"...in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God..." Philippians 4:6.
If we have unanswered questions about prayer, we'll be hesitant to pray — and our prayers will lack the faith that honors God. In the last two studies, we've been looking at questions people ask most often about prayer. An important question that many ask is —
Does Prayer Change God's Mind?
No, it does not. Prayer doesn't change God or His character. He is a changeless God. You can't change Him with your prayers and I can't change Him with mine.
"The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent [change]" (1 Samuel 15:29).
"For I am the Lord, I change not..." (Malachi 3:6).
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, in whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17
God is not both light and dark. He does not flicker on and off. He does not change.
However, prayer does effect what God does! This is so important for you to grasp! God will do things when we pray that He will not do if we don't pray! The Bible says clearly and plainly, "we have not because we ask not." Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. Prayer is laying hold of God's will.
"This is the confidence that we have in Him, if we ask Him anything according to His will, He heareth us" (1 John 5:14).
The only thing that lies outside the reach of prayer is that which lies outside the will of God. There are things God has for you that will only come about if you pray. You cannot change His mind, but you can change what He does.
What Do We Do If Our Prayers Are Not Answered?
You keep on praying. There's a time to persist in prayer. Daniel exemplifies a godly man who persisted when there was no quick answer. It looked like God was doing nothing. Was God hearing his prayer? After 21 days an angel came to Daniel and said, "Daniel, your prayer was heard when you began to pray three weeks ago." (Daniel 10:12). Daniel prayed and kept on praying. This is an intriguing passage you should study. In Luke 18:1 Jesus said "spoke a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." There's a time to persist in prayer.
There's also a time to desist in prayer, a time when you quit praying. Over three specific periods of time, the apostle Paul asked God to take away his "thorn in the flesh," yet God did not do it. But God did answer him in a different way.
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." And Paul said, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul didn't say, "What can't be cured must be endured." He said, "I'll glory in it. I'll thank God in it." God did not give Paul what he asked, but God gave Paul something better than he asked. God said no to Paul, but He gave something different. So,
• Delays are not necessarily denials
• If God does deny, it doesn't mean that He's withholding His love. It just means that He is giving you something better.
If you're praying for something and it seems God isn't answering, keep on praying until God speaks to your heart and tells you to quit. Persist until God says desist. Keep on praying until He says yes or no. You'll have the answer either way.
Does God Have Favorites Whose Prayers He Hears?
Sometimes people say to me, "Would you pray for me? I know God hears your prayers," as though God has favorites. With God there's no respect of persons. "O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come" (Psalm 65:2)
There's no caste system of persons with God. He will hear your prayer just as quickly as He will hear mine, or Billy Graham's, or anyone else who believes in prayer, believes in God and has a clear, clean life.
God has intimates, but He doesn't have favorites. All who know and love the Lord Jesus can pray.
May we expect miracles when we pray? Can our prayers override the will of another person? We'll tackle those questions next time.
When we come to Him in repentance and faith, we are empowered-and expected-to live the Christian life not by trying, but by trusting. Faith is not only how we receive salvation, it is how we walk, day by day, in grace. Only by faith can we extend forgiveness to others, share God's truth, and leave a godly legacy. As the tapestry of your life unfolds, may you begin to see the wonders of living each day, moment by moment, a life of faith and forgiveness.