Christianity commonly teaches that God always answers prayer in one of four ways (here’s an example):
4) A specific answer. ex. “Choose chocolate, not vanilla.”
Let’s examine these answers a bit more, shall we? I hope it’s agreed that no one can physically hear God. We just don’t have casual back-and-forth chit-chats with the Almighty Whatsit. Prayer, for even the most sensitive and faithful religious individual, is a one-way street. If we could hear God, we wouldn’t need to guess what he was saying in response, now would we?
So, of the four answers, only two seem to bring any visible results: “Yes” and “Chocolate”. When folks say “God answered my prayer!” they–trust me on this–always mean he said “Yes” and they got what they wanted, or they felt a “nudge” to choose chocolate over vanilla (Who wouldn’t? All gods love chocolate). Nobody that I’ve ever met jumps for joy and tells all their friends when nothing wonderful happens. Nobody tries to prove God by saying “God said no to healing my grandma!”
Still, the belief remains that God answers every single prayer. So, how do we tell when God says “No”? What about “Wait”? How do you know if your answer is coming or not at all? What if you’re waiting for guidance on which job to take or which college to go to or if you should marry JoeBob or not? How can you tell what the answer is?
You can’t. Thems the runs, folks. You cannot possibly know whether God is saying JoeBob’s a douche or if the University of Fabric Arts is the place for you. And if nothing happens in your favor, you are left to wonder if God doesn’t favor you and your requests. The only thing that can tell you the answer is the knowledge and inclination of your own mind.
When God says “No,” “Wait,” or even “Chocolate,” you hear the very same as if God never said anything at all: silence you must interpret for yourself. Even if you think God might be saying Chocolate is better, it can’t be certain nor decided. Each person will have their own reasons for believing God prefers one flavor to another. Isn’t it funny how God’s tastes seem intimately closely tied to culture, personal preference, and what we want for ourselves?
What should the believer do when all they have in return from God is confusing silence? Take heart. It’s not as lonely as one may think. The silence is frightening, but what comes out of that silence is the wisdom and intellectual ability of the human mind.
To better explain what prayer is, check this out: