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Does God Answer Prayer?

Date: 
Sunday, 3 August 2003

On the surface, this seems to be a cynical question of one who had lost all hopes on God. Yet on deeper reflection, it may be an important question for all of us to ponder. Is God really an uncaring God? Does He answer prayer?

If God does answer all our prayers, then our naturalistic worldview would not be valid any more. And the world can be chaotic. For instance, one might pray for rain for he had just planted a new crop, another might pray for sunny weather as he needed to rush to complete his building project.

Yet we know that God is the sovereign Ruler of the universe and our hope for redemption is secure because He can intervene in the natural cycle of sin and death.

But if God does not or cannot answer prayer, then our hope is based on false assumptions.

If God is able to answer prayer, but He doesn’t, questions about His love for His creation immediately appear. Where was God in the Holocaust, in Uganda, in Bosnia, at World Trade Centre on September 11? The list of atrocities, which seem by their reality denies the existence of a just and loving God, is going to be long.

However, Jesus understood these questions. He experienced it first hand. In the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, Jesus experienced the agony of unanswered prayer. Who could understand better than Jesus that within the provision of God, some flourish while others are in day-to-day moment-by-moment struggles? Jesus seemed to confirm in his own agony the distressing power of the choice of an unjust Judge.

Yet Jesus knew that His own petitions were not just an expression of His personal desire but a revelation of the way God relates to us in this world.

God does listen to His saints and He does respond to them. Nevertheless He is not bound to all our pleas. When He chooses to answer our prayers, we experience Him in a fresh reality. When He does not, we are forced to grapple with His hidden-ness. This is the reality of our relationship with Him here and now. It does not mean however that if He does not answer, we are solely responsible by our disobedience or the sinfulness of someone else in our family.

God is sovereign and He alone knows what is best. Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 17 demonstrated this clearly for us.