Those who are living righteously before God can have confidence that God hears their prayers. The ungodly and rebellious should not expect a positive response from Him whom they curse in the good times and to whom they may flee only in times of trouble. "The face of the LORD is against those who do evil..." (Psa. 34:16; cf. I Pet. 3:12). God, like any parent, is not inclined to grant the petitions of a defiant child while he continues in disobedience to the Father's will.
It is tragic that some Christians (perhaps many) have doubts that God consistently fulfills His promise to hear their prayers. When one says, "I prayed for such and such to come to pass, but God did not hear my prayer," he usually means that God did not immediately give him that for which he asked. However, to conclude that God has not heard one's prayer simply because it wasn't answered immediately and in the affirmative, shows a serious lack of understanding.
God hears all prayers, but He doesn't necessarily answer them in a way that is noticeable to us immediately. We must distinguish between God's hearing and answering of prayers. Since our Heavenly Father is omniscient, He most certainly hears every prayer in the sense of His being aware of each one (including those uttered by unbelievers and by His unfaithful children). However, it is a mistake to reason that God must or will respond according to each petitioner's expectations simply because He hears their prayers. The Bible does not teach this principle anywhere!
No human being is in a position to require anything of God. All we can do is approach Him as pitiable beggars with our pleas, requests, and petitions. Philippians 4:6 encourages us to do this very thing - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." To think that God is somehow obligated to us or will respond exactly as we expect reflects ignorance at best and foolishness at worst. Those with such expectations seek to impose upon God their own limitations--their inability to know and weigh all of the factors that might be involved if He granted exactly what they requested when they asked for it. We need to be aware that God responds to prayer in various ways, totally dependent upon His unfathomable wisdom and omniscience. We ought to be thankful that He does answer our prayers in this manner.
With those thoughts in mind, we have laid the necessary groundwork to consider four primary ways in which God responds to our prayers. We will consider one of God's responses each day for the next four days.