The question of whether prayer really works came up recently in a Bible study discussion. One lady adamantly declared she had given up on prayer because it doesn’t work. Her prayers were never answered. Some say God doesn’t change his mind. The implication here is that once a course is set, there will be no way to change it. Is this true?
Does God Answer Prayers?
A pastor once said that God always answers prayer: yes, no, and not now! How do we really know if God answers prayer? The Bible tells of amazing examples of prayer being answered.
In 2 Kings: 20:1-11, God changed his mind. King Hezekiah was very ill. The prophet Isaiah came to tell him the Lord God said he was dying and to put his house in order. Take a look at what happened next:
“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD saying, I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.” (vs. 1-6, KJV)
God answered Hezekiah’s prayer! The LORD not only answered his prayer, but told him he would protect him from being killed. The LORD even gave him a sign of His good faith:
“And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.” (vs. 9-11)
When God Seems Silent
God keeps His promises! So why does it seem that God doesn’t answer our prayers? Consider these verses for ways we hinder our prayers…
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:3
Sin hinders answered prayer.
“And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess you faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:15-16
Unbelief in Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life hinders prayers. Why should He respond to someone who doesn’t believe?
However, the prayers of a sincere, unbelieving man are heard as recorded in Acts 10:
“And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.” Acts 10:22
“Therefore came I unto you without gain saying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.” Acts 10:29-31
Removing What Hinders Our Prayers
The following is a very important passage because it tells us anyone who fears God and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Salvation was not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.
“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts 10:34-35
God heard Cornelius’ prayer. He sent Peter to teach Cornelius and his household about Jesus. These also received the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit as the earnest of their faith, and were baptized by immersion (vs. 45-48).
God hears prayers. There is no doubt. We can understand that sin hinders prayer, and may cause it not to be answered. We also can know that God hears and responds.
Let us remember God hears and answers the simplest of prayers to the most heart-rending.