In the book of Matthew, Jesus promised, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (7:7-8). Within this passage is the key to answered prayer: God responds when His children seek His face with perseverance and confidence.
What did Jesus mean when He told His followers to “seek” and “knock”? He was inviting us as believers to approach the Father freely with our petitions, fully expecting Him to provide all we need. However, He never promised that every door would open immediately.
On the contrary, the Greek verbs translated “seek” and “knock” can also be translated as “knock, and keep on knocking” and “seek, and keep on seeking.” In other words, perseverance is a vital aspect of answered prayer. Some of the gifts God has for us come only after long seasons of waiting and praying.
It’s important to understand that the Father always responds to our prayers—but those answers can take one of three forms:
He may say, “yes,” immediately or within a short period of time. This helps motivate us to know and trust Him more. By responding quickly to our prayers, God opens our eyes to how faithful He’ll be with other needs brought before Him.
He may say, “wait.” We may be asking for the right thing but aren’t quite prepared for His answer. He may be quietly arranging the circumstances before granting our request. Whenever you sense that the Lord is saying, “wait,” take a look within yourself. Ask Him to reveal any wrong motives or incorrect perspectives that might be contributing to the delay (James 4:3). God is always faithful to let us know anything that might be hindering His answer. Persevering in prayer gives the Father the opportunity to work within us and our circumstances.
He may say, “I have something better.” This may sound like “no” to some, but I like to think of it in a positive light. The Father knows your needs and desires, and He truly wants to meet them. However, He promises to give only what is good. This means He will sometimes withhold what we want if it is not His best for our lives. Most of us can look back on things we asked for in the past and be grateful that God did not grant every request. Nonetheless, we should keep praying—at the right time, the Lord will meet our desires in the most satisfying way possible.
One of the primary reasons God answers prayer is because He wants us to get to know Him. Through answered prayer, we learn about His love, timing, wisdom, goodness, and awesome power. His faithfulness to provide prompts us to trust Him on a deeper level. Instead of focusing primarily on petitions for ourselves or others, we begin to value spending time alone with our heavenly Father. And as we grow in intimacy with Him, we may even find ourselves receiving unexpected blessings.
This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message “The Key to Answered Prayer” which airs this weekend on TV.