God Always Answers Prayers Perfectly
I have a friend from an extremely abusive family. His father was a monster. His childhood was filled with addiction, pain, and sexual and physical abuse. Despite this, my friend found faith as a young boy through the Sunday School he attended. God was the type of father he longed for so he accepted God readily. He was told God is loving and kind. He was told that God would protect him and take care of Him. This sounded great to a desperate hurting young child. So a simple relationship was born and my friend clung to God through the worst of times. Eventually, his home got so bad that he made a straightforward logical request to God. Since his father was evil and the source of all his pain and God would protect him, he prayed for God to kill the father that was hurting him. It was the simple yet heartfelt prayer. It is shocking to think about a little boy wanting his father dead but in the terrors and pain of such an environment, it makes a desperate sort of sense.
My friend also had great faith that God would answer his prayer. He had a child-like trust in God. He loved His heavenly father. God was all he had in life. He did not doubt God could and would do answer him. He even gave from his allowance at church. He checked all of the boxes that certain preachers put out there as the requirements to get our prayers answered. My friend had everything needed to get God to do what he wanted in prayer. He asked in faith certain that God would answer. Yet, God did not kill his father and the abuse continued. It eventually got so bad my friend resented God for not answering. God should have protected him! He deserved it. He trusted God. He gave money at church. He prayed all the time. Why did God not answer? This resulted in him turning way from God. “If God did not help him, God couldn’t be real”, he reasoned. Why didn’t God take his father out? Why did He not answer?
This is a question we often find ourselves asking as well. With my friend’s example an answer is obvious, but what about when we are praying for a good thing? We are interceding for the health of a loved one or the salvation of someone really lost. Or we are asking for money to pay piled up bills or open doors that are closed in ministry. When the prayers seem like they should be answered it is harder to see God working. When our judgment defines a clear right and wrong answer to a situation, it is difficult to submit to God and look for His answer…and the truth is there always is one. God always answers our prayers but He does so as a loving God, not as our servant.
The Father Answers in Love
God answers every single prayer that we offer to Him. Whether it is whispered in a moment as we run into an exam or said through tears over agonizing hours, God responds. His answer is always given from His perspective and not ours. God is a loving Father and every good and perfect gift comes from Him. “Good and perfect” are defined by His eternal knowledge rather than our temporary feelings. We see this laid out in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus speaks about prayer:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
If we read the first two verses in isolation, it seems like all we have to do is be persistent and God will give us anything. If I ask a thousand times for a Lamborgini and have faith God will provide it, one will show up in my driveway. Is this really what Jesus is saying? Consider 1 John 4:14:
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
and James 4:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
God’s Answer is Better than Our Question
The Bible says in these verses there are circumstances where we will ask and the answer will be “No”. This is when we are not in God’s will and when our prayers are motivated by our lusts like the Lamborgini example. But Jesus said ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened. How do we reconcile the two ideas?
How Much More will You Father in Heaven?
Jesus continues in the passage and makes the all-important comparison between God answering prayers and a Father answering the requests of their child. If we as fallen, limited men know how to properly answer the requests of our children, how much more will God “give good gifts” to His children.
Notice Jesus says good gifts and compares God answering with a Father answering a child. Good gifts are not dangerous gifts. They are not gifts that are going to hurt us needlessly. A human father never gives his children a pile of broken glass to play in no matter how many times they ask. It is simply not a gift a loving parent gives to their children. A parent gives their kids beneficial presents, those that bring joy, growth, and contentment. This is how God answers our prayers but better. He has perfect knowledge that spans eternity to guide His answer. Sometimes the answer must be “No” because God knows our request is not a good gift. It seems like one but is like giving a toddler a loaded weapon. A loving father would never do that.
God Protects Us
Love always protects even when the person is protected from themselves. An answered prayer to kill one’s father would have scarred my friend for life. It would have burdened him greatly. So God said “No” to a child He loves because answering otherwise would hurt him. God never leaves answering the prayer at just “No” though. He uses it, teaches and guides the person praying until their heart longs for what they should be praying for, the loving will of God.
After praying for his father’s death and losing faith when God did not strike him down, my friend went through some rough years. He struggled with addiction as he tried to drown the pain of his childhood. In his darkest moment, the remaining sparks of the faith that he clung to as a child ignited. It took hold and he returned to His awesome Father in Heaven after years of roaming. A wonderful relationship with God was born. (What does it Mean to Be Born Again) He began to see the mercy that God gave him as a child in saying no to his prayers. After walking with such a loving God for a time, God gave him gifts that the suffering child never could imagine. God even gave him a love for his earthly father and he began to pray for his father’s salvation. His heart began to line up with God’s will.
Over the decades that followed, my friend prayed unceasingly for his father’s soul. Each time the answer was “Not Yet” my friend learned to be patient, submit and trust God…wonderful gifts in their own right. He learned that his opinion on timing and outcomes was so limited compared to God’s. The result was my friend grew in the Lord in response to his prayers. The more he waited and trusted, the more he could see God working. God answered what was good and needed, not what he wanted.
Every Good and Perfect Gift Comes from God
God was not done with giving good gifts. Two weeks before God took my friend’s father home, he led his dad to Jesus. He saw the natural man filled with sin who abused him, tormented him and made his life hell pass away before his own eyes and become a new man in Jesus. A miracle of God was done in response to a child’s prayer. This was exactly the gift everyone needed. Father and son will now have an eternity in heaven together to make up for a short time lost.
God always answers our prayers. He always good gifts. The question for all of us is whether we trust His answer and His timing to be best. God heard the desperate cries of an abused little boy in my friend’s case. He knew the pain and the anguish. Jesus experienced the very same thing. He loves the little ones and promises justice against those who harm them. For more read, Jesus Really Loves the Children. But God knew that the salvation of both father and son and the redemption of their relationship was worth waiting for. It was better than striking down one sinner permanently and damaging his child in the process. Everyone was waiting for the Messiah in Israel when Jesus arrived. They were praying fervently for Him. God answered their prayers in a way that was so much better than their expectations. This is the heart of the heavenly Father we serve. He answers our prayers with better than we ask and greater than we deserve.
Do we trust our Father’s answer?