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Six possible answers to prayer

August 30, 2006

Is prayer ever unanswered? Not really. Prayer is unanswered only in the sense that we may have not yet received an answer from God. Sooner or later God will answer all prayer when Christ returns.


These are requests that are in line with God’s will and ask for things to be done in God’s way and in His timing. This is the answer we most prefer because not only do we get what we want, but it is a great encouragement to see God working and to experience our relationship with Him. Psalm 37:4-5 & 1 John 5:14-15


These are requests that are not in God’s will. God may give a ‘no’ answer simply because He has other plans. A ‘no’ answer does not necessarily mean the request was evil and sinful in itself. It may mean God is simply going to do something else or the request does not fit in with His plan. Another possible reason for a ‘no’ answer is because the person does not really believe God can do something about the situation. But, some ‘no’ answers are requests that come from evil desires. Unless we ask for something sinful, we do not need to be discouraged because a ‘no’ answer helps to direct us into the will of God. James 1:6-7 & 4:3


For whatever reason, God has let you know He will answer the prayer at a later date. In Genesis 15:2 Abraham asked God about an heir to inherit the promises God had made to him. In verses 4 & 5 God said that Abraham would have to wait for the true heir and it wasn’t until chapter 21 that God answered and gave him Isaac. This is not God’s usual way of answering prayer. He very rarely gives someone an insight into what will happen in the future. Just because a person has not received a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer does not mean God has therefore told the person to wait.

Yes to the request, but No to the purpose and motivation behind it.

We can ask for the right thing, but for the wrong reason. God may do what you ask, but the outcome is completely different from what you wanted. In 1 Samuel 8 the Israelites clamored for a king like the rest of the nations around them. They thought they would be better off with a king ruling them than with judges. God did give them a king, but they were not better off. Be careful what you ask for, God may give it to you!

No to the request, but Yes to the purpose and motivation behind it.

We can ask for the wrong thing, but for the right reason. God may do something totally different from what we asked, but the outcome is what we wanted in the first place. In Genesis 18 Abraham asked God repeatedly to spare Sodom and Gomorrah so his nephew Lot would not be destroyed. God did not spare the cities, but he did enable Lot to escape and so He did grant what Abraham wanted concerning Lot. It seems God answers many prayers this way by giving us what we want, but doing it differently than we thought.

No discernable answer yet.

Unfortunately, this is the category many of our prayers fall under. The first option here is that God may just not have gotten around to answering in any of the five previous ways.

The second option, which is more likely, is that we have missed God’s answer. We can miss God’s answers to our prayers if we are not paying attention. A prayer journal helps in this matter because as we look back over our requests and are reminded of them we can also remember God answering them. Many of our prayers are gone from our mind as soon as we speak them. When we miss God’s answers to our prayers we miss the encouragement and satisfaction that come along with God responding to our entreaties and we miss an opportunity to praise and thank Him for His continual goodness and mercy toward us. If we are not paying attention we not only miss out on the positive aspects of God answering our prayers, but we can grow discouraged and weak in prayer if we fail to see God answering and working in our lives.

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