| Back to Home Page | Back to Book Index |

 

Answers to Prayer

 

Answers to Prayer

Two Christian men lived near each other. The first was a farmer. Since there had not been any rain for several weeks, the farmer got up one morning and prayed for rain, but there was no rain that day.

        His next-door neighbor was also up early, but he was praying that it would not rain, because he was taking an unsaved friend fishing that morning. There was no rain that day.

        God hears both requests, but he can’t answer both. He will do that which glorifies him the most.

 

Answer to Prayer

I asked for strength that I might achieve;

        He made me weak that I might obey.

        I asked for health that I might do great things;

        He gave me grace that I might do better things.

        I asked for riches that I might be happy;

        He gave me poverty that I might be wise.

        I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;

        He gave me weakness that I might feel a need of God.

        I asked for all things that I mi9ght enjoy life;

        He gave me life that I might enjoy all things.

        I received nothing I had asked for;

        He gave me all that I had hoped for.

 

Answered Prayer

A pastor in England told his young sons about a missionary who had gone from their church to far-off Sri Lanka.  He described the hardships she would experience and told how she would often encounter poisonous snakes.  Freddie, who was only 5, kept thinking about those dangerous reptiles.  That night during his bedtime prayer, his father heard him say in a quivering voice, "O dear God, please take care of Miss Price.  Keep her safe from those snakes."

The power of the child's intercessory prayer was soon demonstrated. For as the missionary was returning from a meeting one day, she saw lurking across her path a small but very deadly snake.  Within striking range and with its head raised, the serpent was poised for the attack.  Then suddenly it fled into the long grass.  How she thanked the Lord for her deliverance!  Some time later the mail brought this word from her pastor:  "Little Fred never forgets to pray for you.  Two Sundays ago he asked the Lord most earnestly to keep you from being harmed by the snakes!"  She discovered that it was the exact day she had almost been killed.

 

Unanswered Prayer

   Students at the university level are usually familiar with an experiment performed with chickens. A chicken is placed in a cage. On one side of the cage are two buttons, one red and the other green. Every time the chicken pecks the green button, a small amount of chicken feed comes out of a slot below the buttons. However, when the chicken pecks the red button, nothing comes out. The chicken soon learns the game and will repeatedly peck the green button to receive grain.

        The interesting thing is that if the experimenter reverses the effect of each button, the chicken eventually realizes that pecking the green button now does nothing, so it stops.

   How like chickens we are when we pray! When we turn to God to ask him for something and are not granted our request immediately, we stop praying about it. Why? Because we think of prayer as a supernatural button to press to get what we want. We forget that unanswered prayer is still heard by God, and so his silence is for a purpose. Perhaps he wishes to do more than supply our requests. Perhaps he wishes to draw us close to him, test the maturity of our faith, or force us to re-evaluate our request.

 

Unanswered Prayer

   A newborn baby cries frequently when he or she has needs, and the mother comes immediately, day or night, to fill those needs. Thus, children learn to cry when they want Mother’s presence. Later, Mother comes but does not pick up the child; she only softly says, “Hush, child, go back to sleep.” Later she may not even come every time the baby cries. Of course, the baby does not like this one bit, but the feelings of “abandonment” lesson as he or she learns that Mother will always come in the morning. In the process, all babies learn that they cannot manipulate a mother, especially one who distinguishes between her baby’s needs and wants.

   So it is with prayer. When we are young believers, God often answers our prayers quickly. Later, as we mature, he uses unanswered prayer as a means of teaching us to rely on him-he who know our real needs and who is always faithful.

 

Unanswered Prayer

   Let us not be like the man who was lost in the deep woods. Later, in describing the experience, he told how frightened he was and how he had prayed. “Did God answer your prayer?” someone asked. “Oh, no!” was the reply. “Before God had a chance, a guide came along and showed me the path.”

   Was the prayer really unanswered?

 

Unanswered Prayer

   Dr. Howard Hendricks tells of the time when he was a young man, before he was married. He was aware that certain mothers had set their caps for him on behalf of their daughters. One mother even said to him one day, “Howard, I just want you to know that I’m praying that you’ll be my son-in-law.”

   Dr. Hendricks always stops at that point in the story and says, very solemnly, “Have you ever thanked God for unanswered prayer?”

 

Unanswered Prayer

   George Muller wrote concerning his orphan ministry: “The funds are exhausted. We had been reduced so low as to be at the point of selling those things which could be spared…” Then a woman arrived who had been traveling four days, bringing with her sufficient funds for the orphanage. Muller and his co-workers had prayed those four days for something God had already answered.

        Under these circumstances, Muller made the following observation: “That the money had been so near the orphan house for several days without being given, is a plain proof that it was from the beginning in the heart of God to help us; but because he delights in the prayers of His children, he had allowed us to pray so long; also to try our faith, and to make the answer so much sweeter.”

 

Answers to Prayer

Two Christian men lived near each other. The first was a farmer. Since there had not been any rain for several weeks, the farmer got up one morning and prayed for rain, but there was no rain that day.

        His next-door neighbor was also up early, but he was praying that it would not rain, because he was taking an unsaved friend fishing that morning. There was no rain that day.

        God hears both requests, but he can’t answer both. He will do that which glorifies him the most. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Answer to Prayer

I asked for strength that I might achieve;

        He made me weak that I might obey.

        I asked for health that I might do great things;

        He gave me grace that I might do better things.

        I asked for riches that I might be happy;

        He gave me poverty that I might be wise.

        I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;

        He gave me weakness that I might feel a need of God.

        I asked for all things that I mi9ght enjoy life;

        He gave me life that I might enjoy all things.

        I received nothing I had asked for;

        He gave me all that I had hoped for.

── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Answered Prayer

A pastor in England told his young sons about a missionary who had gone from their church to far-off Sri Lanka.  He described the hardships she would experience and told how she would often encounter poisonous snakes.  Freddie, who was only 5, kept thinking about those dangerous reptiles.  That night during his bedtime prayer, his father heard him say in a quivering voice, "O dear God, please take care of Miss Price.  Keep her safe from those snakes."

The power of the child's intercessory prayer was soon demonstrated. For as the missionary was returning from a meeting one day, she saw lurking across her path a small but very deadly snake.  Within striking range and with its head raised, the serpent was poised for the attack.  Then suddenly it fled into the long grass.  How she thanked the Lord for her deliverance!  Some time later the mail brought this word from her pastor:  "Little Fred never forgets to pray for you.  Two Sundays ago he asked the Lord most earnestly to keep you from being harmed by the snakes!"  She discovered that it was the exact day she had almost been killed. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Unanswered Prayer

Students at the university level are usually familiar with an experiment performed with chickens. A chicken is placed in a cage. On one side of the cage are two buttons, one red and the other green. Every time the chicken pecks the green button, a small amount of chicken feed comes out of a slot below the buttons. However, when the chicken pecks the red button, nothing comes out. The chicken soon learns the game and will repeatedly peck the green button to receive grain.

        The interesting thing is that if the experimenter reverses the effect of each button, the chicken eventually realizes that pecking the green button now does nothing, so it stops.

   How like chickens we are when we pray! When we turn to God to ask him for something and are not granted our request immediately, we stop praying about it. Why? Because we think of prayer as a supernatural button to press to get what we want. We forget that unanswered prayer is still heard by God, and so his silence is for a purpose. Perhaps he wishes to do more than supply our requests. Perhaps he wishes to draw us close to him, test the maturity of our faith, or force us to re-evaluate our request. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Unanswered Prayer

A newborn baby cries frequently when he or she has needs, and the mother comes immediately, day or night, to fill those needs. Thus, children learn to cry when they want Mother’s presence. Later, Mother comes but does not pick up the child; she only softly says, “Hush, child, go back to sleep.” Later she may not even come every time the baby cries. Of course, the baby does not like this one bit, but the feelings of “abandonment” lesson as he or she learns that Mother will always come in the morning. In the process, all babies learn that they cannot manipulate a mother, especially one who distinguishes between her baby’s needs and wants.

         So it is with prayer. When we are young believers, God often answers our prayers quickly. Later, as we mature, he uses unanswered prayer as a means of teaching us to rely on him-he who know our real needs and who is always faithful. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Unanswered Prayer

Let us not be like the man who was lost in the deep woods. Later, in describing the experience, he told how frightened he was and how he had prayed. “Did God answer your prayer?” someone asked. “Oh, no!” was the reply. “Before God had a chance, a guide came along and showed me the path.”

         Was the prayer really unanswered? ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Unanswered Prayer

Dr. Howard Hendricks tells of the time when he was a young man, before he was married. He was aware that certain mothers had set their caps for him on behalf of their daughters. One mother even said to him one day, “Howard, I just want you to know that I’m praying that you’ll be my son-in-law.”

         Dr. Hendricks always stops at that point in the story and says, very solemnly, “Have you ever thanked God for unanswered prayer?” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Unanswered Prayer

George Muller wrote concerning his orphan ministry: “The funds are exhausted. We had been reduced so low as to be at the point of selling those things which could be spared…” Then a woman arrived who had been traveling four days, bringing with her sufficient funds for the orphanage. Muller and his co-workers had prayed those four days for something God had already answered.

        Under these circumstances, Muller made the following observation: “That the money had been so near the orphan house for several days without being given, is a plain proof that it was from the beginning in the heart of God to help us; but because he delights in the prayers of His children, he had allowed us to pray so long; also to try our faith, and to make the answer so much sweeter.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

PRAYER, answered

In his book Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee describes a preaching mission to an island off the South China coast. There were seven in the ministering group, including a sixteen-year-old new convert whom he calls Brother Wu. The island was fairly large, containing about 6,000 homes. Nee had a contact there, an old schoolmate of his who was headmaster of the village school, but he refused to house the group when he discovered they had come to preach the Gospel. Finally, they found lodging with a Chinese herbalist, who became their first convert. Preaching seemed quite fruitless on the island, and Nee discovered it was because of the dedication of the people there to an idol they called Ta-wang. They were convinced of his power because on the day of his festival and parade each year the weather was always near perfect.

"When is the procession this year?" young Wu asked a group that had gathered to hear them preach.

"It is fixed for January 11th at 8 in the morning," was the reply.

"Then," said the new convert, "I promise you that it will certainly rain on the 11th."

At that there was an outburst of cries from the crowd: "That is enough! We don't want to hear any more preaching. If there is rain on the 11th, then your God is God!"

Watchman Nee had been elsewhere in the village when this confrontation had taken place. Upon being informed about it, he saw that the situation was serious and called the group to prayer. On the morning of the 11th, there was not a cloud in the sky, but during grace for breakfast, sprinkles began to fall and these were followed by heavy rain. Worshipers of the idol Ta-wang were so upset that they placed it in a sedan chair and carried it outdoors, hoping this would stop the rain. Then the rain increased. After only a short distance, the carriers of the idol stumbled and fell, dropping the idol and fracturing its jaw and left arm.

A number of young people turned to Christ as a result of the rain coming in answer to prayer, but the elders of the village made divination and said that the wrong day had been chosen. The proper day of the procession, they said, should have been the 14th. When Nee and his friends heard this, they again went to prayer, asking for rain on the 14th and for clear days for preaching until then. That afternoon the sky cleared and on the good days that followed there were thirty converts. Of the crucial test day, Nee says: The 14th broke, another perfect day, and we had good meetings. As the evening approached we met again at the appointed hour. We quietly brought the matter to the Lord's remembrance. Not a minute late, His answer came with torrential rain and floods as before.

The power of the idol over the islanders was broken; the enemy was defeated. Believing prayer had brought a great victory. Conversions followed. And the impact upon the servants of God who had witnessed His power would continue to enrich their Christian service from that time on. 

Roger F. Campbell, You Can Win!, 1985, SP Publications, pp. 35-36.


While crossing the Atlantic on an oceanliner, F.B. Meyer was asked to address the first class passengers. At the captain's request he spoke on "Answered Prayer." An agnostic who was present at the service was asked by his friends, "What did you think of Dr. Meyer's sermon?" He answered, "I didn't believe a word of it." That afternoon Meyer went to speak to the steerage passengers. Many of the listeners at his morning address went along, including the agnostic, who claimed he just wanted to hear "what the babbler had to say." 

Before starting for the service, the agnostic put two oranges in his pocket. On his way he passed an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep. Her hands were open. In the spirit of fun, the agnostic put the two oranges in her outstretched palms. After the meeting, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. "You seem to be enjoying that orange," he remarked with a smile. "Yes, sir," she replied, "My Father is very good to me." "Your father? Surely your father can't be still alive!" "Praise God," she replied, "He is very much alive." "What do you mean?" pressed the agnostic. She explained, "I'll tell you, sir. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!" The agnostic was speechless. Later he was converted to Christ. Yes, praying in God's will brings an answer.

Our Daily Bread.


Just a tiny little child

Three years old,

And a mother with a heart

All of gold.

Often did that mother say,

Jesus hears us when we pray,

For He's never far away

And He always answers.

Now, that tiny little child

Had brown eyes,

And she wanted blue instead

Like blue skies.

For her mother's eyes were blue

Like forget-me-nots. She knew

All her mother said was true,

Jesus always answered.

So she prayed for two blue eyes,

Said "Good night,"

Went to sleep in deep content

And delight.

Woke up early, climbed a chair

By a mirror. Where, O where

Could the blue eyes be? Not there;

Jesus hadn't answered.

Hadn't answered her at all;

Never more

Could she pray; her eyes were brown

As before.

Did a little soft wind blow?

Came a whisper soft and low,

"Jesus answered. He said, No;

Isn't No an answer?"

Amy Carmichael.


While Josh McDowell was attending seminary in California, his father went Home to be with the Lord. His mother had died years earlier, but Josh was not sure of her salvation. He became depressed, thinking that she might be lost. Was she a Christian or not? The thought obsessed him. "Lord," he prayed, "somehow give me the answer so I can get back to normal. I've just got to know." It seemed like an impossible request.

Two days later, Josh drove out to the ocean. He walked to the end of a pier to be alone. There sat an old woman in a lawnchair, fishing. "Where's your home originally?" she asked.

"Michigan -- Union City," Josh replied. "Nobody's heard of it. I tell people it's a suburb of --" "Battle Creek," interrupted the woman. "I had a cousin from there. Did you know the McDowell family?" 

Stunned, Josh responded, "Yes, I'm Josh McDowell!" 

"I can't believe it," said the woman. "I'm a cousin to your mother." 

"Do you remember anything at all about my mother's spiritual life?" asked Josh. "Why sure -- your mom and I were just girls -- teenagers -- when a tent revival came to town. It was the fourth night -- we both went forward to accept Christ." 

"Praise God!" shouted Josh, startling the surrounding fishermen. 

Our Daily Bread.


James Gilmour, a missionary to Mongolia, was once asked to treat some wounded soldiers. Although he was not a doctor, he did have some knowledge of first aid, so he felt he could not refuse the request. He dressed the wounds of two of the men, but a third had a badly broken thigh bone. The missionary had no idea what to do for such an injury. Kneeling beside the man, he asked the Lord for help. He didn't know how God would answer his prayers, but he was confident that his need would be supplied. He couldn't find any books on physiology in the primitive hospital, and no doctor arrived. To complicate matters, a crowd of beggars came to him asking for money. He was deeply concerned about his patient, yet his heart went out to those ragged paupers.  Hurriedly he gave them a small gift, plus a few kind words of spiritual admonition. 

A moment later he stared in amazement at one weary beggar who had remained behind. The half-starved fellow was little more than a living skeleton. The missionary suddenly realized that the Lord had brought him a walking lesson in anatomy! He asked the elderly man if he might examine him. After carefully tracing the femur bone with his fingers to learn how to treat the soldier's broken leg, he returned to the patient and was able to set the fracture. Years afterward, Gilmour often related how God had provided him with a strange yet sufficient response to his earnest prayer. When we raise our petitions, we too can be certain that the Lord will help us -- even though the answer comes by way of those who "have no power." 

Our Daily Bread.


Dr. Helen Roseveare, missionary to Zaire, told the following story. "A mother at our mission station died after giving birth to a premature baby. We tried to improvise an incubator to keep the infant alive, but the only hot water bottle we had was beyond repair. So we asked the children to pray for the baby and for her sister. One of the girls responded, 'Dear God, please send a hot water bottle today. Tomorrow will be too late because by then the baby will be dead. And dear Lord, send a doll for the sister so she won't feel so lonely.' 

That afternoon a large package arrived from England. The children watched eagerly as we opened it. Much to their surprise, under some clothing was a hot water bottle! Immediately the girl who had prayed so earnestly started to dig deeper, exclaiming, 'If God sent that, I'm sure He also sent a doll!' And she was right! The heavenly Father knew in advance of that child's sincere requests, and 5 months earlier He had led a ladies' group to include both of those specific articles." 

Our Daily Bread.

PRAYER, unanswered

In October, 1983, I was painting Van and Juanita Clark's home. They had a small black dog who would go to the back door and bark and bark until someone finally got the message and let it out. One day I was there, painting the outside of the home, while everyone else was gone. Their little dog, however, took up his station at the back door and barked incessantly all day. The sad thing was that it never dawned in his little brain that all his barking was totally useless--no one was home to hear! 

Warren Wiersbe, Famous Unanswered Prayers.


Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say ungranted;

Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done;

The work began when first your prayer was uttered,

And God will finish what He has begun.

Though years have passed since then, do not despair;

His glory you shall see, sometime, somewhere.

Ophelia Adams.


Cable television mogul Ted Turner criticized fundamentalist Christianity and said Jesus probably would "be sick at his stomach" over the way his ideas have been "twisted," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Turner made his remarks Friday evening at a banquet in Orlando, Fla., where he was given an award by the American Humanist Association for his work on behalf of the environment and world peace. Turner said he had a strict Christian upbringing and at one time considered becoming a missionary. "I was saved seven or eight times," the newspaper quoted him as saying. But he said he became disenchanted with Christianity after his sister died, despite his prayers. Turner said the more he strayed from his faith, "the better I felt."

Spokesman-Review, May 1, 1990.


In his book Why Prayers are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.

When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn't taste good, but it made him feel very grown up. . . until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual. Desperate to divert his father's attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus.

"Can I go, Dad? Please, let's go when it comes to town."

His father's reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. "Son, he answered quietly but firmly, "never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience." 

Kirk Russel.


In an essay on prayer, C.S. Lewis suggested that God treats new Christians with a special kind of tenderness, much as a parent dotes on a newborn. He quotes an experienced Christian: "I have seen many striking answers to prayer and more than one that I thought miraculous. But they usually come at the beginning before conversion, or soon after it. As the Christian life proceeds, they tend to be rarer. The refusals, too, are not only more frequent; they become more unmistakable, more emphatic."

 At first glance, such a suggestion seems to have it all backward. Shouldn't faith become easier, not harder, as a Christian progresses? But, as Lewis points out, the New Testament gives two strong examples of unanswered prayers: Jesus pled three times for God to "Take this cup from me" and Paul begged God to cure the "thorn in my flesh." Lewis asks, "Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle." 

Quoted in Disappointment With God, Philip Yancey, Zondervan, p. 208.