Bible Study

Getting Answers to Prayer

Michael Beck

God does not always answer prayer. Scripturally, this refers to the fact that God does not always “hear” prayer. Only requests that are honored with fulfillment can be called prayers that are “heard ” (i.e., answered.)

Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. (Psalm 143:1)

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me… (Psalm 27:7)

When prayer is heard on high definite, positive answers are granted on earth.

Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. (Isaiah 38:5)

When scripture declares that God will not hear prayer it does not mean His ears cannot hear, it means that He will not respond or answer the request being made.

Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear… (Isaiah 59:1, 2)

When our voice is heard on high, God “comes down” and “rewards” us with an answer to prayer. (By doing so He declares, “Here am I!”)

In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind…
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. (Psalms 18:6-10,20)

When God allows Himself to be found of those who pray to Him, He hears them, grants their request and gives them “a longed-for result,” (i.e., an expected end.)

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
And I will be found of you, saith the LORD… (Jeremiah 29:11-12,14)

Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! (Job 6:8)

The effectual fervent prayer is simply the prayer which works (i.e., it accomplishes what it set out to do.)

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. (James 5:16-18)

Receiving positive answers to prayer brings joy.

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:24)

Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me…
Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul…
Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.
In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me. (Psalms 86:1-7)

For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him …
And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. (1 Samuel 1:27; 2:1)

What is the purpose of the “chosen fast”?

The purpose of the chosen fast is to make one’s “voice to be heard on high.”

Ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. (Isaiah 58:4)

Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. (Isaiah 58:9)

What is the connection between fulfilling the chosen fast and being fed with the heritage of Jacob?

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58:14)

Jacob’s life was characterized by a stubborn commitment to obtain the blessing.
He was renamed Israel when he prevailed with God as well as with man.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:24-28)

The “heritage of Jacob” is answered prayer.

… By his strength he had power with God:
Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts (Hosea 12:3-5)


God has left us conditions which we must fulfill in order for Him to hear and answer our prayers.
If we do not fulfill these conditions He will “turn away our prayer.”


And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matthew 21:22)

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (James 1:6,7)

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith is the first requirement for answered prayer. The Bible declares that the man without faith cannot please God and should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. Unbelief calls God a liar.


I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. (Luke 11:8)

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint …
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? (Luke 18:1,7)

Christ gave two parables to emphasize the importance of stubborn persistence in prayer. In both these parables, positive responses to requests were dependent on such stubbornness. Christ warned that those who faint or give up in prayer will not receive the reward of answered prayer.


For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. (1 Peter 3:12)

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. (Proverbs 15:8)

He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. (Proverbs 28:9)

The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29)

And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:15-17)

Faith and diligent seeking are not enough to gain answers to prayer.
We may “make many prayers” but God will not hear us if we act unrighteously.
God requires that those who stand before Him to pray have clean hands. (see Psalm 24:4)
Prayers made by those who do wickedly are an abomination to God.
Although we are counted righteous through faith in Christ, God’s face cannot be toward us if we “do evil.”


If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me. (Psalms 66:18-20)

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God…
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (James 4:3,4,8)

If God is to draw near to us and say, “Hear I am!” we must not only have clean hands but a pure heart.
Our heart is the sanctuary of God and if we entertain idols in our heart, let alone with our eyes, God will not hear us; He will “turn away our prayer.”


And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (Matthew 6:5,6)

The Pharisees were more interested in being seen and heard by men than having God see and hear them. Jesus warned against such “spiritual exhibitionism.” He instructed His disciples to enter a private place (i.e., closet) and pray in secret if they wanted the reward of answered prayer. The Father who is “in secret” delights in those who pray for His ears and eyes only.

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.