Does God Answer Prayer?

By Wm. Avery McClure

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Every man has his own peculiar concept of prayer. Even the unbeliever talks about prayer, and in the hour when human assistance is of no avail, he will desperately call for aid from some one higher than himself. All men pray when they are afraid, when they are in the throes of agony, or when life is at stake. Death-bed experiences of professed infidels have demonstrated this. But prayer does not mean the same thing to every man. To one it means one thing; to another it means something else, It is certain that it cannot be to the New Thoughtist or the Christian Scientist. who believe in an impersonal God, what it is to the Christian who knows in Whom he has believed.

Prayer has been defined in various ways. Books abound with definitions suited to the notions of the authors. Definitions are easily coined, but alas how few are scripturally coined! We shall not attempt to give a definition of prayer—perhaps it will never be defined satisfactorily to every mind—but we want it clear when we speak of prayer that we do not mean, as one definition has it, “The concept that there is something somewhere in nature which, if it could be obtained, would satisfy desire and need.” Nor do we mean the petitions of the unregenerate and unbelieving made to an unknown and faraway God. An unbeliever can pray but one true prayer “the prayer for his soul's salvation. Neither do we mean, as another has defined it, “Intelligent communication between human beings concerning a thing desired or needed.’ We do mean the earnest, fervent, faith-filled petitions of the born-again soul presented to the Father in the holy name of Jesus. This is prayer, not pretense!

But what prayer is does not interest the most of us so much as the question which forms the title of this discussion—"Does God answer prayer?” In the prayer life there is no premium placed on intellectuality. A saintly soul without the ability to form definitions, but who gets his prayers answered, could stir half the world, while the intellectual skeptic, speculating in definitions, could not hold the interest of an ordinary Sunday-school class.

Dees it do any good to pray?

“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice” (Ps. 5527). It is not a vain thing to call upon the Lord. Venerable patriarchs of ancient days were not cast down when they put their trust in Jehovah. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee * * * " (Ps, 50:15). God will do exactly what He has said He will do, and will not suffer one promise to fail.

Abraham prayed that God would give him an heir and obtained a promise that he should have a son. “And behold the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen. 15:4). For many years it appeared as though God would not fulfill His promise. During the years Abraham's faith wavered, and Ishmael was born. Ishmael was not the Lord's man nor the answer to Abraham's prayer. He was the product of an anxious man’s sin and faithlessness. But God had not forgotten His word. Again Abraham besought the Lord and even begged that Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman, might find favor in His sight and live before Him. He ran far ahead of the Lord in proffering assistance thus, and his actions wrought confusion. How impatient he grew when his prayer was not answered immediately and in Abraham's way. But God required no help or assistance from Abraham. A miracle was wrought and Isaac, the heir, was born. God answered prayer.

Daniel was another who found Jehovah a prayer-answering God. It is obvious that he did not question the efficacy and value of prayer. Incarcerated in the. lion’s den, from every human point of view, his death was at hand. To whom could he look for assistance? What avenue of escape was open? There were no friends to help. Enemies had conspired against him; he was at the mercy of raging beasts. But Daniel was not afraid. He was neither alarmed nor frightened. Accustomed to praying, he committed his case into the hands of his Lord, and lions’ mouths were shut. To deliver him unharmed and unhurt was God’s reply. The king was astonished and caused the accusers of Daniel to perish in the den of lions. “The Lord worketh wonders in heaven and in earth.” God answered prayer.

“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that T have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (I Kings 19:36-37). Such was the prayer of the faithful Elijah as he stood before the people and the prophets of Baal. Half the day the heathen prophets had implored their god to consume the sacrifice and demonstrate his power. But no answer came; no fire appeared. As the record has it, “There was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded” (I Kings 18:29). O, the folly of calling upon a heathen god! The deceived prophets cut themselves with lancets until the blood gushed out upon them, but the god of Baal could not hear or act. ‘Then Elijah prayed to the true God,—the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Israel,— the God who answered Abraham's prayer,—the God who delivered Daniel from the lion's den. He knew to whom he prayed. “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18:38). All the people fell on their faces, and Elijah commanded that the false prophets be slain and not one allowed to escape. Glory was gotten for Jehovah God answered prayer.

These are but a few instances of answered prayer from the Old Testament, but they are enough to quell every doubt and forever assure the skeptic that our God is a God who hears and answers prayer.

God must answer prayer because He has promised to do so. His honor is involved. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (Jno. 14:13). A sweeping statement this. Thousands of Christians have proved it and know that it is true. The one condition is that we ask in my name, i. e., Jesus Name. We are not to come relying on our own merits, trusting our own good deeds, but relying solely upon His works, His merits. It is very clear. If we come in the name of any other than that of Jesus, the beloved Son, we have no promise and our petitions will never reach the throne of grace. Dr, Charles A. Blanchard who has given us a wealth of helpful thoughts and suggestions on the prayer subject in his “Getting Things From God,” tells the following incident which so clearly illustrates the truth we are trying to show here:

“It was during the Civil War and a gentleman in Indianapolis had an only son who enlisted in the armies of the Union. The father was a banker and though he consented to his son’s going, it seemed as if it would take his very life to have him go. He was ceaselessly interested in soldiers. Whenever he saw a uniform his heart went out to it. He thought of his boy. He spent his time, he neglected his business, he gave his money for raising companies or regiments, for caring for soldiers invalided home. At last his friends remonstrated. ‘They said to him: “There ought to be moderation in all things. You have no right to neglect your business in this manner.’ And he resolved that he would not spend so much time and thought upon soldiers,—that he would attend to his business and let the government take care of the boys in blue.

“After he had come to this decision, there stepped into his bank one day a private soldier in a faded, worn uniform, who showed in his face and hands the marks of the hospital. ‘The poor fellow was fumbling in his blouse to get something or other, when the banker saw him, and ‘perceiving his purpose, said to him: ‘My dear fellow, 1 cannot do anything for you today. I am extremely busy. You will have to go up to headquarters; the officers will look after you.’ Still the poor convalescent stood, not seeming fully to understand what was said to him. ’ Still he fumbled in his blouse, and by and by fished out a scrap of dirty paper, on which there were a few lines written in pencil, and this soiled sheet he laid before the banker. On it he found written these words: ‘Dear Father: ‘This is one of my comrades. He was wounded in our last fight and has been in the hospital. Please receive him as myself. Charlie.’ In a moment all the resolutions of indifference which this man had made flew away. He took the boy to his palatial home, put him into Charlie’s room, gave him Charlie's seat at the table, kept him until food and rest and love had brought him back to life, and then sent him back again to peril his life for the flag. ‘The boy asked in the name of the son, and the father responded to his request.”

God honors prayer that is made in the name of His Son. Just as the banker accepted the poor, worn-out soldier when he came in “Charlie's” name, so the Father accepts us when we come in the name of Jesus. We are so inclined to rely upon ourselves, to trust in material things, and not give ourselves over to Him. O, to trust Him, and prove Him, and see that God answers prayer!

“Don't stop praying, but have more trust.
Don't stop praying, for pray we must;
Faith will banish a mount of care;
Don't stop praying; God answers prayer.”