Everyone has rules, and I have my own rules for prayer.
Rule #1: God always hears your prayers.
There are places in the Bible where God says He will not hear us. For instance:
1 Samuel 8:18 (And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. KJV);
Isaiah 1:15 (When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. NIV);
Jeremiah 7:16 (So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. NIV)
But does this mean God doesn’t hear your prayers? I don’t think that is what He means- He always hears us, He is just not listening, as in paying attention.
He always hears us, but when we have rejected Him and have sinned so often and so purposefully that we have thrown a wedge between us and God, He will have no option but to ignore our pleas. Think of it this way- we are calling to Him, He hears us but holds up His mighty right arm to our face and says, “Speaketh thou to the hand!”
God always, always, always hears our prayers, but how he acts is His choice. Which brings us to the second rule.
Rule #2: God always answers your prayers.
And sometimes that answer is, “No.” As above, God hears you, alright, but decides to answer with silence. Or maybe He will just say, “Nope! Ain’t gonna happen.” And at other times His answer will be “You got it, babe!” and that answer will be wonderful, confirming, and blissfully full of blessings. Or it may be something totally unexpected, which leads to the last rule of prayer.
Rule #3: The answer usually isn’t what you expect or when you expect it, but it will always be just what you need and just when you need it.
God knows what we need better than we do, better than we can, and better than we ever will. And because He is a loving and compassionate Father, Judge and Savior , He will provide not what we want (which is usually not good for us) but what we need. And whereas our timing is usually lousy, God’s timing is always perfect because He knows what will happen and when it will happen, so He can make things occur just when they should. We won’t always get what we want, and we rarely will get it when we want it, but we will have a much better batting average if we learn to pray more in line with God’s plan for us. Look at the prayers of Abraham, Moshe, the Prophets, Yeshua’s prayers and those of His Disciples: their prayers were answered not only when they were asked, but often exactly as they requested. That’s because they were praying for something that was within God’s plan. And yet, there were other prayers which were not answered as requested. Take Shaul as an example, in 2nd Corinthians 12:7:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Here is one good reason for us to expect God to decide what He will answer and when: God, and God alone, knows the best time to do something and the best time not to do anything, because it is all about Him. Shaul’s prayer was for himself, but God turned it into something that gave the glory where it belonged- to God.
God always hears, God always answers, and the answer is rarely what you expect or when you expect it. But it is always perfectly suited to help you and to glorify God. So, keep praying. Just because you don’t get the answer you want or expect doesn’t mean He didn’t answer you. It may be ,”Yes, but not yet”; it may be, “No. Now stop bothering me.”; and it may be, “As you request, it shall be done.” And when we pray in Yeshua’s name we will receive what we ask for, SO LONG AS what we ask for is in God’s will and glorifies God. If you pray in Yeshua’s name to win the lottery, don’t be disappointed if you don’t, and don’t blame God. Winning the lottery isn’t what God is about. However, if you pray for salvation for yourself or someone else, God will listen, and He will answer.
I pray every day for the salvation and reconciliation of my children with God, and Donna and I, and that we will be a family centered on God. I know that God will answer my prayer by giving my children every possible opportunity to come to Him, but in the end, it is their choice. God will not force someone to ask for salvation. I pray in Yeshua’s name for the salvation of my wife and children, but they have to choose it. God will answer me, I faithfully trust that He will send angels of mercy to them, that He will make sure they have every opportunity to recognize Him, His work in their lives, and that He will protect them from evil, both physical and spiritual. And I know that He hears and He is answering this very moment, but since they have to choose, if they never come to salvation it is not because God didn’t hear and answer my prayer.
Make your prayers “God-worthy” by keeping them in line with God’s plan for you, as best as you understand what it is. And keep praying- you never know what the answer may be or when the answer will come, but if you pay as close attention to what God is doing in your life as you want Him to pay attention to your prayer, I believe that you will, eventually, see the answer.
Whatever it is.