Q. Is God listening when I pray? Does He get mad when I ask for something I don’t need? Does He have to give me what I ask for? What do I have to do to get my prayers answered?
A. I once heard prayer defined as “talking to the ceiling and wondering if anyone’s listening.” Psalm 102:16-18 and Philippians 4:6 tells us that God does listen, and that He cares for us. Jesus prayed to God constantly throughout His life on earth (Heb. 5:7; Lk. 23:34; Lk. 5:16; Lk. 6:12). Would Jesus, the Son of God, have prayed and commanded us to pray without ceasing (I Thes. 5:17) if He did not believe God hears us and answers prayer? You might think, “Well, He was divinity; God had to listen to His prayer,” but we can see many instances throughout the Bible in which God answers the prayers of ordinary people. And there was one prayer that Jesus prayed that God did not answer in the way He wanted. Although Jesus was God’s Son, He was a man on earth, and prayed that, if there was any other way, God would let ‘this cup pass’ from Him (Matthew 26:39). Jesus spent enough time with God in prayer that He was able to pray God’s will. That is when we most often see God’s answers to our prayer.
In James 5:16 we are told, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” If you still aren’t sure if God answers prayer, try starting a prayer journal. Jot down the things you talk to God about. Record when a prayer is answered. Keep in mind that sometimes God’s answer is to wait, or He gives us the more perfect answer—His will. After just a few months, look back at your journal and find out for yourself that God does answer prayer. If you record what you wish to say to God before praying, it will help you to order your thoughts and to concentrate on what you are saying more than if you were trying to think of everything off the top of your head. However, your prayer should still be from the heart. God doesn’t enjoy hearing the same habitual, meaningless words any more than we do. There’s no guarantee God will say yes when you pray. If He says no, it won’t be because you didn’t have enough faith or aren’t righteous enough. It will be because what you asked for wasn’t the best for you or for others. Like a good and wise father, God only gives what’s best for you.
By Rachel Conley