The Return of Prayers
Psalm 85:8
I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints…


1. Because otherwise you take an ordinance of God in vain in your hearts, which is to take God's name, with whom in that ordinance you deal, in vain; for it is a sign you think your prayer not an effectual means to attain that end it is ordained for, and say secretly in your hearts, as they (Job 21:15).

2. Not simply God's name, as in an ordinance made known, but also His name, that is, His attributes, are taken in vain. For it is a sign you think of that God you pray to, that either "His ear is heavy, that He cannot hear, or His hand shortened, that He cannot save," or His heart straitened, that He will not: and thus you rob Him of one of His most royal titles, whereby He styles Himself (Psalm 65:2).

3. You let God speak to you in vain, when you do not listen to what He answers.

4. You will provoke the Lord not to answer at all; He will forbear to answer, because He sees it will be in vain.

5. If you observe not His answers, how shall you bless God and return thanks to Him for hearing your prayers?

6. As God loseth, so yourselves also the experience which you might get thereby.

(1) Both experience of God and His faithfulness, which will cause in you hope and confidence in God another time, when you have found Him again and again answering your prayers. And also —

(2) By observing God's answers to your prayers, you will gain much insight into your own hearts, and ways, and prayers, and may thereby learn how to judge of them.

7. You will lose much of your comfort (John 16:24). Comfort it is many ways —

(1) To hear from God, as to hear from a friend, though it be but two or three words, and that about a small matter; if there be at the bottom this subscription, "your loving father," or, "your assured friend," it satisfies abundantly; so also —

(2) To know that God is mindful of us, accepts our works, fulfils His promises.

(3) How doth it rejoice one to find another of his mind in a controversy; but that God and we should be of one mind, and concur in the desire of the same things , — not two in the earth only agree (Matthew 18:19), but God who is in heaven and we agree, — this rejoiceth the heart exceedingly. And thus it is when a man perceives his prayer answered. Therefore you lose much of your comfort in blessings when you do not observe answers to your prayers.


1. Concerning prayers put up for the Church, for the accomplishment of such things as fall out in ages to come.

(1) There may be some prayers which you must be content never yourselves to see answered in this world, the accomplishment of them not falling out in your time: such as are those you haply make for the calling of the Jews, the utter downfall of God's enemies, the flourishing of the Gospel, the full purity and liberty of God's ordinances, the particular flourishing and good of the society and place you live in. All you whose hearts are right do treasure up many such prayers as these, and sow much of such precious seed, which yet, must be content to have the Church, it may be, in after ages to reap; all which prayers are not yet lost, but will have answers: for as God is an eternal God, and Christ's righteousness an "everlasting righteousness," and therefore of eternal efficacy (Daniel 9:24), "being offered up by the eternal Spirit" (Hebrews 9:14), so are prayers also, which are the work of the eternal Spirit of Christ, made to that God in His name, and in Him are eternally accepted, and of eternal force, and therefore may take place in after ages.

(2) Only at present in prayer it may be that thou hast revealed unto thee, by a secret impression made on thy spirit, that these things shall come to pass, and so hast thy faith confirmed.

(3) And when they are accomplished, and thou in heaven, thy joy will surely be more full for thy prayers.

2. Concerning answers to our prayers for others, for particular men, as friends and kindred; and likewise for temporal blessings.

(1) Such prayers God often hears (James 5:15, 16; 1 John 5:16).

(2) Prayers for others may often also not obtain the particular thing prayed for them (1 Samuel 15:35; Psalm 35:13).

(3) When the prayers are thus made out of conscience of our duty for such whom yet God doth not intend that mercy unto, then they are returned again into our own bosoms, to our advantage; even as St. Paul saith, that his rejoicing that others preached, though they lost their labour, should turn to his salvation (Philippians 1:19),

(4) If we have prayed long for those whom God intends not mercy unto, He will in the end cast them out of our prayers and hearts, and take our hearts off from praying for them. That which He did by a revelation from heaven to some prophets of old, as to Samuel and Jeremiah, the same He doth by a more undiscerned work; that is, by withdrawing assistance to pray for such by with. drawing the spirit of supplication from a man, for some men, and in some businesses.

(5) God will hear those prayers for, and answer them in, some others, in whom we shall have as much comfort as in those we prayed for; and so it often proves and falls out.

3. The third case to be considered is, when a man prays for something with others, or which others likewise pray for with him, so as he is not alone in it; how then should he know that his prayers have a hand in obtaining it, as well as theirs? For in such cases Satan is apt to object, though the thing is granted indeed, yet not for thy prayers, but for the prayers of those others joined in it with thee.

(1) If thy heart did sympathize and accord in the same holy affections with those others in praying, then it is certain thy voice hath helped to carry it: "If two agree on earth," says Christ (Matthew 18:19), that is, if they harmonically agree to play the same tune; for prayers are music in God's ears, and so called "melody to God" (Ephesians 5:19).

(2) God doth usually and often evidence to a man, that his prayers contributed and went among the rest towards the obtaining of it; as —

(i.) By some circumstance: as, for example, sometimes by ordering it so that that man that prayed most for a thing of concernment, should have the first news of it when it comes to be accomplished; which God doth, as knowing it will be most welcome news to him.(ii.) By filling the heart with much joy in the accomplishment of what a man prayed for: which is an evident argument that his prayers did move the Lord to effect it, as well as the prayers of others.(iii.) If God give you a heart thankful for a blessing vouchsafed to another, prayed for by you with others, it is another sign your prayers have some hand in it.

(3) And, lastly, in case the thing concerned thyself, which was prayed for by others helping thee therein, what cause hast thou but to think that it was granted for thy own prayers, and not for theirs only? seeing God stirred up their hearts to pray for thee, and gave thee a heart to pray for thyself, and besides gave thee the thing which thou desiredst. Which argues thou art beloved as well as they, and accepted as well as they.

( T. Goodwin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.

WEB: I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, his saints; but let them not turn again to folly.

The Believer's Expectation
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