Have you ever prayed for something repeatedly, but felt like your prayers went unanswered? Many believers struggle to understand why God says yes to some requests but not others. Discerning the will of God can be confusing at times.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: God always answers prayer according to His perfect will and timing. What may seem like unanswered prayer is often God saying “wait” or “I have something better planned.”
Understanding how God communicates His will helps align our requests with His purposes.
In this article, we’ll explore principles from Scripture to understand how God reveals His will, how to pray effectively according to His will, and how to trust God’s timing when His answers don’t seem to come.
Principles for Discerning God’s Will from Scripture
God’s Will Is Revealed in His Word
The Bible is our primary source for understanding God’s will. Through studying Scripture, we learn God’s character, promises, and commands (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we renew our minds with God’s truth, we gain wisdom for applying biblical principles to decisions (Romans 12:2).
Consulting the Bible should be a first step when seeking God’s will.
For example, when considering a potential spouse, we can assess their character and beliefs against biblical standards for marriage. Scripture outlines godly qualities to look for in a partner like faithfulness, gentleness, and spiritual maturity (1 Corinthians 13:4-6; 2 Corinthians 6:14).
God’s Word equips us to make wise romantic choices.
Praying in God’s Will Aligns Us with His Purposes
Prayer helps us actively seek and submit to God’s will rather than passively waiting for signs. As we present our requests to God, we can pray strategically according to His will. For instance, we can ask for wisdom to understand His will, strength to obey it, and discernment to apply it (James 1:5; Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 1:9-10).
Specific prayers actually shape our motives and desires around God’s. As we delight in the Lord, He gives us the longings of our hearts when they align with His perfect will (Psalm 37:4). Our job is to continually offer our petitions and defer to His higher purposes.
God Affirms His Will Through Spiritual Wisdom and Community
In addition to Scripture and prayer, God often provides confirmation of His will through spiritual wisdom. As we walk closely with Jesus, abiding in Him through the Spirit, He grants supernatural insight for decision making (John 15:7; Ephesians 1:17-19).
The Holy Spirit produces in us discernment, conviction, and peace regarding God’s will.
Godly counsel from pastors and mature believers adds another layer of wisdom. Sharing fellowship, accountability, and feedback with other Christians helps test our perception of God’s leading (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). They can provide objective perspective and raise considerations we overlook.
However, human counsel should align with God’s Word – it should never contradict or compromise biblical truth. Scripture remains our ultimate authority and standard.
How God Says ‘Yes’ to Our Prayers
God Answers Prayers That Align with His Nature and Promises
God is faithful and always keeps His promises. When we pray according to God’s will and character, aligning our requests with His nature and promises in Scripture, we can trust that He will answer (1 John 5:14).
For example, we can confidently ask God to provide, protect, and guide us, knowing these prayers align with His compassionate heart and promises in His Word (Psalm 23:1, Philippians 4:19).
God Grants Requests That Further His Kingdom Purposes
God’s ultimate purpose is to bring glory to Himself by redeeming humanity and establishing His eternal Kingdom. When we pray for things that align with God’s heart for the lost, the poor, the marginalized, and the broken, He is eager to act (Matthew 6:10).
For instance, prayers for open doors to share the gospel and resources to help the needy are near to God’s heart. As we participate in His mission, we will see more and more prayers answered with a resounding “yes!”
God Affirms Prayers Offered Persistently in Faith
God encourages His children to persistently bring their requests to Him in faith (Luke 18:1-8). Although God sometimes makes us wait for an answer, as we patiently trust Him, He affirms our faith. For example, Hannah prayed earnestly for a child and God finally answered her prayer.
When we pray persistently about concerns weighing heavily on our hearts, we can have confidence that God hears and will respond in His timing.
When God Seems to Say ‘Wait’ or ‘No’
God’s Timing Is Perfect, Though Not Always Our Preferred Timing
We all pray earnestly for certain outcomes in life, yet God’s response is not always what we hoped for. As Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
Though challenging, waiting on God’s timing cultivates patience and spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4). Research shows that over 75% of Americans have experienced unanswered prayers regarding relationships, health issues, or career moves.
God sees the full picture while we see only a fragment (1 Corinthians 13:12). He knows what lies ahead – dangers unseen, better opportunities we cannot anticipate. Though we wish for good things now, God’s perfect timing and higher perspective may dictate a period of patient waiting and trust.
As God told habakkuk, “For the revelation awaits an appointed time…Though it linger, wait for it” (Habakkuk 2:3).
God May Have a Better Plan Than Our Request
Human wisdom and desires often differ from God’s wise, loving plan for our lives (Isaiah 55:8-9). When we ask for a specific thing – a job, relationship, healing – God may have something far greater in store, if only we patiently walk in faith.
Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise of a son, striving in their own effort to produce an heir. But God’s timing and purposes exceeded their expectations with the miraculous birth of Isaac (Genesis 21:1-3).
|Of Christians say “unanswered” prayers were later followed by unexpected blessings from God that exceeded their hopes.
|Have seen prayers answered by God years after first requesting them.
Though mysterious in the moment, God’s apparent “delays” or denials of our requests give way in time to wondrous manifestations of His grace and goodness (Psalm 84:11).
God Builds Spiritual Maturity and Trust Through Patient Waiting
Waiting is perhaps God’s most common invitation to deeper trust and spiritual growth. Those eager for instant answers neglect the refining work God accomplishes in seasons of patience and uncertainty. As we bring our cares and petitions to God day after day without clear resolution, we gain strength by relying wholly on Him (Isaiah 40:29-31).
We walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Studies show that Black Americans exhibit the highest levels of religious commitment despite facing substantial adversity and injustice. Their remarkable spiritual resilience demonstrates that patient hope sustains and rewards those who wait on the Lord.
Though confusing in the moment, unrealized prayers and indefinite wait times build our capacity to cling to God. We gain an eternal perspective, loosening our grip on earthly outcomes. With childlike trust, we rest knowing that “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).
Trusting God’s Will, Even Without Clear Answers
God Is Sovereign and Knows What Is Best
We may not always understand God’s ways, but we can trust that He is all-knowing and sovereign over everything. As Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Even when life feels out of control, we can find comfort knowing that God is ultimately in control.
As believers, our role is to continue trusting and obeying God even when we have unanswered questions. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We can pray for wisdom and discernment to know God’s will in unclear situations (James 1:5). We can seek godly counsel from mature believers.
But at the end of the day, we must submit to God’s sovereign plan and timing, believing that He will work all things for our good and His glory.
God Works All Things for Our Good and His Glory
God promises in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This includes the confusing times when God’s purposes are unclear and His ways seem mysterious.
We may not recognize how He is working during difficulties, but we can trust His character and His promise to ultimately work out everything for our benefit.
God’s ultimate goal is not just to resolve our challenges, but to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and to bring glory to Himself. He uses all of our experiences – positive and negative – to transform us. As we submit to His will, He refines our character and draws us closer to Himself.
He also displays His grace and power most brilliantly through our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Our Role Is to Persevere in Faith and Obedience
When we face unclear circumstances, our responsibility is to continue walking in faithful obedience to God’s revealed will. We are called to persevere indoing good and trusting God, even when life feels confusing and His purposes are veiled.
As Hebrews 10:36 encourages, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.“
Practically, this means we keep reading God’s Word, praying, worshiping, serving and doing the next right thing He puts in front of us. We can rest in the truth that God will reveal more of His will and ways in His perfect timing.
Our job is not to demand answers from God, but to submit to His sovereignty and rely on His grace which is sufficient for us in all things (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Understanding principles of God’s will equips us to pray with greater wisdom and alignment with His purposes. While unanswered prayer can be confusing and frustrating at times, we can trust God’s infinite love, wisdom and sovereignty.
When we persevere in faith through seasons of unclear answers, God shapes our character and draws us closer to Himself. Though His will is not always easy to discern, we can rest in the truth that He will order all things for our ultimate good and His glory.