Does God hear everyone’s prayers?
The astounding truth of the Bible is that generally, He does not hear, nor does He answer the prayers of just anyone. In fact, at this time and throughout human history, only a small proportion of people have had the kind of relationship with God in which their prayers would be heard by Him!
In the very beginning messages of Jesus Christ, He taught about praying, and throughout His ministry, He continued to teach His own disciples how to pray. His example gives us an important key to God hearing our prayers, and what is recorded in the Book of Hebrews about Christ is vital for us to understand:
“who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9).
Note again what is stated, that Christ “was heard because of His godly Fear”! Jesus Christ’s prayers were heard by His Father. There are specific examples of when He went before God with important and difficult decisions. One such instance is found in Luke:
“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).
Another example occurred just before His crucifixion, but in this instance Jesus asked for something that God did not grant. Jesus agonized over His impending death and even asked for a way out, but after presenting His request to the Father three successive times, He yielded to God’s Will in the matter (compare Matthew 26:36-46).
Did God hear Him? Absolutely, and the proof of this is in the outcome of what followed. God raised Jesus from the dead! (compare Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33, 37; Romans 7:4; 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:15; Galatians 1:1; Colossians 2:12; 3:1; 1 Peter 1:21).
The fact that Jesus Christ is alive has everything to do with God hearing our prayers!
Before His death and resurrection, Jesus gave very detailed instructions to His disciples about how to have God hear their prayers:
“‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it’” (John 14:12-14).
Jesus continued to explain exactly what He meant about praying and asking in His name:
“‘And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full… In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God’” (John 16:23-24, 26-27; compare John 15:16).
Jesus Christ is our great High Priest—seated at the right hand of God the Father (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1). His is an ongoing role:
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
God hears the prayers of those who have access to Him through Jesus Christ! Note, as well, that Jesus very specifically instructed His disciples to address the Father when they prayed, and He gave them an example of how this should be done (Matthew 6:9-13). In the context of this teaching, He also gave other important guidelines for prayer:
“‘And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him’” (Matthew 6:5-8).
Quite clearly, Jesus taught that not everyone praying was being heard by God! However, for those who have been called and who have established a relationship with God, prayer is the vital communication with God to obtain His guidance—His oversight in our lives!
Sometimes, even for those who are able to have their prayers heard by God, the answer is not always immediate or exactly what we seek (just as we read about the prayers of Jesus before His death). In these circumstances it is important for us to continue in faith, presenting our requests to God, as Jesus instructed:
“So I say to you, 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. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!’” (Luke 11:9-13).
In another example, we find more of what Jesus taught about prayer:
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.” And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”’ Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 18:1-8).
The New Testament emphatically teaches that Satan is the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). The whole world has been deceived by him (Revelation 12:9), and those who are deceived may be even praying to Satan, without knowing it—not to God the Father! Jesus Christ is not serving as their High Priest, nor does God generally hear their prayers (For more information, please see our Q&A on John 9:31, as to whether or not God hears the prayers of sinners.)
God is not now trying to save this world! Rather, He has called some to be a kind of “firstfruits” of His salvation (compare James 1:18)—identified as His “elect” (compare Matthew 24:22, 24, 31). God hears the prayers of His “saints” (compare Revelation 8:3) because of what Jesus Christ accomplished in becoming our Savior.
The elect have been chosen for salvation at this time, and they have the opportunity for God to hear their prayers. They are those who seek God with a true humility to be obedient to Him. They have gained access to God:
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, ‘Cornelius!’ And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, ‘What is it, lord?’ So he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God’” (Acts 10:1-4).
Consider, also, that God is willing to respond to those who truly turn to Him:
“‘… But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word’” (Isaiah 66:2).
Sadly, this does not describe the people of our age—not even the countless millions who profess to be followers of Christ! We have prepared a booklet, titled, “Teach Us To Pray,” which offers much more detail on this subject—available free upon request, or it can be accessed on our webpage in the literature section.
Lead Writer: Dave Harris