For a split second, I froze in surprise. For weeks, I’d been desperately praying for help. But I honestly hadn’t expected it because by then I’d stopped believing that God was listening. I’d only continued fervently praying because I didn’t know what else to do.
So when God suddenly answered me that night, I froze in surprise for that split second. Because both His answer and the way He answered took me completely off-guard.
But the moment I heard Him, the rightness of His answer settled into my heart. And peace washed over me like a comforting blanket. Then I knew exactly what I had to do.
So I opened my mouth and said the thing I’d been avoiding for five years.
“You’re right. We should break up.”
Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?
By that point, I’d been miserable in my beautiful but ill-fitting life for several years. I had a great job that I hated and was in a good-looking but toxic relationship.
Worse though, I felt distant from God because I’d prayed non-stop for Him to help me in all sorts of ways. And it seemed like all He did was stay silent.
Are you in the same boat? Drowning in a situation with no idea what to do next. Crying out to God for help because nothing else has worked. And getting crickets in response.
Who can blame you for wondering, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”
I sure wondered. And I came to all sorts of wrong conclusions. Maybe you have, too. Like thinking that you’re not special to Him after all. That maybe God doesn’t love you the way you thought He did.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:7 (ESV)
On top of that, God always answers your prayers. Always.
Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! Psalm 66:20 (ESV)
However, you may be deaf to His answer for any number of reasons. For example, maybe you’re ignoring it because it’s not what you want to hear, like, “No,” or “Not yet.” Or maybe you’re muting God through sin or seeking what’s outside of His will for you. No judgment if you are; I cluelessly did the same for years.
On the other hand, you may simply be missing God’s answer to your prayer because of His unexpected methods.
So let’s explore how God answers prayers, then you can start hearing His response.
4 signs that God is answering your prayers
Before we jump in, please know that God can answer your prayers however He wants. He’s the God of the universe; He’s not limited in any way.
However, these are 3 common ways in which God answers prayers. Plus 1 less common way, which we’ll leave for last.
1. He Answers Through Scripture
God always speaks through His word.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 (ESV)
Often when you’re praying about something specific, He’ll answer by repeatedly bringing similar scriptures to your attention.
For example, as I spiraled into feeling increasingly unworthy and unloved in my toxic relationship, I kept praying for my partner to love me. And God kept leading me to scriptures about true love.
He was showing me that I already had the love I was so desperately seeking from my partner…from God Himself. That I already had the love I needed in Him. But I read all of those scriptures He showed me and completely missed His answer.
God may answer your prayers through His word. But you need to stay sharp and listen if you’re going to hear it.
2. He Answers Through Desires
God may also answer your prayers by planting a desire in your heart. Or He may give you a vision or dream in answer to your request. Like He did for Cornelius, who was a God-fearing, praying man (Acts 10:1-2).
We don’t know what Cornelius prayed for specifically. But God certainly answered him.
About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. Acts 10:1-5 (ESV)
He can if He wants to, but God probably won’t answer your prayers with a dramatic angelic visitation. But the deep inner knowing He can give you is no less effective.
For example, as I prayed for God to quell my dissatisfaction in my hated corporate job, He answered by planting a deep desire in me. I stopped being motivated by the accolades and financial rewards of my job. Instead, more than anything I began wanting to do work that fundamentally changed people’s lives.
That new desire came directly from God in answer to my prayers; I knew that deep in my bones. I also knew that it was the only way that I’d get true satisfaction from my work.
A word of warning, though: Don’t mistake your desire for God’s will. Test it against God’s word, and if they don’t line up, the desire is from you, not from God.
3. He Answers Through Others
God may also answer your prayers through godly wisdom and counsel. Which you can only get if you seek it.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)
Again, check the counsel you receive against God’s word to make sure they line up.
If they don’t and you find yourself wondering which way to go, simply remember: God’s word always trumps any human counsel that goes against it. No matter how wise it seems.
4. He Answers Audibly
Less commonly, God can answer your prayers by speaking to you audibly. The way Jesus did with Saul on the Damascus road.
And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Acts 9:4, 7 (ESV)
This encounter radically changed Saul’s life. After it was over he became Paul, the main bearer of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
In my experience, any time God speaks to you audibly, you’re in for a big life pivot, like Saul-Paul. And like me.
This was exactly what froze me in surprise for a split second that night. After I’d desperately, repeatedly, futilely – I thought – prayed for weeks for God to solve my latest relationship problem, He went and caught me off-guard.
God unexpectedly answered my prayers smack in the middle of yet another agonizing encounter. As my partner carelessly threw out his ultimatum, “Maybe we should break up,” God audibly spoke to me from next to the window across the room.
Then in that split second after God answered me, I finally — thankfully — had the courage to listen to Him and accept His invitation to change my life forever.
That’s when I said, “You’re right. We should break up.” And God has kept His promise of radically changing my life forever.
God Answers Your Prayers In Many Ways
Know that God will answer your prayer, but He’ll do it in His timing. So it’s also your responsibility to keep praying, waiting, and seeking Him for that answer.
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25 (ESV)
It’s also your responsibility to learn to recognize His voice so you’ll know it when you hear it.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV)
So how does God answer prayers? In short: any way He wants to.
For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. Job 33:14
Learn to listen to Him and you’ll hear His answer when He gives it.