One question we may ask is, “Does God hear and answer prayer?” We might know He responds to the prayers of others, but what about mine? Can I pray with confidence, believing He turns His ear toward my petitions and that His hand opens to my needs?
For many people, this is the point of wavering faith. Does He listen me? Will He respond to my voice?
When I turn the hot water tap on in my house, the water initially runs cold. By leaving it running, I confidently know that the hot water will flow through the pipes eventually getting from the heating tank to me. Prayer is like that hot water tap. I don’t always experience an instant response, but if I keep the “prayer pipe” open, the desired results will come.
But what do we do when answers don’t flow like water? When faith fades? Or hope hides?
I relate to the words of the psalmist David,
“I’m hurting, Lord — will you forget me forever? How much longer, Lord? Will you look the other way when I’m in need? How much longer must I cling to this constant grief? I’ve endured this shaking of my soul. So how much longer will my enemy have the upper hand?”
I appreciate David’s honest bearing of his soul. “How much longer,” forms a familiar refrain for many of us. As we read further, however, we discover God heard his cry. The answer to David’s longing came. Later, he penned psalms of thanksgiving and praise for the answers sent his way.
“For (God’s) anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
I take hope from a short passage in Exodus. After generations of immersion in a wicked and foreign country, not to mention cruel slavery, God’s chosen people finally cried out for help. They should have known God as their Deliverer, but they didn’t. God’s faithfulness seemed distant, His promises forgotten. So in misery they cried!
” . . . The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.” Exodus 2:23
They didn’t remember to look to God or ask Him for help. Yet, their pain-filled cries reached Heaven’s gates and God’s throne. God heard. He answered by sending Moses to lead them to freedom from their oppressors.
Many of my prayers resonate with cries and groans. I, too, sometimes forget to look to God for the answer. As a compassionate Father, He responds. The answer may come in unexpected ways and unpredictable timing, however.
“Lord, how much longer?”
Never Too Late
Unlike the Israelites in Egypt, the priest, Zechariah, and his wife, Elizabeth, stayed close to God. At first, their prayers overflowed with faith and anticipation. Years passed. Decades slipped away. God’s deafening silence prevailed.
I wonder when they stopped praying for a child. When did they resolve themselves to barrenness, childlessness, hopelessness . . . When did their groaning and crying cease? Now too old to hope for their miracle, they gave themselves to intercede for others. They loved and served God with unflinching devotion, without expectation of personal gain.
Did the ache ever leave? That longing for a child of their own. Did they sometimes wonder how different life might have been with children and grandchildren, or even great grandchildren?
Does God hear and answer prayer? Yes!
” . . . ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.”
God sent His angel to announce the good news. He heard! He answered! His perfect timing arrived. Those faith-filled prayers, long silenced on Earth, echoed in Heaven. God hadn’t forgotten, even when it seemed He had.
A Roman Centurion named Cornelius also devoted himself to prayer.
“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing, he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Acts 10:2
One would expect such consistent praying from Jewish believers, not a Gentile — one considered outside the realm of God’s care and concern. Cornelius dared to keep the prayer tap open, believing God, in grace, would hear and answer. He was right!
Because Cornelius prayed, the entire direction of the early church shifted. God shook Peter from religious mindsets and false paradigms. He proved His availability and accessibility to everyone, Jews and Gentiles.
” Cornelius answered: ‘Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.”
Now that’s a rare occurrence! Angels seldom come to assure us that our prayers are being answered. Because this Gentile man faithfully prayed, trusting somehow, some way God would respond, he received the greatest of miracles.
Does God hear and answer prayer? Yes, more often than we realize.
The hardest responses for me to receive are the “not now” answers. Everyone loves the miraculous, supernatural responses to prayer. We gladly share our testimonies of when God came through in desperate times.
” . . . who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the word; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again . . . “
But . . .
But there are times when and others who
” . . . were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Only a quiet trust in God’s better, higher, perfect ways holds us in such times.
The Word of God
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Though I would love to offer pat answers and fixed formulas, none exist. God is God. Though He chooses to hear and answer prayer, He owes us nothing. Nothing obligates Him to respond to our efforts to garner His attention.
Nonetheless, He is a good God who delights in responding to the call of those in relationship with Him. Oh, what confidence we gain from this wonderful assurance,
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
He exists! He rewards!
Faith builds as we read the Bible and the testimony of God’s faithfulness to multiple others. It grows in the shelter of God’s unfailing love and His steadfast devotion. Faith, not in prayer, but in the God who answers prayer, flourishes on the foundation of His unchanging Word.
“No word from God will ever fail.”
A daily time reading the Bible and praying keeps our spiritual taps open and the channel clear for God to hear and answer. There is no substitute or easy fixes. God’s Word saturates our hearts, fills our minds, and lifts our spirits to believe.
The roots of trust take root until we know that we know that we know, God will hear and answer. It may be soon, but it will never be late.
I can either be annoyed because the hot water takes so long to reach the sink or be thankful when it arrives. Attitude determines altitude someone once said. An attitude of patient endurance as we wait for the full result of prayer to develop is essential.
Let’s not grow weary or give up, saints! The answer is on the way. May we rejoice even before it arrives, while we keep the tap open and expectation flowing.