People have many ideas about what God is like. Some treat him like a vending machine. Every time you put in money, the vending machine returns an item. Since they never get what they want every time they pray for something, they conclude there is no God.
When God created the first human beings, he made them social creatures who naturally meet with fellow human beings to talk. Today we meet to talk about many things – sports, cars, television shows, celebrities, ourselves, events in our home, school, workplace, and so on. In his prayers in the Psalms, King David talked to God about many things. He gave his thoughts on the ungodly (Psalm 1:4-6), requested help (4:1), shared his sorrows (6:1-7), and worshiped (9:1-5). In prayer, we socialize with God.
So we learn that prayer is not just about asking God for things. God is not a vending machine or a Genie with several wishes to grant. He is a Father with a mind of his own. As you have learned, he does not grant every petition. My son loves to play police officer, spy, CIA agent, and other roles in the hero mold. He has a small armory of plastic weapons to help him pretend. But if he asks me for a working flame-thrower or bazooka, would I give it to him? He knows me well enough to ask within my will.
Then how do we get our prayers answered? The Bible tells us that God hears us and answers us: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
We ask according to his will. God has a purpose for us here, and he has graciously invited us to participate in that work. For example, God desires that I train up my family for the coming kingdom of God. Occasionally I ask him what I should be training my son for next. Whether two seconds or two days later, I am frequently delighted to get an answer, such as giving him more responsibilities, or relaxing a rule that no longer applies.
God’s great desire is that we enter into a relationship with him and get to know him. Direct your prayers to that end, with a follow-through of obeying the scriptures, and you’ll become more confident about your prayers.
What Do You Think?
a. If you do not answer someone’s question, does that mean you don’t exist?
b. Are there reasons why you would not want to answer certain questions? If so, could you give God the benefit of the doubt?