For reasons we may never know God sometimes allows us to trek through periods of life where we may wonder if our prayers are even permeating the ceiling much less reaching His ears. We pray and pray yet the answer or guidance we so desperately seek elude us. In those moments doubts and questions flow freely. Is God listening? Have I angered Him in some way? Is there sin in my life that severed our fellowship? Is my request selfish or completely out of His will? Keep reading and together we may find some encouragement through several of God’s explicit promises listed at the end. But first join me in looking at an example of a group who struggled with answer-less prayer.
Elijah (1 Kings 18) lived in a day where Israel’s choices led them further and further into depravity. God sent the prophet to draw the people to a decision point and that placed Elijah into a public confrontation with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Elijah proposed a contest to see whose God was real, and the people agreed that his plan had merit. Sadly, they had reached a spiritual shallowness where certainty over God, His expectations and power, were no longer realities.
The contest was simple. Each team would choose a sacrifice, prepare it on an altar then call on their god to answer with fire. The first God to send that fire would be declared the winner. In the spirit of sportsmanship Elijah invited his opponents to go first.
Four grueling hours of intense prayer coupled with leaping about the altar yielded nothing but hoarse voices and tired bodies. They prayed, “O, Baal, answer us!” But no one answered.
Elijah took the opportunity to do a little spiritual trash-talking as we used to do in sporting events. He suggested Baal might be on a vacation or asleep. He urged the men, “Louder!”
Baal’s prophets shouted and cut themselves with swords and lances to capture Baal’s attention. They raved through the afternoon and into the evening with desperation on display for all to see. Scripture records (1 Kings 18:29), “…but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.”
The prophets of Baal had faith, but their faith was misplaced. Theirs was a faith in a nonexistent and therefore impotent entity. The characteristics of idols and those who worship them can be found in Psalm 115:4-8, Isaiah 44:9-20, and Jeremiah 10:1-10.
Elijah took his turn, repaired the altar, prepared the sacrifice and prayed. God answered the prophet’s prayer in a dramatic fashion which left no doubt as to His identity as the one and only God. The people chanted (1 Kings 18:39), “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God!”
We may be tempted to wish that God answered each of our prayers in a similar fashion. As our faith grows deeper we learn that His answers are often subtle, even easy to miss if we’re occupied elsewhere. His answers may come on a timetable that astounds our logic, but God is never late. He’s always on time and delivers the answer that fits His plan. In those times of delay I need to reacquaint myself with His character and His promises.
This collection of encouraging verses is taken from chapter 8 of Appropriate God’s Promises, an e-book offered free to subscribers of the NicholsNotes Blog. These are the reminders we may need when the questions from the first paragraph intrude on our thoughts.
I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.
In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You, For You will answer me.
“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
“In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
1 John 5:14-15
Believers, the phrase “No one answered” will never be the response to our prayers.