Day 30

Does God Answer All Your Prayers?

Wisdom Psalm 17:13-15
New Testament Matthew 20:20-34
Old Testament Job 15:1-18:21


I love cricket. At least, I love watching it; I was never any good at playing it. But I know many people don’t like cricket and don’t even understand the rules of it (especially if they come from a country where it isn’t a popular sport). So I hope you will forgive me for using a cricketing analogy.

When two batsmen are running between the wickets on a cricket pitch, they need to co-ordinate the decision about whether to run or not. One will shout to the other ‘Yes’ (that is, ‘Let’s run’), or ‘No’ (that is, ‘Stay where you are’), or ‘Wait’ (that is, ‘Let’s see what happens before we decide whether to run’).

God hears all your prayers (Psalm 139:4, 1 John 5:14–15, 1 Peter 3:12) and, in one sense, he answers all your prayers. But we do not always receive what we ask for. When we ask God for something, the response will be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ or ‘Wait’.

John Stott wrote that God will answer ‘No’ if the things we ask for ‘are either not good in themselves, or not good for us or for others, directly or indirectly, immediately or ultimately’.

We don’t always get to know the reason why the answer is ‘No’. We need to remember that God sees things from an eternal perspective and that there are some things we may never understand in this life.

In the passages for today we see examples of all three types of response from God.


Psalm 17:13-15

  13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;
   with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
  14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,
   from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
  May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
   may their children gorge themselves on it,
   and may there be leftovers for their little ones.

  15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
   when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.


God says ‘yes’

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? David sets us a great example: ‘As for me… I shall be fully satisfied when I awake to find myself beholding your form and having sweet communion with you’ (v.15, AMP). Start each day seeking God’s presence and finding satisfaction in him.

This is the heart of what prayer is all about. It is not just about asking for things; it is about seeking God’s face and enjoying ‘sweet communion with him’.

This is the context of David’s request. He cried out to God for help in the face of his enemies (vv.13–14). God heard and answered his prayers with a positive response, ‘Yes’.


Lord, each day, when I awake, may I enjoy sweet communion with you and ‘be satisfied with seeing your likeness’ (v.15b).
New Testament

Matthew 20:20-34

A Mother’s Request

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Two Blind Men Receive Sight

29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.


God says ‘no’ to one request, ‘yes’ to another

Rick Warren writes, ‘When the request is not right, God says “No”. When the timing is not right, God says “Slow”. When you are not right, God says “Grow”. But when the request is right and the timing is right and you are right, God says “Go”.’

In this passage we see two requests. The first receives the answer ‘No’ (vv.20–28) and the second the answer ‘Yes’ (vv.29–34).

  1. Two requests

    In both cases Jesus asked, ‘What do you want?’ He said to the mother of Zebedee’s sons, ‘What is it you want?’ (v.21). He said to the two blind men, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (v.32).

    In a way, it must have been obvious what they wanted (in the second instance they were blind, so they must have wanted to see), but God wants us to be actively involved. The apostle James says, ‘You do not have, because you do not ask God’ (James 4:2). Jesus says, ‘Ask and it will be given to you... For everyone who asks receives’ (Matthew 7:7–8). It may seem an obvious point, but the starting point of answered prayer is actually asking.

  2. Two responses

    In the case of the request of the blind men, Jesus’ response was ‘Yes’. ‘Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him’ (v.34).

    On the other hand, Jesus, in effect, said ‘No’ to the mother of Zebedee’s sons. This response also stemmed from compassion. Her request was for glory, power and promotion for her boys. He points out that she does not seem to understand all the implications of her request.

    He said, ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’ (v.22). The Old Testament prophets spoke in several passages of the ‘cup of his (God’s) wrath’ (for example, Isaiah 51:17–22; Jeremiah 25:15–29).

    Shockingly, Jesus speaks of drinking this cup himself. He is going to ‘give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:28). The Greek word for ‘for’ (‘anti’), means ‘instead of’. This is the clearest example in the whole New Testament of Jesus explaining his death in terms of substitution.

  3. Two reasons

    The apostle James writes, ‘When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives’ (James 4:3). Behind the requests here lay different motives. Both requests were to do with lordship. The request of the blind men came from the recognition that Jesus is Lord, and a desire for something good (Matthew 20:30–33). On the other hand, Jesus points out that the mother’s request came from a desire to ‘lord it over’ others (v.25).

    True greatness does not come from lording it over others or from what the world regards as success (wealth, position, fame or having a ‘successful’ ministry). Rather, Jesus says that true greatness comes from becoming ‘a servant’ – following his example in choosing ‘to serve, not be served’ (vv.26–28). This is an example of where the disciples were wrong and God said ‘Grow’.

I think I have learnt more in my own life from the times when my prayers have not seemed to be answered than from the times when they have been answered with a ‘Yes’. Certainly the disciples must have learnt a huge amount from this ‘unanswered’ prayer.


Lord, thank you for the lessons that we learn from ‘unanswered’ prayer. Thank you that you showed us true greatness. Help me to devote my life to your service and to the service of others.
Old Testament

Job 15:1-18:21


15 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:

  2 “Would a wise person answer with empty notions
   or fill their belly with the hot east wind?
  3 Would they argue with useless words,
   with speeches that have no value?
  4 But you even undermine piety
   and hinder devotion to God.
  5 Your sin prompts your mouth;
   you adopt the tongue of the crafty.
  6 Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
   your own lips testify against you.

  7 “Are you the first man ever born?
   Were you brought forth before the hills?
  8 Do you listen in on God’s council?
   Do you have a monopoly on wisdom?
  9 What do you know that we do not know?
   What insights do you have that we do not have?
  10 The gray-haired and the aged are on our side,
   men even older than your father.
  11 Are God’s consolations not enough for you,
   words spoken gently to you?
  12 Why has your heart carried you away,
   and why do your eyes flash,
  13 so that you vent your rage against God
   and pour out such words from your mouth?

  14 “What are mortals, that they could be pure,
   or those born of woman, that they could be righteous?
  15 If God places no trust in his holy ones,
   if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes,
  16 how much less mortals, who are vile and corrupt,
   who drink up evil like water!

  17 “Listen to me and I will explain to you;
   let me tell you what I have seen,
  18 what the wise have declared,
   hiding nothing received from their ancestors
  19 (to whom alone the land was given
   when no foreigners moved among them):
  20 All his days the wicked man suffers torment,
   the ruthless man through all the years stored up for him.
  21 Terrifying sounds fill his ears;
   when all seems well, marauders attack him.
  22 He despairs of escaping the realm of darkness;
   he is marked for the sword.
  23 He wanders about for food like a vulture;
   he knows the day of darkness is at hand.
  24 Distress and anguish fill him with terror;
   troubles overwhelm him, like a king poised to attack,
  25 because he shakes his fist at God
   and vaunts himself against the Almighty,
  26 defiantly charging against him
   with a thick, strong shield.

  27 “Though his face is covered with fat
   and his waist bulges with flesh,
  28 he will inhabit ruined towns
   and houses where no one lives,
   houses crumbling to rubble.
  29 He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure,
   nor will his possessions spread over the land.
  30 He will not escape the darkness;
   a flame will wither his shoots,
   and the breath of God’s mouth will carry him away.
  31 Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless,
   for he will get nothing in return.
  32 Before his time he will wither,
   and his branches will not flourish.
  33 He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes,
   like an olive tree shedding its blossoms.
  34 For the company of the godless will be barren,
   and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes.
  35 They conceive trouble and give birth to evil;
   their womb fashions deceit.”


16 Then Job replied:

  2 “I have heard many things like these;
   you are miserable comforters, all of you!
  3 Will your long-winded speeches never end?
   What ails you that you keep on arguing?
  4 I also could speak like you,
   if you were in my place;
  I could make fine speeches against you
   and shake my head at you.
  5 But my mouth would encourage you;
   comfort from my lips would bring you relief.

  6 “Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved;
   and if I refrain, it does not go away.
  7 Surely, God, you have worn me out;
   you have devastated my entire household.
  8 You have shriveled me up—and it has become a witness;
   my gauntness rises up and testifies against me.
  9 God assails me and tears me in his anger
   and gnashes his teeth at me;
   my opponent fastens on me his piercing eyes.
  10 People open their mouths to jeer at me;
   they strike my cheek in scorn
   and unite together against me.
  11 God has turned me over to the ungodly
   and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked.
  12 All was well with me, but he shattered me;
   he seized me by the neck and crushed me.
  He has made me his target;
   13 his archers surround me.
  Without pity, he pierces my kidneys
   and spills my gall on the ground.
  14 Again and again he bursts upon me;
   he rushes at me like a warrior.

  15 “I have sewed sackcloth over my skin
   and buried my brow in the dust.
  16 My face is red with weeping,
   dark shadows ring my eyes;
  17 yet my hands have been free of violence
   and my prayer is pure.

  18 “Earth, do not cover my blood;
   may my cry never be laid to rest!
  19 Even now my witness is in heaven;
   my advocate is on high.
  20 My intercessor is my friend
   as my eyes pour out tears to God;
  21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God
   as one pleads for a friend.

  22 “Only a few years will pass
   before I take the path of no return.

17 My spirit is broken,
   my days are cut short,
   the grave awaits me.
  2 Surely mockers surround me;
   my eyes must dwell on their hostility.

  3 “Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.
   Who else will put up security for me?
  4 You have closed their minds to understanding;
   therefore you will not let them triumph.
  5 If anyone denounces their friends for reward,
   the eyes of their children will fail.

  6 “God has made me a byword to everyone,
   a man in whose face people spit.
  7 My eyes have grown dim with grief;
   my whole frame is but a shadow.
  8 The upright are appalled at this;
   the innocent are aroused against the ungodly.
  9 Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways,
   and those with clean hands will grow stronger.

  10 “But come on, all of you, try again!
   I will not find a wise man among you.
  11 My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
   Yet the desires of my heart
  12 turn night into day;
   in the face of the darkness light is near.
  13 If the only home I hope for is the grave,
   if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness,
  14 if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’
   and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’
  15 where then is my hope—
   who can see any hope for me?
  16 Will it go down to the gates of death?
   Will we descend together into the dust?”


18 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:

  2 “When will you end these speeches?
   Be sensible, and then we can talk.
  3 Why are we regarded as cattle
   and considered stupid in your sight?
  4 You who tear yourself to pieces in your anger,
   is the earth to be abandoned for your sake?
   Or must the rocks be moved from their place?

  5 “The lamp of a wicked man is snuffed out;
   the flame of his fire stops burning.
  6 The light in his tent becomes dark;
   the lamp beside him goes out.
  7 The vigour of his step is weakened;
   his own schemes throw him down.
  8 His feet thrust him into a net;
   he wanders into its mesh.
  9 A trap seizes him by the heel;
   a snare holds him fast.
  10 A noose is hidden for him on the ground;
   a trap lies in his path.
  11 Terrors startle him on every side
   and dog his every step.
  12 Calamity is hungry for him;
   disaster is ready for him when he falls.
  13 It eats away parts of his skin;
   death’s firstborn devours his limbs.
  14 He is torn from the security of his tent
   and marched off to the king of terrors.
  15 Fire resides in his tent;
   burning sulfur is scattered over his dwelling.
  16 His roots dry up below
   and his branches wither above.
  17 The memory of him perishes from the earth;
   he has no name in the land.
  18 He is driven from light into the realm of darkness
   and is banished from the world.
  19 He has no offspring or descendants among his people,
   no survivor where once he lived.
  20 People of the west are appalled at his fate;
   those of the east are seized with horror.
  21 Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man;
   such is the place of one who does not know God.”


God says ‘wait’

Do you realise that, whatever difficulties you are facing, right now Jesus is praying for you?

Poor Job had to put up with increasingly irritating speeches from his friends in which they condemned him more and more, wrongly accusing him. Job described them as ‘miserable comforters’ (16:2), with their ‘long-winded speeches’ (v.3a). They were absolutely no help to him at all (v.4).

Some people wrongly believe – as Job’s so-called ‘friends’ did – that our suffering in this life is always caused by our own sin, or even by sin in a former life. So, if people are born in poverty or with some genetic disorder, it must be their fault. This blame must be a terrible additional unnecessary suffering (the idea of reincarnation is totally repudiated in the Bible, see Hebrews 9:27).

When your friends are suffering avoid being a ‘miserable’ comforter (Job 16:2). Rather, as Job suggests, ‘encourage’, ‘comfort’ and ‘strengthen’ them and ‘soothe their suffering’ (v.5, NIV and AMP).

One thing you can always do is to intercede (pray on their behalf) for them. Job said:

‘My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a human being he pleads with God
as one pleads for a friend’ (vv.20–21).

We are not told who the intercessor was, but whoever it was, he was a real friend to Job because he was pleading to God for him.

The prayers of the intercessor may not seem to have been answered immediately, but they were eventually when God restored Job’s fortunes. His answer to Job’s intercessor and to Job was ‘Wait’. Later it was Job’s intercession for others that was the immediate cause of his restoration (42:8–10).

Who is Job’s intercessor? Job says, ‘Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high’ (16:19). In the New Testament we see that the one ‘who represents mortals before God’ (v.21, MSG) is Jesus. He is your ‘advocate with the Father’ (1 John 2:1, RSV). He is interceding for you (Hebrews 7:24–25).

Jesus was Job’s advocate. He was interceding for him. Jesus was pleading with God ‘as one pleads for a friend’ (Job 16:21). There is a similarity between Job’s experience and that of Peter. Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail’ (Luke 22:31–32).

As John Wimber used to say, ‘The good news is that Jesus is praying for you. The bad news is that you are going to need it!’


Lord, thank you so much that you promise to be my advocate. Thank you that in the times when, like Job or Peter, it seems that Satan is sifting me like wheat, you are praying for me. Thank you that I know that, even if it seems like I am having to wait, the answer to my advocate-in-heaven’s prayer will always ultimately be ‘Yes’.

Pippa adds

In Matthew 20, we see that the mother of Zebedee’s sons seems rather pushy. We can all be over-ambitious for our children. There’s a right sort of ambition for our children and a wrong sort. Jesus says, ‘You don’t know what you are asking’ (Matthew 20:22). So it is important to pray for our children along the lines of the will of God, not our own agenda or the world’s.

Verse of the Day

Matthew 20:28 (MSG)

He came to serve, not be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.'



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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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