Hear my prayer, LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
– Psalm 102:1-2 NIV
No entity has the power to stop God from responding to our prayers. Nor does anyone have the power to force God to reveal what his answer to a prayer might be. In fact, God might choose not to answer our prayers — especially if our requests are selfish. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
It is solely God’s prerogative to answer prayer or not. Sometimes God might test us to see if we will trust him even without clear answers to our prayers. God wants us to know and love him personally; he doesn’t want us to merely ask him for things.
Because God is relational, it is possible even for Christians to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30), who intercedes on our behalf when we pray (see Romans 8:26). We can do so through repeated sin, for example, which means it is possible for us to make our own prayers ineffective (e.g., 1 Peter 3:7).
At the same time, God assures us that he is not far away: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Do you believe that God is near and always hears our prayers?