This is a spiritually mature topic, and without years of study in the Word, and even then only with the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), many still may not be able to understand the answer, so please don’t be upset if what you read below is confusing.
The answer to the question, “How does God answer prayer?” is this:
It’ll be either “Yes” or “No.”
Actually, that isn’t all that hard to understand, after all… is it? What is hard to accept is that when all is said and done, God always does what is best for us, even though we may not agree with Him at the time.
If you get a “No”, that’s the easier of the two to handle, because it’s final. With God, “No” is “No”- even Yeshua (Jesus) knew that, and told His disciples that is what they should do, in Mattitayu (Matthew) 5:37 when He said:
But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
So if you get a “No” from God, accept it, and move on.
It’s when God tells you “Yes” that you will have hard work ahead of you. Why? Because when God answers you with a “Yes”, that means He has a plan for you with regard to what you asked.
If you are one of the rare exceptions where God answers you with what you asked for, and when you asked for it, WOW! That is really a rarity, and you should get on your face and thank Him.
Most likely it will not happen that way, and His answer will come to you in three phases.
Phase One: When God says yes to a prayer request, it is almost always because what you asked for is in His will for you, and He will have something that you must do. After you have received His answer, if you fail to recognize or act on it, you will have rejected God’s command- that is never a good thing to do. Just ask Jonah. So, if you get a “Yes”, you’d better get ready for the other shoe to drop.
Phase Two: The prayer you presented to God is going to be answered, but what you asked for may not be exactly what you get. We don’t always know what is best for us; in fact, we rarely know what is best for us, and almost always know what is the worst thing we can do to ourselves, which is almost always exactly what we do. It’s remarkable that we live long enough to realize how foolish we are! God’s plan is not always your plan (there is an old adage” If you want to make God laugh, tell Him what your plans are.”), and what He wants to be done is what will, eventually, be done. Since the answer to your prayer may not be what you were expecting, you need to remember that an answer is coming and constantly be watching for it.
Which brings us to Phase Three.
Phase Three: You never know when the answer is going to come. You may want such-and-such, and want it now, but you will more likely get so-and-so, and whenever God knows is the right time to receive it. God’s plans and His timing are perfect, and our plans and timing stink; God will give you His answer exactly when you need it, which is rarely when you expect it to come.
So there you have it: if you ask for something from God in prayer, always (of course) invoking the name of Yeshua Ha Maschiach, He will answer you, which will be either “Yes” or “No“. If you get a “No”, you get off easy.
If you get a “Yes”, better be prepared to follow up: be alert for the answer and steel yourself to accept His answer and act on it.
Otherwise, you’re better off not asking for anything, at all.