Whose Prayers Are Answered?
JEHOVAH is the God who answers prayers. In fact, his Word, the Bible, calls him the “Hearer of prayer.” (Psalm 65:2) He is willing to answer prayers. But whose prayers does he actually answer?
God answers the prayers of individuals pleasing to him. They have the reverential attitude of the psalmist who said: “As the hind that longs for the water streams, so my very soul longs for you, O God. My soul indeed thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1, 2) Yet, what evidence is there to prove that Jehovah answers the prayers of his true worshipers?
Proof That God Answers Prayers
The Bible contains an extensive record proving that Jehovah answers the prayers of his faithful servants. For example, when King Jehoshaphat of Judah prayed for deliverance, God answered his prayer and gave him victory by causing his enemies to smite one another. (2 Chronicles 20:1-26) When King Hezekiah similarly faced a formidable military force, he humbly prayed to God for help. Hezekiah saw the salvation of Jehovah when an angel struck down 185,000 Assyrians in one night.—Isaiah 37:14-20, 36-38.
Why did God answer those prayers? In both cases, the kings pleaded that losing the battle would reflect badly on Jehovah’s name. (2 Chronicles 20:6-9; Isaiah 37:17-20) They were concerned about his reputation. “The ultimate object of prayer,” says The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “is not merely the good of the petitioner but the honor of God’s name.” Therefore, faithful servants of Jehovah can be sure that he will help them “for the sake of his name.” The record proving that such prayers have been answered gives God’s people confidence that he hears their prayers.—Psalm 91:14, 15; 106:8; Proverbs 18:10.
Even if a situation involves Jehovah’s name, however, God decides whether to answer certain prayers or not. He may have valid reasons not to answer some prayers. If we feel that our prayers are not being heard, it is good to consider why this may be the case.
Why Some Prayers Are Not Answered
“Even though you make many prayers, I am not listening,” Jehovah once told the Israelites. Pointing out the reason, he continued: “With bloodshed your very hands have become filled.” (Isaiah 1:15) How could anyone ignore Jehovah’s law and yet have an audience with him? A Bible proverb gives a clear answer, saying: “He that is turning his ear away from hearing the law—even his prayer is something detestable.”—Proverbs 28:9.
The Bible gives another reason why some prayers are not heard, when it says: “You do ask, and yet you do not receive, because you are asking for a wrong purpose, that you may expend it upon your cravings for sensual pleasure.” (James 4:3) No, Jehovah will not answer prayers for the satisfying of wrong desires. We must also remember that God is not taking orders from humans, so to speak. He is the One who decides how he will answer our prayers.
Sure to be answered are prayers that go to God out of a clean heart, with a proper motive, and in his appointed way—through Jesus Christ. (John 14:6, 14) But even those whose prayers meet such requirements have sometimes felt that they are not being heard. Why would God not immediately answer certain prayers of his servants?
Jehovah knows the best time to answer prayers. Though a boy asks for a bicycle, his father may not obtain one for him until the child is old enough to ride it safely. The same may be true with some prayers of those who love God. Knowing what is best for them, he grants what is needed at the most favorable time.
Yet, Jehovah’s servants do not get everything they may pray for. Being imperfect, they may desire some things that would not be good for them. Their loving heavenly Father would not give them anything harmful, for he is the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present.” (James 1:17) Similarly, God may not grant something that is not necessary from his standpoint. (Compare 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.) He answers prayers in harmony with his will and purpose for his people.—1 John 5:14, 15.
Jesus “Was Favorably Heard”
Jesus Christ was a man of prayer. (Matthew 6:9-13; John 17:1-26) He had full confidence that his heavenly Father would hear and answer his prayers. Jesus once said: “Father, . . . I knew that you always hear me.” (John 11:41, 42) But was Jesus not disappointed at the very end of his earthly course? Did he not then cry out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—Matthew 27:46.
When Jesus said those words, evidently he was fulfilling a prophecy concerning his death. (Psalm 22:1) In a qualified sense, Jesus could also have meant that Jehovah had removed his protection and let his Son die a painful and shameful death so as to test his integrity to the limit. An examination of the events on that final day of Jesus’ earthly life shows that God heard his prayers.
On the night of his arrest, Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Three times he pleaded: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me.” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44) Jesus was not reluctant to give his life as a ransom for believing mankind. No, but he apparently was deeply concerned about the possibility of dishonoring his dearly beloved Father by dying on a torture stake as a cursed blasphemer. Did Jehovah hear Jesus’ prayer?
Years later the apostle Paul wrote: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7; Luke 22:42, 44) Yes, on the agonizing night preceding his death, Jesus “was favorably heard.” But how?
Jehovah sent an angel who “appeared to [Jesus] and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) Thus strengthened, Jesus was able to face death on the torture stake. Apparently, Jehovah then gave him assurance that his death on the stake would not bring reproach on the divine name but would eventually be the very thing used to sanctify it. Indeed, Jesus’ death on the torture stake opened a way for Jews, who were otherwise cursed under the Law, to be saved from condemnation to death.—Galatians 3:11-13.
Three days later, Jehovah resurrected Jesus and cleared him of any possible charge of blasphemy by exalting him to a superior heavenly position. (Philippians 2:7-11) What a marvelous way to answer Jesus’ prayer concerning “this cup”! That prayer was answered in Jehovah’s way. And Jesus experienced wonderful blessings because he had told his heavenly Father: “Let, not my will, but yours take place.”—Luke 22:42.
How Jehovah Answers Prayers Today
Like Jesus, those seeking to please Jehovah today should always ask that God’s will take place. They need to have faith that Jehovah will answer their prayers in a way that will benefit them the most. In fact, he will ‘do more than superabundantly beyond all the things they ask or conceive.’—Ephesians 3:20.
A young Christian woman who lived with her unbelieving parents experienced the truthfulness of that scripture. In a letter from the Watch Tower Society, she was asked to consider prayerfully the possibility of accepting a special missionary assignment. Though her heartfelt desire was to stay at home to help her parents to become Christians, she asked God in prayer: “What is your will? Is it to accept this invitation regardless of my parents’ opposition, or is it to help my parents by continuing to live with them?” Every time she prayed, her conscience told her to accept the invitation. She decided that this was the answer from Jehovah.
God strengthened this woman to stick to her decision. When she was asked to move to Awaji Island, Japan, her parents were shocked and intensified their opposition. However, being unable to convince her to change her mind, her mother decided to study the Bible just to see why her daughter made such a decision. Three months later her parents visited her. Upon seeing how well she was taken care of by other Witnesses of Jehovah, her father was deeply impressed and wept when no one was around. Soon he also began to study the Bible. In time both parents of this young woman got baptized and began to serve Jehovah faithfully. Did Jehovah God not bless this Christian woman superabundantly?
Their Prayers Are Answered
Do you recall the words of the woman mentioned at the outset of the previous article? She had never felt the sensation of having her prayers answered. Yet, she later discerned that God was answering her prayers. The woman had kept a record of the essence of her prayers. One day she looked through the notebook and realized that Jehovah had heard most of her prayers, even the ones that she herself had forgotten! She thus knew that God was caring for her and answering her prayers in a tender way that benefited her the most.
If you feel that your prayers are not being answered, ask yourself: ‘Do I have a personal relationship with Jehovah, the “Hearer of prayer”? If not, am I taking steps to learn about him and become one of his dedicated servants?’ He answers the prayers of those who love him and do his will. They “persevere in prayer” and are favorably heard, as Jesus was. (Romans 12:12) So, “pour out your heart” to Jehovah and do his will. (Psalm 62:8) Then your prayers will be heard.
Today, millions of people are praying for something special. Yes, and their prayers are being heard. Let us see why we can be sure that such prayers will be answered.