God’s basis of answering prayer is not on ‘what’,’where’ and ‘how much’ but on ‘why’ and ‘for what purpose we ask’.
God is well aware of what we want, but are we conscious of the fact of God’s sovereign and all knowing status. The attitude in asking is not required to be of a beggar, for He is ‘our Father in heaven’ but definitely of reverence and thankfulness. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). Our value in His eyes can be gauged from the fact that He decided to allow extreme humiliation and suffering of His Son for our sake. He does not look at us for some goodness in us but through the glory of Christ Jesus who washes our requests, prayers, thoughts and deeds in His blood to make them ‘blemish free’ before presenting them before God. Even the Divine Holy Spirit joins us in praying “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). And ‘the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us according to the will of God’.
God is rather keen to bless us, for His Son has promised “abundant life’ for us and He is our shepherd who does not desire His sheep to be under any type of deficiency. The proof of this is clearly available in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis, narrating the creation of everything on the earth; for God created each and everything that Adam and Eve could need, including the gold in the land of Havilah. The most important reason to pray is to ensure the unlocking and implementation of the ‘plan/ good thoughts of hope and a future’ that God has for us. The Divine command is clear “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” Jeremiah 29:11-12). The answered prayer is the one aimed at ‘glorifying His name’ and that is what comprises the attitude of the one asking.
The second way of assessment and answering our prayer is clarified in the story of destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham’s intercessory prayer in Genesis 18. He was well aware of the presence of his nephew Lot and his family of two sons and their wives, two daughters and their future husbands with Lot and his wife, totaling ten people, in Sodom. His prayer to the Lord God started with sparing the two cities for even the righteous persons living there will also be killed. Starting with 50, his prayer request to spare the twin cities, ended with safety for the residents if only 10 righteous persons were found there. God in His Divine knowledge was well aware of the situation not only there but all over the world for “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:10). God accepted Abraham’s prayer by accepting the motive, but not the desire, to save Lot, his wife and two daughters, who wanted to be saved- though even they were virtually physically ejected by the angels. Lot’s wife was turned to a pillar of salt for not being able to forget and give up the life style of the two cities.
The ideal situation is when God accedes to our prayer in its fullness since then our motive for the prayer is in conformity with God’s plan and will. This would always be the case when the purpose of the prayer is nothing else but bringing glory to His name through the answered prayer. This is explicit in the story of Prophet Elijah in 1 kings 18. Elijah returns after three years of draught in the country where agents of King Ahab are all looking for him. He plans to eliminate the false worship of Baal through a display of YHWH God’s power to all the Israelites and falsity of Baal worship. 450 prophets of Baal and 400prophets of Asherah are gathered on Mount Carmel in the presence of all Israelites. The 850 are given the first choice to build an altar to their God and offer a sacrifice to him. They cry out, hurt themselves and try every trick but fail to draw fire from above to accept and consume their sacrifice. At the time of evening sacrifice Elijah sets up the altar, places his offering on the wood, gets a trench dug around the altar, gets water poured over the sacrifice and the wood on the altar, to avoid any doubt that there was fire already in the wood.
He then prays to “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me so these people will know that You, Lord, are God, and that You are turning their hearts back again”. Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (1 kings 18:36-38). The prayer of Elijah was with one and the only motive, to display the glory of the Lord God and turn the hearts of Israelites back to their God and the Prayer and the motive were both accepted by God.
The fourth aspect of consideration and answering of prayer by God is to totally reject the prayer- both the motive and the request are not accepted and no answer is available. The reasons for this could be many-
- If there is any un-confessed sin or inequity in your heart, the Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18)
- Hypocrisy, pride or meaningless repetition of words in a prayer may also lead to no answer from God (Matthew 6:5-7).
- If there is doubt, lack of faith or unbelief, that person is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind, double minded and unstable and will not receive an answer from God (James 1:6-7).
- Unresolved conflict at home where the Greek word used means cutting into others stride, like a runner in a race. Such conflicts cut into the prayers causing cancellation (1Peter 3:7).
- Lack of harmony with prayer partners also causes no reply to a prayer (Matthew 18:19).
In variably our reaction after a prayer is to seek immediate answer from God and we tend to forget the Sovereign power of God, for He is not like a pet to jump to our calls. He is a God of impossible being made to appear and waiting for an answer with a thankful attitude is the key.
No does not mean Permanent Denial, maybe not NOW for He may not be denying but delaying for “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). And your time may not be there yet and at that time it is better to persevere in prayer and meditate on the words of Prophet Habakkuk –
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)”