Paul tells us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Why? Because we’re in a relationship with God, and relationships involve communicating. We pray to have a deeper relationship with our Creator. We pray to express our feelings: sorrow and disappointment, thankfulness and joy. We pray to share with him our struggles and our doubts. And we pray to become more like Jesus.
Sometimes we assume prayer is all about getting our wishes granted—like rubbing a magic lamp. Sure, prayer can prompt God to intervene—even miraculously—but not all prayers will be instantly answered exactly the way we want. But they will be answered.
When discussing hardship and prayer, the book of James reveals that the ultimate answer to every prayer is coming: Jesus will return to correct every wrong (James 5:7-9). That’s why, tucked in one of the last verses of the Bible, we find this prayer: Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20). With Jesus’ return, every legitimate prayer will be answered. It wouldn’t be wrong to think of it like this: Prayers answered now, before Jesus returns, are prayers answered “early”—before God’s big, final answer.
While we may be tempted to ask, “Does God answer prayer?” the real question should be, “How can I connect with the mysterious and wonderful purposes of God until the final answer comes?” The answer to that question: Pray and keep praying.
Can I Ask God for Things I Want?
God wants us to be honest and straightforward about our wants and needs when we talk to him. But that doesn’t mean prayer is a magic lamp that gives us whatever we want. Instead, prayer is communicating with God, sharing with him and hearing from him. Prayer is about moving our desires closer to God’s. So is it okay to pray for what we want? Yes—as long as we remember that God’s desires for us may be far different than what we want or expect. His will should always be our top priority. The good news is that God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). So we can trust his decisions.
The Bible teaches us to always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1). This is exactly what Hannah did. She was unable to have children. In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly (1 Samuel 1:10). Her passionate prayer for a son caused the priest Eli to think she was drunk. The Bible never says a certain method is best for prayer (silent, loud, kneeling, standing), but as Hannah moved her lips in silent prayer, it may have been uncustomary—or weird—for that culture or time.
In addition to praying passionately and persistently, Hannah also gave all credit to God. She recognized it was only by his power that she would have a son, and she promised to remember that by dedicating him to the Lord. She kept her promise. She names her boy Samuel—which is similar to the Hebrew phrase for “I asked God for him.”
If I Love God, Why Doesn’t He Answer My Prayers?
Sometimes it seems like our prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling. But what we feel isn’t always what’s true.
The Bible teaches us that God does answer our prayers (Psalm 91:15; John 16:24). But there are a few things we need to remember: God’s answer may not be what we were hoping for. His answer sometimes is simply “no” or “wait.” And his answer might be something we’ll never completely understand. But his answer is always the best answer. He loves us dearly, and his answers are always what we need—even if they’re not necessarily what we want.
Yes, prayer is a time to be honest with God about what we want. But it’s also a time for us to recognize who’s really in control. And it’s a time to ask God to help us understand—and accept—what he brings to our lives.
The bottom line: To have an effective prayer life, we need to put God first. If we’re doing that, God will hear our prayers and answer them with our greatest good in mind.
Suggestions if you’re in a prayer rut:
1. Journal your prayers. Like the psalm writers, write out questions, heartaches and struggles—not just your requests. Don’t forget to journal praises too.
2. Take a prayer walk. Walk around your neighborhood and pray for the family in each home you pass.
3. Pray over the news. When you read or hear about a troubling or tragic event, pray for the people involved.
4. Be quiet. If prayer is a conversation (which it is!), then you also need to listen in silence. As you listen, expect God to tug at your heart, stir your conscience or help you realize something you need to do or change.
Article drawn from the Quest Study Bible for Teens.
The NIV Quest Study Bible for Teens answers the most common – and uncommon – questions teens have about the Bible including how God’s Word fits with their lives, their struggles and their world. Learn More