Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Does God always hear my prayers?
Dear Father Paul: Sometimes I pray and get a quick “yes” or “no” answer from God. Sometimes I pray and the answer is slower in coming, but I do get an answer. Sometimes I pray and it is almost like I never get an answer. Are my prayers always heard by God, but is he just sometimes too busy to answer or what? — R.N.
Dear R.N.: What a great question. I think all of us have at some point asked ourselves, “Is God listening?” And if he is, “Why don’t I get an answer right away?”
Let’s start with two points. First, God knows all of our needs even before we ask. But second, he still wants us to ask. In Matthew 6:8 (New Living Translation) Jesus tells his disciples, “ … your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.” But in the very next verse he says, “Pray like this.” And then he goes on in verses 9 – 13 to give what has come to be called “The Lord’s Prayer.” Again, Jesus is telling us … God knows what you need, but you still need to pray.
Later in Matthew 6, Jesus confirms God’s love, watch care and provision for all of his children by pointing out how God feeds and cares for tiny birds even though they don’t work. Then Jesus adds, Are you not much more valuable than the birds?”
In my own life, when I’ve prayed, the answer has often been a quick “yes.” At other times it has been a quick “no” or “not right now, just wait.” In these latter instances I have often later figured out that he was indeed answering my prayer, but in a different way than what I’d prayed for. Why? Because he sees the bigger picture of our lives and the lives of others and he knows that what I am asking for today is not the best thing for me or for the person I am praying for … at least not yet. He sees the bad things that will happen if he gives me exactly what I am asking. Almost always though when he has said “no” or “not right now,” he has had something better in mind for later.
But sometimes we do not get a definitive answer from God at all … nothing! Or the answer can take months, years or even decades. This does not mean that God does not hear, is not at work or that he does not care about our requests.
There is a wonderful story in the Bible that illustrates this point. It is in the Old Testament Book of Daniel, Chapter 10.
In the story, the prophet Daniel has had a very troubling vision from God about the future. The vision was about coming wars and great hardships. Deeply concerned, Daniel began to pray, but nothing happened. No answer from God. Not a word. Days and weeks pass. When he doesn’t hear from God, Daniel goes into mourning. He doesn’t eat nourishing food or drink wine. He doesn’t even bathe. Today we would call his condition deep depression.
We can all get depressed like Daniel when we have prayed and prayed and yet we don’t hear from God. I’ve been there myself.
But all of a sudden, as written in Daniel 10:12-13, after three full weeks of silence from heaven, a mighty angel of God appears before Daniel. The angel says, (NLT) “Don’t be afraid Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have (tried to) come to answer your prayer. But for twenty-one days the (satanic) prince of the (spiritual) kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels came to help me.” Then the angel ministered to and strengthened Daniel. What a wonderful, encouraging story. Again, we don’t always see the whole picture.
Psalm 34:15 (NLT) says: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous (those in right standing with God), and his ears are attentive to their cry.” So R.N., be of good cheer. This verse means, and the story from Daniel demonstrates, that God does, indeed, always hear the prayers of his children, and he always responds, but in his own way …and sometimes not as quickly as we might wish.
Do you have a question? Email me your question at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer your question in the paper.
Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com for more information, service times, directions and recordings of Sunday messages.