How can we be confident that God will answer our prayers?

Question:

Hello,

I have a question regarding prayer, one which I have submitted to numerous places. I've tried to present it in the most concise and intellectually understandable language I can think of but have received in response almost an outright refusal to acknowledge what it is I am asking. Whether it is deliberate or not, I have become very frustrated with people's unwillingness to approach what I'm asking. At best they attempt to re-frame and change the question itself to better suit their answer, much like a politician in my opinion.

My question concerns I John 5:14-15, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (I John 5:14-15). How can we be confident of an affirmative yes answer, if we are asking in submission to the sovereign will of God -- as in the answer may be yes or no, but it's okay because God knows best vs. praying for something that is in accordance and in agreement with God's revealed will of His word, the Bible?

I am of the opinion that one can only be confident of an affirmative yes answer, if one prays in agreement to revealed truths, standards and principles of His word. For example: praying for a wife because God proclaims it is not good that man be alone. There is a multitude of supporting Scripture that marriage is an uncontested institution created by the Lord. It's very popular to tell lonely people that God's company will completely satisfy a person's needs, but according to Scripture, I disagree. Adam walked with God in perfect union in the garden without sin separating them from one another. But God said, "It is not good that man be alone."

What I have found in my searching is that there are in fact multiple contextual scriptures that show that we do have permission to ask the Lord for temporal blessings beyond our daily bread. But it seems commonplace and pervasive that doubt is sown in the hearts and minds of anyone searching for hope that they can approach the Lord with their burdens and unmet longings, as if He will indeed provide them as any good father would. I know what you may be thinking, but a good wife is not a stone or scorpion. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. No good thing will the Lord withhold from those who love him. But as it is common to do, the argument of context, time and again, aims to convince us that God's promises do not apply to us but to someone else in history.

I could continue, but I must end somewhere. I hope I've explained myself well enough.


Answer:

Typically, if multiple people are all misunderstanding your question, then it is more logical to conclude that the problem is with how the question is being phrased. Regarding which, I'm not certain you are actually asking a question to learn an answer. It appears you have already decided what the answer must be and are looking for someone to agree with you. There is always the possibility that your question is being answered, but since you disagree with the answer, you assume that they just misunderstood what you were asking.

You are correct that God's offer to answer our requests is not a blanket offer to fulfill our every desires. If such happened, then it would be man who would be telling God what to do. However, it is God who reigns supreme.

Instead, God invites us to ask for things that are according to His will. "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him" (I John 5:14-15). This then means we need to know what God's will is. None of us are mind readers. "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God" (I Corinthians 2:11-12). These things the apostles and prophets recorded for us in the Bible. This is why it is so important for Christians to know the Bible. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15).

As an example, God desires everyone to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4). A prayer to reach heaven will be answered. Cornelius, as an example, was answered in a dramatic way (Acts 10). It may come from a direction you don't expect, but both the Bible's teachings and someone who can teach you will occur. Too often people expect a prayer to be answered in a specific way and if it does happen as expected, they assume the prayer was not answered.

God commanded mankind to multiply and filled the earth (Genesis 9:1); thus, God wants people to marry and have children. Yet, Hannah begged year after year with seemingly no response from God (I Samuel 1:7). There are a number of factors that God could have been considering before granting her request, such as whether Eli's sons would turn from their sins or not, or waiting for Hannah to offer her son to God, which He then put to use in replacing Eli and his sons -- we just don't know. But it does show that persistence is required at times and that every request is not answered immediately but at the best time.

The same can be said of marriage. Marriage is optional. Some, like Paul and Barnabas, chose to remain unmarried because of their work. Many would like to marry, but they haven't found the right person yet. Perhaps the person isn't ready for marriage yet, so God gives them time to grow. Perhaps there isn't a suitable spouse currently available. After all, a bad marriage is not better than no marriage. Too often we forget that some of our prayers involve other people -- people who have free will and who might not be a suitable answer to our prayers.

Then there are times when we think a certain course is best, but our God knows of a better way. Paul wanted to go into the northern areas of Turkey, but God told him no. "They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them" (Acts 16:6-7). It was most decidedly God's will that the gospel be preached and Paul was wanting to do that very thing, but God wanted Paul to go into another region than the one Paul thought he should go to next. Perhaps Paul would have been killed in northern Turkey, perhaps God already had teachers heading that direction, or perhaps Paul would be more effective in Macedonia than anyone else God could send that way -- we just don't know, but God had His reasons.

I firmly believe that God hears our prayers and answers. But I am just as certain that His answers are not always what I want at the moment. Yet, that is fine with me. I trust God's judgment. I believe the mistake you are making is assuming that only positive, immediate responses are answers from God.