How Do I Know God Hears My Prayers?

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. –1 John 5:14-15

How do we really know that God hears our prayers?

God’s answers to many of our prayers are a complete surprise. I think that is the reason we sometimes feel like he doesn’t hear us or care about us, or has abandoned us. We think we know what’s good for us, and when we pray, we expect him to respond to that particular request. But he works things out for our benefit, even when we can’t see it.

The best way I know to describe how we understand God’s answers to our prayers is that from God’s point of view, our prayers may seem painted in monotonous, boring shades of black and white, all shoved into a small box. It reminds me of the ticket dispensers at a European railway station. Scroll through, check the right boxes, put the correct change in the slot or swipe your credit card, and after a few whirrs, your ticket drops out into the bottom dispenser. You pick it up, well pleased with your efforts, and move forward.

But God isn’t like that. There are no 5 Easy Steps to get the answer you want. The Creator of the universe responds in brilliant strokes of vibrant colors and bedazzling patterns designed to reflect his glory and omnipotence. He is the God of the Impossible. It’s against this vivid and dynamic background that I would like you to consider your prayers and to recognize the way he has answered and answers them—in your favorite colors, tailor-made to help you understand that you are unique, his beloved child whom he created for the good purposes he has mapped out for your life.

The most interesting thing about God and the way he chooses to answer our prayers is that he loves the unexpected and the coincidental, even the humorous. He refuses to be predictable, except that we can predict with absolute certainty that he will be faithful and good. But we cannot tell exactly how he intends to answer our prayers, or when. He operates by plan, not by our wishes at the moment.

When we expect A, he often gives us B in such a roundabout way that we observe the great personality behind the answer. We shouldn’t be surprised at the highest intelligence in arranging and rearranging our circumstances so that we marvel at the complexity, and the ease, with which he brings his solutions to us. He wants us to know that it didn’t “just happen.” It came from a brilliant Designer in a way, and at a time, that makes us laugh at his obvious flair for the dramatic. Why would it be any other way? He is God, not the God of our quaint, homemade theologies, but the all-powerful, sovereign deity of the Bible.

What about when we pray, and get a clear, heartbreaking no from God? Maybe we have lost a loved one, or the bottom of our lives fell out from under us. What then? We can know that even in the midst of a bewildering, echoing no, we will still find ourselves secure in the hands of God. The Christian life teaches us that behind every no, there is a yes, if we wait for it. If something we want or ask for isn’t good for us, or if it drives us off course from his good will, God grants the no to our prayers just to keep us on course.

The whole world may be reeling from the confusion and crisis of our times, but there is nothing that confuses God, or takes him by surprise. The things that shatter our plans, that bring us down to ground zero and make us start over in life, are but new opportunities in the hands of our Creator. It’s time to celebrate God’s deliverance right now, before it occurs! Get rid of that mythology that tells you, “All is lost” or, “There’s no way out of this” or, “This is impossible!” And keep reminding yourself of these time-tested biblical truths:

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” –Matthew 19:26

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” –Ephesians 3:20–21

–Photo by Stefan Kunze on Unsplash

John I. Snyder
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And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything

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And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything