Religion has taught us that God decides whether or not He will answer our prayers. And because we believe that teaching we often end our prayers with “if it be thy will”. In other words, “God, I’m not really sure what your will is in this situation, but I’m going to pray and if my prayer is not answered, it’s because you chose not to answer it.”
Sadly, many Christians believe God picks and chooses the prayers He will or will not answer. Contrast this with what Jesus believed when he prayed just before raising Lazarus in John 11.
(41) Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou has heard me. (42) And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
When Jesus prayed, he expected his Father to hear his prayers and, not only that, he expected his Father to answer them. No doubting. No “what if.” No “if it be thy will.” Jesus had absolute and unwavering faith that God would answer his prayers. Always. Why? Jesus knew His Father’s heart for people. He had a relationship with the Father that went beyond the weekly and mid-week church services.
Do we truly know our Father’s heart for people?
Are we expecting our Father to answer our prayers the same way Jesus knew He would answer his?
Be honest. Be brutally honest.
The Bible says in I John 5:14, 15:
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
Now look at 2 Corinthians 1:20.
For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
When the promises of God manifest, He gets the glory. Wouldn’t the same be true of answered prayer? Why wouldn’t God want to answer our prayers? He wants the world to know His love, mercy and grace.
Do you see the words in green? God is establishing a very simple yet powerful truth: if we are not in him then His promises to us are not “yes” and “amen” (done).
What does it mean to be “in him”?
The word “in” paints the picture of someone being in a fixed, stable, or consistent position. It’s a relationship word. Remember when Jesus said “I and my father are one” (John 10:30) and “he that hath seen me hath seen the father” (John 14:9)? You see relationship. Jesus said what the Father would say. Jesus did what the Father would do.
Jesus agreed with the Father on everything.
We could read 2 Corinthians 1:20 this way and maintain the integrity of scripture: “When we have an intimate relationship with God (when we are in him) and pray for the things He would pray for if He were here (because we are in him), then we will know what Jesus knew (as we walk in him) – He always answers our prayers yea and amen.”
When we approach God with a prayer that is according to His will – a prayer that agrees with what He has said in the Bible – not only does He hear our prayer but He gives us what we ask for. Is that not how you read these verses?
Remember I John 5:15 says “And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
Are you seeing what I’m seeing in this verse? When we know, without any doubts, that our Father hears us, then we know that He will grant us our prayer request.
Now it’s time to ask the hard questions.
- If this is true, why do we not receive what we “desire of him”? If we pray and our Father hears us, why isn’t our prayer answered?
- Is it possible that God has already decided the outcome of the situation before we pray?
- If so, was our prayers nothing more than something to make us feel better even though we did not receive the answer we desired?
Now here are the really hard questions.
§ If God has already predetermined the outcomes of our unanswered prayers, isn’t praying for a different outcome against His will?
§ Doesn’t that mean our unanswered prayers are already destined for failure? (There are Christians who truly believe God is in control and He will have His way. “Whatever happens,” they say, “is God’s will.”)
§ If our prayers have no impact – other than to make us feel like we’ve done something positive in the situation – then why pray at all? Why waste the time? Why not just pray “God, whatever you decide, I may not like it but I will learn to live with it?”
When I pray to the Father and my prayer goes unanswered, telling me that “the outcome was the one that God knew was best” provides no comfort. If First John 5:14-15 is true, then my prayers have a say in the outcome.
Say it with me: “The Bible says my prayers have a say in the outcome. My prayers are not just words to make me feel better. The Bible says they have a say in the outcome!”
This is nullified if you believe that God is in control.
When God created Adam, He form, made and created a being just like Himself (without deity) and gave him authority and dominion over His creation (Genesis 1:26).
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
The authority and dominion Adam lost in Genesis 3, Christ regained for us through his death and resurrection.
For if by one man’s offense (Adam) death reigned (ruled) by one: much more they (people who have been born again) which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign (rule) in life by one, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)
Ladies and gentlemen...
...when you have dominion and authority – when you rule – you have a say in the place where you have dominion and authority!
If we have a say in what happens to us in this life, why do we blame God when our prayers are not answered? Yes, you heard me. We say “I prayed but God has the last word; He’s in control.” We blame God when our unanswered prayers. When you read the gospels, do you see this in the life of Jesus?
What does God control in our lives?
Absolutely nothing unless we submit our lives to Him.
Do we honestly believe our Father is okay with us not getting prayers answered, especially when we are praying for loved ones or for others?
Now I may make some of you angry, if I haven’t already.
When we say things like “God has the last word” or “God’s in control” we are making excuses for our lack of faith. There is nothing in scripture that says “having faith sometimes means you still don’t get what you are having faith for.”
I have admitted to coming face to face with having more unbelief working in me in some situations than faith (see my December teaching letter). I’m not proud of it but at least I know it’s my issue and not my Father’s. Faith pleases my Father (Hebrews 11:6).
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he prayed “Father, I thank thee that thou heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always...” (John 11:41, 42a) Sounds a lot like I John 5:14, 15 doesn’t it? “And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
Jesus was God’s son. We are God’s sons and daughters. Did our Father “hear” Jesus when he prayed but not us? He heard Jesus and He heard us. Let that sink in. Here’s the difference:
Jesus had the faith our Father needed in order to move on his prayers.
In the past, I didn’t have the faith God needed to move on my prayers. Could it be that, in the past, you also didn’t have the faith God needed to answer your prayers? (It’s okay to say “yes”.) It’s really that simple and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Increasing our faith is a process (Mark 4:28). Now we know that we have work to do!
The enemy of the soul wants us to believe our Father is behind everything that happens or does not happen in our prayer lives. This is what Satan doesn’t want us to know and believe: our Father has given us authority and dominion over our prayer lives and over him.
Every good gift and every perfect gift (for this teaching, Godly authority and dominion), is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
I want you to see something before we move on. The phrase “no variableness” is unchangeable. We will always get the same response from God. Always. In this case, we will always receive good and perfect gifts. Answered prayers are good and perfect gifts. Wouldn’t you agree?
Let’s end with I John 5:4.
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world (That’s you! That’s me!): and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Now I want you to see something that’s very important. What is it that overcomes the world? Faith. Whose faith? Our faith!
What gives us victory in this life? Our faith!
What enables God to answer our prayers? Our faith!
It is our faith that makes the difference when we pray. Our faith!
We can clearly see that it is our faith that pleases our Father and that it is our faith that gives Him the authority to respond – in the affirmative – to our prayers. Let’s read I John 5:14-15 again but this time from the Amplified Bible.
And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), he listens to and hears us. And if (since) we [positively] know that he listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of him.
Ladies and gentlemen, our Heavenly Father always hears our prayers and it is His heart’s desire to always answer them. We have to be like Jesus. We have to give Him the faith He needs to answer those prayers.
Never forget – you are blessed and highly favored.
Barry O Johnson is a Teacher of the Gospel. He attends and ministers at Grace Christian Center in Beavercreek, OH. He and his wife, Doris, recently celebrated their 40th anniversary and have two grown sons. He can be reached at Barry101937@gmail.com.