible gives absolute promises from God that He will answer our prayers. A look at U.S. history shows that God did answer our prayers many times in the past. That is a historical fact you can prove. But does God answer our prayers today?
If you examine your Bible closely, you will see that prayers alone are not enough.
What God Expects
The Prophet Amos showed us, in a technical, detailed way, how to get results and answers to our prayers.
Amos is a book of end-time prophecy, as our booklet on Amos, The Lion Has Roared, will prove to you (request your free copy). Amos 4:5 addresses “ye children of Israel.” You must know who Israel is, prophetically speaking, to know who is addressed here.
Verse 7 reads, “And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.” In 2017, while hurricanes Harvey and Irma were hitting the U.S., there were raging fires on the West Coast because of drought and the dry season. So it withered on the West Coast even as it flooded in the South, in Texas and Florida especially—exactly what Amos prophesied would happen in this end time.
But notice: Amos then tells us how to ensure this doesn’t happen and how we can prevent it!
In verse 8, Amos says, after all these disasters, “yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.” And then verse 9 describes problems you’ll have with agriculture and farming, and He says, “yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.” You still won’t return to me after all of these crises. Verse 10 describes still more disasters to come, “yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.” Verse 11 says He is going to personally wreak destruction because of all our sins, and says—for the fourth time in four verses—“Yet have you not returned unto me.” In spite of all of these calamities, you still haven’t returned to me. Not just prayed, but returned.
Clearly, in the face of such calamities, God expects us to seek Him. He expects us to respond to Him and to pray—but it takes a lot more than prayer. This is what most people simply do not understand.
Many people, when they pray, have requests of God. But they don’t think about what God expects of them. They will make demands of God, but don’t consider the demands God has of us!
Did you know that America has a history with God? The Bible’s end-time prophecies about Israel refer specifically to America, Britain and the Jewish nation in the Middle East. When God addresses Israel, He’s not talking to Russia or China or Japan or the Arabs in the Middle East or the people in Africa. You must know who Israel is to understand these prophecies. (This is why you need our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. You must understand who Israel is to know the nations that God is addressing right now. This is critical!)
Verse 12 says: “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” He is warning Israel!
“For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind …” (verse 13). This is the God who forms the mountains and creates the wind—the wind that propels the hurricanes! He creates that wind, and we need to know that to have faith in the great God.
Verse 13 continues, “… and declareth unto man what is his thought ….” He knows what you are thinking! “[T]hat maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name.”
Here is the God who creates the wind that motivates all these hurricanes. God keeps repeating these phrases because He hopes you’ll get it! He doesn’t want to see us suffer in these calamities. This is the Creator God talking to a people called Israel, and they need to heed this message.
Chapter 1 of our booklet The Lion Has Roared is titled “‘The End Is Come.’” It explains Amos’s strong warning to the American and the British peoples, which include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
It is built around this passage in Amos 8:1-2 about the end time: “Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel [the end time]; I will not again pass by them any more.” This is our last chance to receive a warning from God. That is what the book of Amos says!
Crisis in God’s Church
Amos 3 is another illuminating passage.
“Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1-2). Again, this warning focuses on Israel. God knows us, and He holds us accountable. This applies to the nations of Israel—but it applies especially to spiritual Israel, or God’s own Church. God is correcting national Israel for their sins—but there are even serious problems within God’s own Church!
God says, “You only have I known of all the families of the Earth.” We had better know who Israel is and who these nations are, because God says He is holding us accountable for the history we have had with Him that other nations have not. We need to know about that history and realize God is holding us accountable for it.
“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (verse 6). When we hear what God says in these prophecies, it should make us fear!
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (verse 7). God does reveal His secrets! He wants people to understand these prophecies so they can take warning and avoid calamities.
“The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (verse 8). God is here likened to a lion. If you were out in the African Serengeti and a wild lion came roaring at you, you would be afraid! This passage is talking about a much greater fear we ought to have! This isn’t merely a lion coming, but God Himself roaring!
If you hear what God roars and what He prophesies, God promises to help you. Are you willing to heed what God warns you to do? Are you willing to return to Him? Even if you are not part of physical Israel, you can become part of spiritual Israel.
God asks, “Who can but prophesy?” once He gives this message. The lion has roared! The Lord God has spoken! Do you believe God? If you will heed what He says, that will prevent calamity! We have to pray, but we also have to heed God’s message and repent—or God says He will not hear! As He says in Isaiah 1:15, “[Y]ea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear.” That ought to resonate with all of us.
Amos 2:11-12 explain more about the problem in God’s own Church: “And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of [spiritual] Israel? saith the Lord. But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.” God raised up people to prophesy for Him, but most of them—95 percent of them—today have turned away from God and won’t prophesy!
God says, “Who can but prophesy?” when you understand the devastation prophesied if we don’t heed. Yet God’s own people petulantly say, “Prophesy not”! They give in to their human nature, which doesn’t want to prophesy about coming calamites. People don’t want to deliver bad news, and they don’t want to hear it!
What they all need to understand is that even this bad news is wrapped up in the best news you could ever hear! Even with trials and tests, it is always good news with God! Many prophecies show that at the end of the terrible trials prophesied for Israel, people will finally get to know God! It will take serious crises, but they will come to know God.
Twenty-five times in his book, Amos refers to God as “Adonai”—more than the other 11 minor prophets combined. The Companion Bible says Adonai means “Headship, the Head.” Colossians 2:19 says that God’s own people have lost their Head. They don’t follow God as their Head; they don’t allow their Head to direct their lives. That is the worst possible mistake you could make.
But even more, Adonai means “the God who blesses.” Amos was issuing many negative prophecies because of the people’s transgressions, yet he kept reminding himself that this is Adonai, the Leader, the Head, who blesses! God blesses even with trials and tests He gives us, even calamities He gives us! In the end, they are blessings! Amos focused on that word to keep himself positive. If you only see the bad news, you can become negative; but if you understand it with God’s perspective, it is inspiring and uplifting in spite of the trials and difficulties.
All these trials, tests and calamities come in the context of blessings, in spite of man and in spite of his rebellion. They still bring blessings to man! Trials turn into blessings. We serve the God who blesses people. God is love! And He blesses people all the time!
We have to think like God. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). We have to think even about trials the way Christ does. God is a God of love, and even those trials are jam-packed with blessings because they make us come to our senses and return to God! They cause us to return to the God we have a history with.
Amos 5 has some very good news. Notice what God is working to achieve. “Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel. … For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall LIVE” (verse 4). You shall live!
Verse 6 repeats it: “Seek the Lord, and ye shall live ….” And verse 8: “Seek him ….” This is another phrase he keeps repeating so we really get it.
We do need to pray. But we must do more: We have to seek God! We could pray and never get close to God if we’re not obeying Him!
“Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning [or the morning and the sun rising and so on], and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name” (verse 8). That is exactly what He did in those hurricanes! He calls the waters out of the sea and pours them upon the land. But what He’s telling you here is He wants to do that to water your crops and give you prosperity and blessings. But if you don’t heed what God says, then it comes in the form of hurricanes or other disasters. God must get our attention if He is to give us eternal life. That is His goal!
“For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins,” God says (verse 12). This is what God is concerned about. He wants us to repent of our sins and follow Him—then we can reap all the blessings He will pour out on us if we obey Him.
“Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live” (verse 14)—there it is again. He says that four times here, just like the other expression about not seeking Him even after all these calamities. “Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live!” God wants us to live the abundant life—not only in the future, but right now!
God does have to bring trials upon us because we turn to our transgressions. And when we pray while we are steeped in those transgressions, God will not listen or answer that prayer (Isaiah 59:2). But the purpose of those trials is to turn us around, “that ye may live”! “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” Christ said (John 10:10). God wants you to enjoy an abundant life of peace and prosperity and all the good things. That is what God wants for all of us! He doesn’t want us to suffer terrible trials and difficulties, or to die in calamities. God wants you to live! He wants everybody to really live.
If you want your prayers answered, seek good, and not evil. Return to God. Repent of sinning against Him. Obey Him. Follow Him as your Head who blesses! Seek God, and you shall live!
If you want more information about how to improve your prayers and receive answers, read our free book How to Pray.