Prayer – How does God answer prayer?

How does God answer our prayers?
Matthew 26:36-46
“My souls is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death”

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.
40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.
44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

Psalms 42:5-6

Psalm 42

To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation[] of the sons of Korah.

 1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
         So pants my soul for You, O God.
 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
         When shall I come and appear before God?
 3 My tears have been my food day and night,
         While they continually say to me,
         “Where is your God?”
 4 When I remember these things,
         I pour out my soul within me.
         For I used to go with the multitude;
         I went with them to the house of God,
         With the voice of joy and praise,
         With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
         And why are you disquieted within me?
         Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
         For the help of His countenance.
 6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
         Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
         And from the heights of Hermon,
         From the Hill Mizar.
 7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
         All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
 8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
         And in the night His song shall be with me—
         A prayer to the God of my life.
 9 I will say to God my Rock,
         “Why have You forgotten me?
         Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
 10 As with a breaking of my bones,
         My enemies reproach me,
         While they say to me all day long,
         “Where is your God?”
 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
         And why are you disquieted within me?
         Hope in God;
         For I shall yet praise Him,
         The help of my countenance and my God.

If Jesus needed prayer then how much more do we need it
Here Jesus has taken the 11 to the garden with Him in order to pray. He was motivated to pray before everything He did and always before things were going to happen
The disciples needed to stay awake and pray because they were about to be tested – but they couldn’t even stay awake for an hour
Here “flesh” denotes human weakness
The fact that Jesus prayed the same words indicates that there is nothing wrong with repetition
from a devout heart, especially if we are in earnest need of an answer from God or assurance

Jesus had made a positive request at first
“Let this cup pass from Me”

In the second and third prayer His request is negative
In obedience to His Father, Jesus commits Himself to drink “the cup” whatever the cost
Cup is a figure of speech used in the Old Testament to describe wrath

Psalms 75:8
 8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup,
         And the wine is red;
         It is fully mixed, and He pours it out;
         Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth
         Drain and drink down.

Psalms 18-A prayer of trust
Waiting on the Lord

A problem we face in our prayer ministries

1) The yes answer
God delights in saying yes to His children
I John 5:14-15

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

Many Christians are confused by the word “anything”
The key to knowing that God hears our prayers is to pray according to His will
John 14:13-14

13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask[c] anything in My name, I will do it.

The key here is “in My name”
John 15:7

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

Sometimes we don’t really want or need what we ask for
Psalms 106:7-15

7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;
         They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies,
         But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.
 8 Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake,
         That He might make His mighty power known.
 9 He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up;
         So He led them through the depths,
         As through the wilderness.
 10 He saved them from the hand of him who hated them,
         And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
 11 The waters covered their enemies;
         There was not one of them left.
 12 Then they believed His words;
         They sang His praise.
 13 They soon forgot His works;
         They did not wait for His counsel,
 14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
         And tested God in the desert.
 15 And He gave them their request,
         But sent leanness into their soul.

2 Kings 20:1-19

1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’”
2 Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”’”
7 Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
8 And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What is the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?”
9 Then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?”
10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.”
11 So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the LORD, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.

The Babylonian Envoys

12 At that time Berodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. 13 And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures—the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory—all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.
14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?”
So Hezekiah said, “They came from a far country, from Babylon.”
15 And he said, “What have they seen in your house?”
So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.”
16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: 17 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. 18 ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
19 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?”

From this we know that the matter of the “yes answer” is according to His will

2) The no answer
Sometimes we receive a no answer from God

Sometimes we forget that God does not answer our prayers if He has already provided the means to answer it
2 Corinthians 12:6-10

For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul and the thorn in his flesh
He stopped praying after his third request because he had received the answer from the Lord concerning His provision

Paul received a spiritual revelation from God
He had a thorn in his side
Thorn –
means “splinter” “stake” or “something pointed”
Flesh –
can refer to the natural body or sinful nature
There are 3 basic interpretations of this text

1) Physical
If the flesh is a reference to the body
The thorn would be a physical ailment (earache, headaches, eye trouble)

2) Fallen
If the flesh is a reference to the fallen nature
The thorn would be a temptation

3) Figurative
The thorn could refer to persecution or opposition
Many commentators suggest that it is a physical ailment
Eye trouble

Based on Galatians 4:12-15

12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.

And Acts 9:1-19

8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.    
10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”
And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”
13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus,  who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

Either way God had permitted Satan to afflict Paul in some way
Buffet – means “to strike with the fist”
Paul’s thorn was a painful, humiliating, experience given to prevent pride
He sought the Lord three times to take it away
Why only 3 times?

Paul learned that God was going to give him a “no” answer
As far as we know Paul never had the thorn removed
legend says that he had a peculiar eye problem to the extent that they were almost bulging and he had limited vision
This conclusion is based on these scriptures
It could have come from being blinded on the road to Damascus
Or a consequence of being stoned

19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Some have suggested that he was almost practically blind
This would explain the reference in (Galatians 4:15) as well as (Galatians 6:11)
Either way God used whatever it was to demonstrate His strength through Paul’s weakness. This is what must have taught Paul more than anything else about the provisions of God
God does not take things away from us if it will bring us closer to Him
2 Samuel 12:15-23
David and Bathsheba’s baby

15 Then Nathan departed to his house.
And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. 16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!”
19 When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?”
And they said, “He is dead.”
20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
22 And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD[a] will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

David, after learning of the child’s death, gets up and worships the Lord
His grieving had begun when the child became ill
Once the child died, there was nothing more he could do

David’s words (22-23) give a remarkable insight to the meaning of prayer
Prayer should continue as long as there is a possibility for God to intervene
If one’s hope is in God, then it is never the sense that it is too late

God could still intervene in the last minute
David knew he would one day see the baby again
Faith trusts God even when it is challenged
We must remember that when God says “no” He has our best at heart

Example: our dog
He always wants what I am eating. No matter what it is
I know when he can have something that will or won’t make him sick

3) The “wait awhile” answer
John 11:1-44

(3) Lazarus is sick
Mary and Martha were sending their burden to Jesus for His help
They knew that Jesus could heal Lazarus even from a great distance because they
probably seen or heard of Him healing the Centurion’s son (Matthew 8:5-13)
Jesus didn’t do anything when word came to Him
This is a
major source of difficulty for believers sometimes
It is very hard to accept, especially when we seem to be surrounded by a life of sickness and death. Sometimes we feel alone but our Lord is always there with and for us  

(20) Lord if
Martha and Mary were both saying to Jesus “Lord if you had been here”
They were asking Him “Why?, why didn’t You come?”
We often ask the same question when we are facing a test


Lord why are You the way you are?
My God My God Why?
Matthew 27:46

Mary and Martha were acting in the same fashion we would be if we were faced with a test of that nature
Our finite minds see only our situation, what is in front of us and we usually can’t see any way out or any relief, even if it is for a second we all lose heart and we fail to believe in the Lord
This experience that Mary and Martha had was what happens when God does not react immediately to our problems. God is doing what seems like nothing in our lives so He can do the greater thing for our lives
The lesser
To raise Lazarus from his sickbed
The greater
To raise Lazarus from the dead!!
All this is done to glorify the Father and Son
John 14:13-14
God will always do that which brings Him the greater glory in our lives
So shouldn’t we trust Him with our lives?

4) The “something different” answer
Acts 16:6-7
Paul is on a missionary journey
He was planning to go to Asia but the Holy Spirit tells him “no”
So he changes course and the Spirit tells him “no” again
After this he receives a vision of where he is to go
The answer was a different one than he had anticipated
God had said no to their two earlier plans and yes to a plan that they had not even
We must be open for what God is doing and what He wants to do
God will put a roadblock in our path sometimes so we will seek His will

5) The “little by little” answer
James 5:13-16

None of us spend enough time in prayer
and when we do pray we usually have a grocery list of things that we want instead of taking the time to find out what God wants from and for us
besides doesn’t God already know our needs?

Why do we need to pray for our needs?

What are we looking for when we pray for our needs?
Do we pray that some celestial being will grant our every wish and request made like an ATM or a Pizza Hut?

What do we expect from God?

When we pray we need to focus our hearts on God
We need to make His concerns our concerns
His priorities our priorities
Yes God knows what we want even before we know it or ask for it

But prayer makes a difference
1) A missionary
How will they get their support?
2) A health problem How will they get help?
3) A financial problem Where will they get the money?
Here is one way God supplies for the needs of His children

Little by little

Deuteronomy 7:22

22 And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.

God is saying “I am working in your life.”
He does it a little at a time and it gets a little better every day
Many times we are so preoccupied with the situation or we are waiting on a “yes” or “no” answer and we don’t even see what He is doing in our lives
We wait for the future and He is working in our lives right now.

We usually see the problem and we can’t get past it. We make the problem bigger than God – but always remember that no problem it too big for God


About Clint Rodgers

I am a father of 2 wonderful children and the husband of a beautiful woman who has taught me more about compassion for goofballs than I could have ever learned. I have know Jesus for many years but about 5 years ago I truly met Him and now I do my best to follow Him as I walk in this world
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