Yes, God answers prayers. And, He answers them with a "Yes" when our prayers line up with His will (1 John 5:14–15). But God is not a cosmic Santa Clause who grants our every wish.
What God desires more than anything is a relationship with people. When we get to know God through His Word, prayer, His people, and the circumstances He allows in our lives, we will understand Him better and learn to be in league with His work in our lives.
We see men and women lined up with God's purposes throughout the Bible—sometimes with their knowledge and understanding and sometimes not.
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit directs Christians in many circumstances. In one of the first statements of its kind in history, church leaders acknowledge a sort of partnership with God in dealing with questions about the church in Acts 15:28: "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements."
God listens to all our prayers (Matthew 7:7) and does not ignore His followers (Luke 18:1–8). God actively helps us with our prayers to Him. Romans 8:26–27 says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
Our prayers are best when they end with God receiving honor and glory. Jesus taught us to pray through the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2–4) which begins by honoring God, then asking that His will be done, for Him to provide us with our daily needs, and to help us with our relationship with others and with Him.
God is likely to grant our prayers when they line up with His desires for us, and to deny granting our prayers when that would harm us or our relationship with Him. We trust Him to know the difference.
God seems to answer "yes," "no," or "wait" to most prayers.
In 1 Samuel, God answers Hannah's prayer to have a child. Daniels prayers to live are answered, but Stephen was martyred. In John 11, Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus is not healed by Jesus. Later, though, Jesus raises him from the dead. There seemed to be a "no" or "wait" to the sisters' prayers in this instance.
When we grow in our relationship with God, we know Him better and our prayers become more in line with His will. When we understand His will and He answers our prayers with "yes" we can be sure we are praying in His will (John 14:13).
In all our prayers, we must remember to Whom we pray: the all-powerful God of the universe who knows us because He created us and who knows, even more than we, what is best for us.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" (Proverbs 3:5–6).
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