Prayer Answers. As to the subject of prayer, I need to ask you a couple of serious questions:
1) Are you on praying ground? By that I mean are you a born again Christian, one who's trusted in the Lord Jesus as your Saviour? If not, what's needed in that case is faith in Christ's Calvary work, trusting fully (and only) in what He did there to pay your debt of sin (Isa. 53:6; Jn. 3:16). We aren't saved by good works or church rituals, only by what Jesus did for us (Eph. 2:8-9).
2) If you are a Christian, are you harbouring unconfessed sin in your life? As the psalmist says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Ps. 66:18; compare Isa. 59:1-2)? The answer there is confession of your sin, and accepting God's cleansing and forgiveness (I Jn. 1:9).
If you have dealt with those two areas, then you can be sure that God will hear your prayers. God's Word tells us that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (Jas. 5:16). Another translation of that verse says, "Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer" (J.B. Philips paraphrase).
The Bible invites us to make our requests to the Lord, and promises "peace" of heart as we trust Him to answer (Phil. 4:6-7). We are also promised "mercy and...grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:14-16), and "wisdom," when it's required (Jas. 1:5).
Some answers come over time, and are more difficult to see. Others come quickly and dramatically. Here are two examples of prayer answers.
1) A few years ago, I was sitting in the living room of the home we are renting. I was concerned because we had little income, and didn't have enough to pay the rent that month. As I was praying about it, the phone rang. A local pastor said he had something for me, and could he come over and give it to me. It turned out to be an anonymous gift of a considerable amount of money. Enough to take care of the rent that month. Praise the Lord!
2) One time a young woman went to the London airport to share Christ with passengers walking through the terminal. She came upon a stewardess, to whom she witnessed. Afterwards, the woman prayed a simple prayer, trusting the Lord as her Saviour.
A few minutes later, her flight was called and she had to leave. But the girl rummaged in her backpack and said, "Here, take this and read it," thinking it might help her to better understand what it meant to be a Christian. It was a book by Christian author Dr. Francis Schaeffer. As the stewardess went to the plane, the girl prayed, "O Lord, please send a Christian on that flight to follow her up."
Later the stewardess got in contact with the girl and told her what had happened during the flight. She was sitting in the jump-seat, reading the book, when a passenger walked up to her. "What do you think of the book you're reading?" he asked. "Well," she replied, "I've only been a Christian for a few minutes, so I really can't understand it." "Perhaps I can help you," he replied. "My name is Francis Schaeffer."
The Bible says, "if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (I Jn. 5:14). I don't know the things you are praying for, but God does hear and answer prayer--all prayer--given under the conditions described above. But not all the things we ask for are His will for us, or His will at this particular time. So sometimes His answer is "No."
We have an example in God's Word of some missionaries wanting to do something that seems good and commendable, but God said, "No." Paul and his missionary team wanted to preach the gospel to those in Asia, but in some way the Spirit of God revealed that they should not (Acts 16:6)? Why? We're not told--and God is not obligated to reveal all His reasons and plans to us.
The missionaries wanted to fulfil the Great Commission. The gospel was needed there, But it's possible that Paul was not the missionary who could do the best job for those people, or that it wasn't God's timing for this venture. But we do know that the gospel eventually reached Asia, and Peter wrote to the Christians in Asia to teach them more (I Pet. 1).
Someone has said that the Lord has four ways of answering prayer: No, Grow, Slow, and Go.
1) No is a possibility. As wise parents, we have sometimes had to refuse a child something he or she asked for. Perhaps it was something that would be harmful to the child--such as playing with a sharp knife. Our heavenly Father sometimes has to say "No" because our requests are foolish and immature.
2) Grow. Sometimes, not getting what we ask for is temporary. The Lord knows we have some growing to do before we would be ready for it.
3) Slow. At other times, God grants us what we ask for, but there are cautions to be considered as we receive and use whatever it is. We need to move forward slowly and carefully, seeking His further guidance along the way.
4) Go. That represents a direct and clear answer to prayer. It is God's "yes" to our request.
Philippians 4:6 says we should "with thanksgiving let [our] requests be made known to God." Why "with thanksgiving"? I believe it's a matter of thanking the Lord, in advance, for how He will answer--even if the answer is no. That's a step of faith. It says that we trust the love and wisdom of God.
"We know that all things [even unpleasant things, or things we don't understand] work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). We can trust Him to answer our prayers in the right way, and at the right time.