How We Know When God Has Answered Prayer - By the Spirit and Wisdom

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, September 3, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I believe that one of the most common sayings we have in the church today is “I need to pray about it”. It’s what we say when we think it’s what we’re supposed to say, when we have no other answer or solution, or when we just want to delay making a decision about it. Saying “let me pray about that” usually sounds a lot better than any of the statements of truth I just mentioned. Now, I’m not saying that prayer is ever a bad thing in any situation and I’m certainly not as cynical about it as it may appear. I’m simply sharing what most of us who have spent a lot of time in the church unfortunately already know - that prayer is often viewed and used as a substitute for action rather than its counterpart.

We are going through the book of Acts at my church right now, and I noticed something interesting last week when I was reading about how the leaders made a very important decision in the life and organization of the early church. In Acts 6:1-7, we see a new way that Satan tries to attack the church after his attempts with persecution, imprisonment, and internal corruption had failed. This time, he very subtly introduces church conflict. As the number of believers grew, so did the number of needs. In a very honest and innocent oversight, some of the Grecian widows were apparently being overlooked in the daily distribution of food and it gave those who spoke for them an occasion to complain.

The twelve apostles, who were the leaders of the church at the time, handled the potential conflict very well. Rather than argue or place blame, they recognized their oversight and the continued need to “wait on tables”, an expression used to describe this ministry task and several others. Realizing that God had called them to teach the Word and that their call should not be neglected, they called all the disciples together and told them to choose seven men “who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3). The group eventually chosen was seven Greek men, including Stephen. Later in the chapter, when some of the Pharisees were arguing with Stephen, we see that “they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke” (Acts 6:10).

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with knowing our prayers have been answered. Well, notice that the apostles didn’t ask the disciples to choose men who were known to be fantastic at praying. It was a given that, as believers in Jesus Christ, their lives would be guided by prayer. But rather than choose men who would hesitate to make even the slightest move without satisfying THEIR expectations for prayer, the command was to make sure the men were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom”. This would mean that they would be both spiritually-minded AND practical. The reason this is so important is that no man can fully know the mind of God. Therefore, we can’t always know exactly what his answer is in a given situation, even when we have done all the praying we can do. That’s where practicality comes into play. God doesn’t always work outside of our realm of possibility. Often, he works within our daily lives rather than in more “miraculous” ways. So, using our God-given minds (wisdom) to make decisions even when there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer from him is necessary. If someone has a need and you have an ability to meet it, it’s not always something you need to “stop and pray” about.

Stephen was not a preacher, but his wisdom and boldness in speaking about the gospel whenever possible was witnessed by Saul, a ruthless Pharisee bent on persecuting the church. Only God knows how this impacted Saul, who later converted to the Christian faith after seeing a vision of Jesus (Acts 9). Saul became “Paul”, the apostle who boldly spoke about Jesus to Jews and Gentiles alike, changing the entire world. You and I have been able to hear the gospel message in the United States of America because Paul first helped expand it. That means that Stephen, who was chosen because of what he was known for and not by prayer and waiting for God to decide, changed the world because of the Holy Spirit and wisdom in his life.

Being full of the Spirit and wisdom also allows, and I dare say forces, us to move forward even when God has not answered a prayer in the manner we would like. Take a look at 2 Samuel 12:13-23. King David’s sins involving Uriah the Hittite and his wife Bathsheba have just been exposed, and now David has to face the consequence. God tells him through the prophet Nathan that his child with Bathsheba will die (v. 14). David already had the answer to the prayer request he was about to make, but because he knew that God was always in control and could change his mind if he wanted, David prayed anyway. We see that he fasted and also “pleaded with God for the child” (v. 16). While God does not spare the child’s life, David is able to move forward knowing that the prayer had been answered with a “no”. I’m not suggesting he wasn’t grieving, or that he wasn’t ashamed of what he had done and the destruction he had caused. But it is clear that he had some communication with the Spirit during his time of fasting and pleading and also that his wisdom allowed him to be practical in the darkest time of his life. We see that he worshipped in the house of the Lord and also began to eat again (v. 20). This means he knew that God was still God no matter what, but also that it was time to get back to practical life where human beings need food. Continuing to pray for the child to be resurrected after God had answered his requests would have been impractical. In v. 22-23, David even explains to the servants, who are shocked by his behavior, that it’s time to accept the answer God has given and move forward. The fact that he didn’t get what HE wanted was irrelevant.

Are you wondering if God has answered your prayer for something important in your life right now? I encourage you to use the wisdom he has given you. Then you have to be honest with yourself. Is it that you see no evidence of an answer whatsoever, or is it that you don’t like the answer you know he has given so you are waiting for him to change his mind? Prayer is not about bending God to our will, but about him molding us to HIS. Conversation with the Spirit is important and his guidance is never a bad thing. But sometimes he guides us practically and we must be willing to go with it. Even when we don’t want to accept the answer, we can be sure that he knows what is best. The sooner we follow the answer he has given, the better off we’ll be.