The Return of Prayer: Observing the Answers to Our Prayers

Taken and adapted from, “The Return of Prayers.”
Written by Thomas Goodwin, Puritan
Edited for thought and sense

images (1)“I will hear what God the LORD will speak:
for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.”

–Psalm 85:8


God’s people are diligently to observe the answers to their prayers: And herein are the reasons of why.

images (8)The observation is this: that when a man has put up prayers to God…

He is to rest assured, that God will in mercy answer his prayers; and he is to listen diligently, and observe how his prayers are answered. “I will hear what God will speak,” that is, how he will accomplish them; and withal, he confidently expresses an assurance, that “God will speak peace.” Thus does the church, “I will look to the Lord, I will wait; my God will hear me.” Mich. 7:7, 8.

The church is sure of gracious audience with him, “my God will hear me;” and she will wait till he answers her, and observe how he does it, “I will look to the Lord;” and verse 9, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, till he plead my cause.” So Habakkuk, having made a prayer against the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar, in the first chapter, having ended it, he begins the second chapter thus, “I will stand upon my watch-tower, and see what he will answer me;” and in the end an answer comes, verse 2. And as he thus waited for a vision (for sometimes their prophecies were in answer to their prayers), so should we for an answer to ours.

Because otherwise you take an ordinance of God in your hearts (Prayer), which is to take God’s name (with whom in that ordinance you deal) in vain; for it is a sign you think your prayer not an effectual means to attain the end it is ordained for; and say secretly in your hearts, as they, “What profit have we, if we pray to him?” Job 21:15. For if we use any means, and expect not the end, it is a sign we think the means not adapted to accomplish that end; whereas, every faithful prayer is ordained of God to be a means to obtain what we desire and pray for, and is not put up in “vain, but shall have answer: “This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us,” 1 John, 5:14, 15.

images (1)It is true, God hears an enemy; but to hear with favour, is the hearing there meant; and thus God’s ears are said to be open to their prayers; and so it follows there, that “If he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desire of him.” As soon as we have prayed, we are said to have our petitions; that is, they are then granted, and we may be confident that they are assented unto by God, although, in regard of outward dispensation the command for accomplishment is not yet come forth; even as a petitioner is said to have his suit, when the word of the king is gone forth that it shall be done, though it passes not the seal, or be not signed until a good while after. And like as when a wicked man sins, as soon as the act is committed, so soon sentence from God goes forth against the sinner, but the execution overtakes him not (it may be) until a good while after.

So no prayer, in respect of an answer to it, is in vain; but where God has given a heart to speak, he has an ear to hear, and loves to return an answer.