Why Does God Answer Prayer?
Why Does God Answer Prayer?
Dr. David F. Ingrassia // 04.26.2016 // Charlotte Awake
Why does God answer prayer? It sounds like such an easy question, but it is one most difficult to answer. But when we begin to understand why He answers prayer, it can change completely how we pray.
THE MOST DIFFICULT QUESTION
Six-year-old Billy Shane wiped his nose, looked me straight in the eyes, and in a deep Texas drawl asked me a most difficult question. “How old is God?”
I was ready to handle this kindergarten lightweight. We locked eyes, careful not to flinch, as if in battle. I stared him down and replied in the best erudite tone of authority I could muster:
“Well, Billy Shane, your question is a category mistake. It’s a nonsensical question like, ‘What does blue taste like?’ You are mixing categories because you are asking a temporal question about a non-temporal, infinite, necessary Being who is outside of the time-space continuum.”
After a long silence, and without breaking stare, Billy Shane responded with that inescapable logic of a child, made all the more painful by the slow, measured drawl, “But how old is He?”
Clearly, I wasn’t making any headway…
“I’LL TAKE JONATHAN EDWARDS FOR $1,000,” Alex!
When we ask, why God answers prayer, we are faced with a similar response that taxes our minds. So, we turn again to America’s theologian Jonathan Edwards for insight, as church historian John D. Hanna explains:
“Thus, being and doing are interrelated so that God acts because his own nature compels it. God cannot be powerful and holy without exuding these characteristics; God acts primarily out of his own intrinsic interests to be glorified… God reveals his goodness because he is good; God reveals his power because he is powerful. In regard to the topic of this article, it may simply be stated that God is a prayer-answering God because he is glorified by answering prayers. Says Edwards, ‘This is the necessary consequence of his delighting in the glory of his nature, that he delights in the emanation and effulgence of it.’”
I am left wanting to ask, “But how old is He?”
The lesson here is that if “Jonathan Edwards” were a Jeopardy category, definitely go with the “Small Objects Beginning with ‘T’” category instead!
Putting Edwards into other words, “God answers prayer necessarily by His nature in order to bring Himself glory.”
But if you find yourself having to explain that to Billy Shane, try it this way, “God answers prayer because He wants to!” The beauty of God is that no one can really understand Him, but He does delight to make Himself known to kindergartners.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
God answers our prayers for His own sake, not primarily for ours. Sure, we are the beneficiaries of His divine favor, but the bottom line is that He desires to display His own glory by answering prayer.
That reality sits hard with self-focused humans who think that life is essentially our playground, and God is somehow “up there” to make sure we have smooth sailing through the many typhoons we face.
Essentially, God answers our prayers because it is in His nature to make His nature known. People sometimes say that God has three answers to prayer: (1) Yes, (2) No, and (3) Wait. But there is another option: (4) “I am not talking to you right now.” And because prayer is about Him, not us, God can, and does, sometimes remain silent for His own reasons.
We rest by faith that even when He is silent, He is still working for His own glory and for our good, because His nature is self-manifesting, and because He loves us.
It was obvious Billy Shane wasn’t buying my answer, so I switched gears to answer his question about God’s age.
“Well, Billy Shane, who is the oldest person you know?”
“How old is your papaw?”
——“Six thousand years old…” he said with the unflinching eyes of a gun-slinging poker player.
“Well, God is older than your papaw!”
——“Oh.” End of conversation, he turned away satisfied.
So, why does God answer prayer?
“BECAUSE HE WANTS TO.”
 Hannah, John D. 2016. “Jonathan Edwards’s thoughts on prayer.” Bibliotheca Sacra 173, no. 689: 80-96. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 11, 2016), p 87.