Does God Always Answer Prayer? By A.W. Tozer

 Does God Always Answer Prayer? by A.W.Tozer

CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION, the cultivation of a psychology of uncritical
belief is not an unqualified good, and if carried too far it may be a
positive evil. The whole world has been booby-trapped by the devil, and the
deadliest trap of all is the religious one. Error never looks so innocent as
when it is found in the sanctuary.

One field where harmless-looking but deadly traps appear in great profusion
is the field of prayer. There are more sweet notions about prayer than could
be contained in a large book, all of them wrong and all highly injurious to
the souls of men.

I think of one such false notion that is found often in pleasant places
consorting smilingly with other notions of unquestionable orthodoxy. It is
that God always answers prayer.

This error appears among the saints as a kind of all-purpose philosophic
therapy to prevent any disappointed Christian from suffering too great a
shock when it becomes evident to him that his prayer expectations are not
being fulfilled. It is explained that God always answers prayer, either by
saying Yes or by saying No, or by substituting something else for the
desired favor.

Now, it would be hard to invent a neater trick than this to save face for
the petitioner whose requests have been rejected for non-obedience. Thus
when a prayer is not answered he has but to smile brightly and explain, "God
said No." It is all so very comfortable. His wobbly faith is saved from
confusion and his conscience is permitted to lie undisturbed. But I wonder
if it is honest.

To receive an answer to prayer as the Bible uses the term and as Christians
have understood it historically, two elements must be. present: (1) A
clear-cut request made to God for a specific favor. (2) A clear-cut granting
of that favor by God in answer to the request. There must be no semantic
twisting, no changing of labels, no altering of the map during the journey
to help the embarrassed tourist to find himself.

When we go to God with a request that He modify the existing situation for
us, that is, that He answer prayer, there are two conditions that we must
meet: (1) We must pray in the will of God and (2) we must be on what
old-fashioned Christians often call "praying ground"; that is, we must be
living lives pleasing to God.

It is futile to beg God to act contrary to His revealed purposes. To pray
with confidence the petitioner must be certain that his request falls within
the broad will of God for His people.

The second condition is also vitally important. God has not placed Himself
under obligation to honor the requests of worldly, carnal or disobedient
Christians. He hears and answers the prayers only of those who walk in His
way. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward
God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his
commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight . . . . If
ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it
shall be done unto you" (I John 3:21, 22; John 15:7).

God wants us to pray and He wants to answer our prayers, but He makes our
use of prayer as a privilege to commingle with His use of prayer as a
discipline. To receive answers to prayer we must meet God's terms. If we
neglect His commandments our petitions will not be honored. He will alter
situations only at the request of obedient and humble souls.

The God-always-answers-prayer sophistry leaves the praying man without
discipline. By the exercise of this bit of smooth casuistry he ignores the
necessity to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, and
actually takes God's flat refusal to answer his prayer as the very answer
itself. Of course such a man will not grow in holiness; he will never learn
how to wrestle and wait; he will never know correction; he will not hear the
voice of God calling him forward; he will never arrive at the place where he
is morally and spiritually fit to have his prayers answered. His wrong
philosophy has ruined him.

That is why I turn aside to expose the bit of bad theology upon which his
bad philosophy is founded. The man who accepts it never knows where he
stands; he never knows whether or not he has true faith, for if his request
is not granted he avoids the implication by the simple dodge of declaring
that God switched the whole thing around and gave him something else. He
will not allow himself to shoot at a target, so he cannot tell how good or
how bad a marksman he is.

Of certain persons James says plainly: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye
ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." From that brief sentence
we may learn that God refuses some requests because they who make them are
not morally worthy to receive the answer. But this means nothing to the one
who has been seduced into the belief that God always answers prayer. When
such a man asks and receives not he passes his hand over the hat and comes
up with the answer in some other form. One thing he clings to with great
tenacity: God never turns anyone away, but invariably grants every request.

The truth is that God always answers the prayer that accords with His will
as revealed in the Scriptures, provided the one who prays is obedient and
trustful. Further than this we dare not go.

(From "Man, the dwelling place of God, by A.W.Tozer")