We must remember that answers to prayers will come in several ways from God:
1. There is a DIRECT answer.
Sometimes we pray for a specific request and it is answered at once, without any delay. It is very thrilling to see God respond instantly by granting our request that we had prayed about. All of us are full of joy when God answers our prayers in this way (James 1:5; 5:17; I Kings 18:36-38; Matthew 20:33, 34; Acts.9:40).
2. There is a DELAYED answer
God sometimes has the intention of granting our request, but delays the answer. God sometimes intentionally postpones answering our prayers to teach us patience and faith (James 1:4; Romans 4:21). God knows when it’s the best time to grant the request that we have prayed about. We should not become discouraged if our request is not granted at once (Luke 18:1-8; Matthew 15: 21-28; Rev. 6:9-11). We must allow God to work within His own sovereign timetable. He does everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
3. There is a DIFFERENT answer.
Because of unknown selfishness and short-sightedness, we are not always aware of what we really need. We may boldly ask for something; however, we might still unknowingly ask in a selfish manner. Therefore, God sometimes changes the way that He decides to answer the prayer that we offer up to Him. He has the right to do this as He did with the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Paul prayed three times for relief but God changed the answer to his prayer by giving him grace instead of relief. God can give us a different answer to our prayers. William Culbertson said, “Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!” The following words of an unknown author can put this in perspective.
I asked for strength but God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom but God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity but God gave me brawn and brain to work.
I asked for courage but God gave me dangers to overcome.
I asked for patience but God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.
I asked for love but God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favours but God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I had asked for but everything I hoped for.
My prayer has been answered.
4. There is a DENIED answer.
Nobody likes to recognize denial as an answer to prayer. God may decide to deny our request simply because it did not align with His will or purpose for our lives. Sometimes we may think that God does not answer our prayers when we pray to Him because He does not give us what we ask for. The fact of the matter is this, God did answer your prayer, you just missed the answer! God said, “No.” When God says “No” this is an answer to prayer (1 Kings 19:4). Elijah prayed that he would die, but his foolish request was denied. Other examples- Moses’ request (Deut. 3:23-26), Zebedee’s wife’s request (Matthew 20:21-23), Delivered man’s request (Mark 5:18-20).
Jesus prayed, “May this cup be taken from me.” He also prayed, “Your will be done.” It was the Father’s will that Jesus drink the cup of suffering for the sins of the world. Matthew 26:36-46. We must always be willing to accept God’s will. Someone once said: “I have lived to thank God that all my prayers have not been answered.” God knows what he is doing! “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jer. 29:11).