Maybe this is the response you often get when you are asking God for something. You’ve tried getting down on your knees, standing with your hands raised and falling down flat on your face. Sometimes you pray the words with more volume and passion. Still, it seems that God is not sending an answer your way. I’ve been there many times throughout my time following Jesus.
One of the first youth camps I went to was a big deal. They brought in a great worship band to set the atmosphere for seeking the presence of God. There was a fiery preacher with a fiery sermon. During the altar call, the lights were dimmed down and everyone around me was calling out to God. The preacher was praying for people. The band was performing one of those powerful worship songs. God was blessing everybody. Except me, of course. I returned to the camp dormitory, stared in the mirror and thought, “God has those things for other people, not me.”
When you experience things like that, it’s easy to think that you are the problem. You may start to think that God does not hear you or that he has an answer for everyone else except you. Thoughts of unworthiness can fill your head. God does not want to answer you because of that one sin you haven’t been able to stop doing. None of that is true.
Forget the negative thoughts, and start focusing on the following truths:
God does hear you.
God does have an answer for you.
Even though you are a sinner, you have access to the presence of God because of the work that Jesus accomplished on the cross.
Grabbing hold of these truths and believing them is not always easy. You must consistently correct your thinking to match God’s truth. You have to realize when untrue thoughts start to take over your thinking, and replace untruth with truth. Do this, and God’s truth will be written on your heart. Your beliefs will become aligned with the Word of God. If you find this process difficult, pray what the father of a suffering child prayed in Mark 9:24. “Help me overcome my unbelief!”
Maybe you already recognize the above statements as the truth. You know that God hears you. There’s only one problem; you still don’t have an answer from God. What gives? Is God holding back on you? It could be that God is answering you, but you are just unaware of the way that God is choosing to answer your prayer. That can be confusing. Is God trying to make it more difficult for you to get an answer by communicating in an obscure way? Not necessarily.
I firmly believe that God will answer those who sincerely seek him. God is faithful, and you will receive what you need. I do think, however, that sometimes we get overwhelmed by the anxiety and frustration of waiting for an answer that we overlook some of the ways God is speaking to us.
One of my favorite verses is Job 33:13-14. A young man by the name of Elihu jumps in on a dialogue between Job and his other three friends. He says, “Why do you complain to him (God) that he answers none of man’s words? For God does speak — now one way, now another — though man may not perceive it.” Have you been complaining that God doesn’t answer? According to Elihu, God speaks in many different ways, but “man may not perceive it.” God is answering your prayers, but you may not always perceive it right away. Gaining a better understanding of some of the ways God speaks can help you more readily perceive when he is speaking to you.
Here are some of the ways that God may communicate to you:
1) God speaks through the Bible
Surprisingly, the Bible is overlooked as an answer to prayer. There was a period in my life when I would regularly pray, “God speak to me!” Every time I would make that prayer a question would pop into my thoughts. “Have you been reading my Word?” God was telling me that I would find the answer to my prayers in the Bible.
God encourages and guides us through His Word. He answers prayers through the Word. I’ve even heard of people who decided to become missionaries because they read and took to heart Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” God provided direction for these missionaries through the Bible, and he can do the same for you.
2) God speaks through impressions
One of the best definitions that I’ve found for impressions comes from Pastor Rod Loy. He explains, “As I read, study, pray and talk to friends about the Lord, a thought sometimes breaks into my consciousness or I have a feeling about a person or an event. In those times, I sense that God wants me to do or say something and I need to obey.”¹ Impressions are thoughts and feelings that God places into our minds and hearts to nudge us to carry out a specific action.
If you are praying for guidance about a decision or help in a difficult situation, a thought about what you are supposed to do may pop into your mind. That’s what happened me to when the question, “Have you been reading my Word?” popped into my mind. That was an impression from God.
It’s easy to brush off an impression as something that came out of your own head. Take a leap of faith! Follow through on the impression. The results could turn out to be the answer to your prayers. I do have a word of caution. It is possible to confuse your own thoughts for an impression. As you build your relationship with God through prayer and reading the Bible, determining the difference between your own thoughts and impressions will become more straightforward.
3) God speaks through dreams and visions
All throughout the Bible, God speaks to his people through dreams and visions. There is no indication that this has stopped. God still speaks to people through dreams and visions today!
With humility, I want to share how God spoke to me through a dream. In the summer of 2012, I was at a rough spot in my life. I had been in a bad relationship for two years and just got out of it. At the time, I was in college studying music, but was unsure if I should continue down that path. All around I was at a loss about what to do with my life. I had been doing things my way, but I wanted God to be in control. I started praying to see if God would give me some direction for my life.
For the better part of the summer, it didn’t seem like God was listening. I got no answer. But something unexpected happened on a Sunday evening. I was at a church service, and I was falling asleep (haha). As I fell half asleep, I saw a verse reference, “John 14:15,” in my mind. When I snapped out of my sleep, I quickly grabbed a Bible and flipped to the verse. It read, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” I had been thinking of going to Bible school, and this dream confirmed to me that I should go. Three days later, I was in San Antonio, TX, studying to become a minister.
A dream that only lasted a few seconds changed my whole life. God can also answer your prayers with a dream or vision, but you must be patient. I prayed for a whole summer before God answered me.
4) God speaks through other people
1 Corinthians 12 teaches about people who have spiritual gifts called “word of knowledge” and “word of wisdom.” God gives these gifted individuals knowledge about something or someone that otherwise they would not have known. They then share this knowledge with the relevant person or people so that appropriate action can be taken.
Check out this gift in action in Acts 21:10-11. God revealed to a prophet, named Agabus, what would happen to the Apostle Paul in Jerusalem. Agabus approached Paul and said, “the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.” Paul was going to be captured and turned over to the authorities in Jerusalem. God revealed the information about this situation to Paul through Agabus. In this same way, God can answer your prayer about a specific situation through someone who has been given these prophetic gifts.
Be careful. Not everything that people pray over you is necessarily from God. Pray about it, and discuss it with an experienced Christian, such as a pastor, before taking action.
There is no way that I can cover all of the ways that God communicates to humans. He speaks in so many ways! As you are seeking an answer to your prayers, consider the following. Like at my first youth camp, there will be times when it seems like God isn’t answering. Like when God spoke to me through a dream, there will be times when it will be plainly evident that he is answering you. The best thing to do is trust that God will give you the answer you need when you need it.
What has been your experience with answered prayers? Share in the comments below!
1. Rod Loy, Immediate Obedience, (Springfield, Influence Resources), 66.