Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Does God answer prayer?
In October 2014, I was invited to offer comments on my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality, at the Mubarak Mosque in Chantilly, Virginia on the day of Eid. This invitation made me very nervous–what would I say about my faith to a group of Muslims? Consequently, during the three days before Eid, I began a period of prayer and fasting and asked God what I should say. God responded to my prayer, but he said nothing about my invitation. Instead and much better, God gave me the inspiration to write a new book, Life in Tension, which I hope to publish later this summer.
In their book, Hearing God’s Voice, Henry and Richard Blackaby of Blackaby Ministries International write:
“We contend that God does speak to his people. However, people must be prepared to hear what his is saying…The question, then, is not whether God speaks to his people, but how he does so…When God speaks, he does not give new revelation about himself that contradicts what he has already revealed in Scripture. Rather, God speaks to give application of his Word to the specific circumstances in your life.” (17-18)
To make this point about “specific circumstances”, the Blackabys inventory the ways that God spoke to his people in the Old and New Testaments. In just the Old Testament: “creation, angels, prophets, dreams, visions, casting lots, Urim and Thummim, gentle voice, fire, burning bush, preaching, judgments, symbolic actions, signs, miracles, writing on the wall, a talking donkey, trumpets, thunder and lightning, smoke and storms, fleece, the sound of marching on treetops, face-to-face, personal guidance, and various unspecified ways” (31-32). Obviously, God does not always wait for us to seek him out—it is hard to ignore those talking donkeys, especially the ones we see in the mirror!
The Blackabys note, however, an important problem:
“Our problem so often is not that we don’t know what God is saying to us. The problem is that we do know, but we don’t always want to hear what he is telling us.” (44)
For example, we do not need to ask if God wants us to display the fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).
The Blackabys give countless examples of God intervening in response to prayer. Perhaps none is as dramatic as that of George Muller who lived in nineteenth century Britain and who worked to support homeless children. They note three points about Mueller’s experience of God:
- Mueller sensed a personal burden for a need,
- He sought advice from a Christian friend, and
- God spoke to him through scripture (105).
The Blackabys observe that: “The best way to hear God speak to you is to spend regular time reading, studying, and meditating on his Word.” (110) They see God’s answers to prayer as: yes, no, not yet, and silence—prospective evidence of sin (122-129). What is perhaps more interesting is the idea that God invites us to into prayer—a positive answer to prayer is never more certain than when God invites us to do something or ask for something (136).
The Blackabys write in 12 chapters:
- The Question: Does God Speak to People Today?
- For the Record: God Speaks
- God Speaks: His Way
- The Holy Spirit: God’s Presence in Our Lives
- The Bible: God’s Word
- Prayer: What it is and What it Isn’t
- Circumstances: A Time for God to Speak
- God Speaks to People through People
- Lies and Half-Truths
- A Historical View
- Learning to Respond to God’s Voice
- Questions Often Asked
These chapters are preceded by a preface and followed by notes, a scriptural index, and an introduction to the authors.
Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Hearing God’s Voice changed my attitude about prayer and reading this book marked an important milestone in my preparation for later entry into seminary. I commend it to you.
Carothers, Merlin. 1970. Prison to Praise. Escondido, California.
Müller, George. 2000. Release the Power of Prayer. New Kensington: Whitaker House.
 Mueller (2000, 91-93) offers 5 conditions for prevailing prayer: 1. “entire dependence upon the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus”, 2. “separation from all known sin”, 3. “exercise faith in God’s word of promise”, 4. “ask in accordance with His will”, and 5. “preserver in prayer”.
 If God already knows what is in our hearts, we need only praise him! (Carothers) Also: consider the example of Abimelech: “Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” (Gen 20:7 ESV)