Does God answer prayer?


Yes, God does answer prayer.

If you have doubts about God’s existence, clicking on “does God exist?” is suggested. If you have reservations about God having personal attributes, see “are all religions the same?” and “what is God like?” Because God is personal, He cares for us. He is aware of our suffering, and He can do something about it. Because God is present to all things and aware of all things, He can hear our prayers. Because God is all-powerful, He can change things. But because God is wise and loving, He will not always answer our prayers the way we desire.

The Bible offers many examples of answered prayer. Here is an interesting example: Paul, an early Christian leader, was imprisoned in the Greek city of Philippi because he had healed a slave girl. He and his companion Silas were praying and singing hymns to God while the other prisoners listened. It was midnight. Suddenly God sent an earthquake that sprang open all the cell doors. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, the jailer started to commit suicide, but Paul called out that no one had left. So the grateful jailer asked how to become a follower of Jesus, and then treated the wounds of the prisoners and fed them. In the morning the city officials apologized and freed them. (Acts 16:16-40)

Communication with God, which is what prayer is, is based on a relationship with Him. This does not mean that God is unaware of the prayers of people who are praying to other gods. (See “Are all religions the same?”) After all, the God who created the universe knows everything. It also does not mean that God never answers the prayers of those who pray to other gods. But since God’s highest priority for people is to establish a personal relationship with them (see “what is God like?”), it is often not in their best interests for God to say “yes” to their prayers.

Just because someone knows the God of the Bible personally, this does not mean that the person will get everything that he or she asks for. Like a wise, loving parent, God answers according to what is best for us. Sometimes His answer is “yes,” sometimes “no,” sometimes “not exactly,” and sometimes “wait.” For example, what is the loving answer to a sixteen-year-old who wants a car to drive? The loving answer may not be obvious.

When our lives are dominated by sin, this sin interferes with our relationship with God. As the Bible says, “Because of your sins, [God] has turned away and will not listen anymore” (Isaiah 59:2b). This does not mean that God cannot actually hear the prayers of people trapped in sin, but that the loving thing is probably not to say “yes” to their prayers until they admit their need to change their ways.

A lot of words repeated mindlessly is a waste of time. Jesus warned, “Don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (Matthew 6:7-8)

However, persistence in prayer is recommended. After all, if God already knows exactly what we need even before we ask Him, then why does Jesus recommend that we pray? The answer is that our asking is a key to getting to know Him better. Notice His emphasis: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7).

How can we be confident that God answers our prayers? John, one of Jesus’ early followers wrote this: “And we are confident that [God] hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15). The challenge for us is, how do we learn what pleases God? This is why we need to have a close friendship with God, including the study of His Word, the Bible. (See "does God care for me?")

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