Don’t Walk Away from Answered Prayer :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

Psalm 37:4, Psalm 91:15, Isaiah 65:24, Jeremiah 33:3, Luke 11:9, John 14:14,1 John 3:22

Summary: We tend to pray for the salvation of someone we know, or for a job, or for the return of the LORD, or some other issue, and He answers it in a way that either we don’t expect or like. Let’s not forget that God is in charge, and His will overrides our ideals.

I want to share with you an insight that the LORD impressed upon me as it pertains to prayer and how the LORD graciously answers our petitions and requests that are presented before Him. You are probably familiar with the saying that He answers our prayers three ways: Either He will tell us “Yes,” “No,” or the one that honestly rubs us the wrong way because we live in an age of instant gratification, and that is the answer “Wait.” I would like to add a fourth category of answer to prayer. He will give you the impression that the answer will be, “Yes, but not in the way you expect.”

I want to address this category for the fact that when He does answer it (1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 5:12), we often tend to spiritually get bent out of shape because it was not answered in the way that we expected, and I dare say, demanded. I want to give you some conditions of successful prayer according to God’s Word, so pay attention.

We should have an attitude before the Sovereign of the Universe of contrition, or humbleness. We come before the presence of God with reverence, humility, and with the idea that we are approaching the Holy One who has made both nations and prophets throughout history aware of their sins and the need for redemption (Exodus 20:18-21; Isaiah 6:1-8; 2 Chronicles 7:14). We are to approach our God and Father with whole-heartedness, or the faith that what we petition before Him will be answered according to HIS Sovereign will (Jeremiah 29:13; Mark 11:24). We are to have the attitude of submission to His direction and that He is in charge of how everything will turn out in the end (Matthew 6:10; Romans 6:13; James 4:7).

When it comes to whether your prayers will be answered at all, ask yourself these questions: Are you at peace with the brethren? Do you hold anything against your pastor or elders that is really nothing more than pettiness on your part? Are you upset at your spouse or children right now over something that, in the end, to quote the title of a Shakespeare play, is “much ado about nothing”? Right now, are you harboring any “secret sins” that you hope will either be overlooked or forgotten?

Stop right here then and confess your sins before God, all of them (Numbers 32:23; Psalm 51:1-12; Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4, 17:4; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Repent without hesitation and ask Him to forgive you and cleanse you here and now. Return to Him with your whole heart, make amends, settle debts, and ask your family and friends to forgive you of your attitude, actions, and words that compromised the walk with Christ you claim to possess (1 John 3:22, 5:14). Only then will He hear you and not before.

Now, I want to look at some examples where you might have earnestly prayed for, say, a job. That is a noble and selfless request. You want to provide for your family or yourself and earn your keep (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12). You want to be a good role model to potential co-workers and be someone who reflects an authentic faith that people would be drawn to and ask about the LORD.

Well, He can answer your prayer, and it will more often than not be a far cry from the ideal or dream job that you might have envisioned. For instance, if you’re a teacher, that prayer of being in a Christian school has turned into being hired to teach in the worst school in the district with a class full of delinquents in training. You can do one of two things; either grumble and quit or obtain some spiritual maturity and see your situation as a mission field where those kids can have for the first time in their lives a role model they can emulate.

Your Christian witness might be the voice of reason to one student who is ready to either quit or try to end their life because they see no way out of their situation. That kid who is hell on wheels with other teachers starts to pay attention because you show genuine care for his life and well-being, and he ends up being an honor student because you did not give up and look for an ideal situation that might have fit your way of thinking but not God’s directive for your life.

How about when you find yourself sweating in a factory, putting together items on an assembly line for 8-12 hours per day instead of being in that office job you wanted or that position that looked like the dream career that would be all you needed for what you saw as “success”? How did God answer that prayer for a job? Well, it could have been that you needed to “grow up” emotionally and gain some experience, not in your “ideal situation” but in the harshness of the “real world” with its problems and difficulties that may have never affected you until now.

God’s greatest servants, at one time or another, had to be “toughened up” by long sojourns in the desert, or seeing that the messages He told them to give to the people ended up ignored and hated, or that they were in literal peril for their lives, and even now undergo persecutions for Christ that might not end until He returns or death takes them (2 Corinthians 11:24-33; Hebrews 11:32-40).

Here is something to consider as you work and wonder how God can possibly put you in that hot, dirty factory, or by mopping floors in a local store, or cleaning up an old man who has defecated on himself in that nursing home you’re working at until “something better comes along.”

God Almighty sovereignly placed you in those “unpleasant circumstances” to be the channel of blessing some employer desperately needed, or that you were the answer to another believer’s prayer. You were the only other Christian there, and he needed another brother or sister in the faith to encourage and strengthen him in the hard times. Your presence may be the answer for someone who is searching for the meaning of life, or truth, and who is hungry for answers. He or she comes to you for help, and you end up leading them to faith in Christ because you began to see that the sweaty factory job that seemed so unglamorous at first was now a ripe field of souls ready for the harvest. The prayers and needs of others were graciously provided in a way that you did not expect.

What would have happened if you had decided to quit or fussed and instead ended up depriving yourself of the rewards that Jesus could have given to you if you had just been obedient and not acted like an immature and self-centered hellion because things didn’t go “your” way as far as answered prayer was concerned (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10)? I want to face the LORD with the satisfaction of having obeyed Him when I give an accounting of my life, and I hope you are of the same mindset.

Let me conclude with other examples of prayer that can be answered in an unexpected way. Let us say that you are a devout and godly young man or woman seeking companionship and possible marriage to the one whom the LORD has selected for you. That someone has not come into your life, and you keep asking God why the delay, or why hasn’t He provided the answer? Well, the answer might be staring at you when you look in the mirror. Your appearance, manners, weight, style, hygiene, and conduct might need some drastic improvement, or you need to gain some desperately needed maturity and emotional stability before you can handle a serious relationship.

My own life is a testimony to this situation. When I was a young man, I was serious about my faith, but at the same time, I was a fat, immature, irresponsible, indifferent slob with no real direction after I got out of high school by the skin of my teeth and a lot of last-minute study. I was lonely for the companionship of the opposite sex, but my approach and conduct towards girls was a combination of the charm of the movie star Ronald Colman and the goofiness of Jerry Lewis. Interesting, but not ideal.

My prayer was unexpectedly answered when I ended up working with My Dad over in the United Arab Emirates building oil rigs for 12-20 hours per day, six days per week in temperatures that averaged 110-120 degrees per day. I had been thrown into the “briar patch,” learning to figure things out for myself and to genuinely work for a living. Apart from my salvation, the time I spent there was the best thing that ever happened to me. I gained maturity, confidence, a sense of pride in a day’s work, good pay, weight loss, and spiritual growth with the guidance and care of a godly Anglican minister.

When I returned home to attend college a couple of years later, I soon met and married the girl whom God had chosen for me. Before my prayers could be answered, I had to undergo a season of purging and growth before that came to pass. That takes patience and faith, folks. Are you willing to allow the LORD to take you through the rough times in order to gain the rewards He has for you?

All right, here’s my last point. If you’re like me, you are waiting with expectation for the LORD Jesus to appear in the air and take us, His Bride, home to be with Him (John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 3:10). A lot of us have been jumping up and down in our backyards for “rapture practice,” and we keep looking up, yet it seems that He will never arrive, even though He promised in Scripture that His return is very soon. The days go by, the prophecies we read of in the Word come to pass, and we see the signs that He is nearby. Inside we cry, “All right, LORD, we’re ready! What’s taking you so long?” We get wearier with the inner nagging that maybe what we have believed about the return of the LORD might not be as close as we wish, and prayers seemingly go unanswered for the “blessed hope.”

Brethren, let me encourage you with this thought. He waits for all to come to Him for salvation (2 Peter 3:9). There is still someone, somewhere whom you believe will NEVER give their heart to the LORD, be they relative, friend, or someone who gets under your skin (such as an obnoxious ungodly politician or official). To your shock, they have their hearts opened and get graciously saved despite what you think or feel about them. That person whom you would rather see lick a crocodile than share heaven with you is the last person to be saved before the Rapture is triggered. Surprise, surprise, surprise! Your prayer for Jesus’ arrival was answered in a way that totally caught you off guard and ruffled your eschatological feathers.

He has a way of doing that, and we need to keep our hearts open to the fact that while He is coming, we also need to be about the master’s business more than ever to make sure that His will and not our wishes are done. The prayers we present to the Sovereign LORD God Almighty are answered, and His answers are always ready to amaze us and for Him to get the glory in all things.

Isn’t HE wonderful?

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Donald was born and reared in the authentic “Cajun Country” of southern Louisiana. He is a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education/ Biblical Studies, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. In Christian Education, 1994), and Andersonville Baptist Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, Biblical Exposition, 2000). He has been in the Gospel ministry since 1986, serving as an evangelist, interim and supply pastor, hospital and rescue mission chaplain, high school and college teacher, and pastor in churches in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

In 2018, he began to devote his time to the rich field of internet and social media evangelism and outreach. In 2021 he became a member of the Oklahoma Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, using his skills as a writer to contribute articles and sermons to websites such as Rapture Ready, Sermon Central, and Inspirational Christian Blogs. He also writes Bible studies and curricula for churches in southeast and central Asia and Africa, the locations of which are anonymous. He can be contacted at: for inquiries, information, and speaking/preaching engagements. A copy of his resume is also available upon request.