Review: “How I Know God Answers Prayer”

“It is true that ‘There is nothing too great for God’s power’; and it is just as true that ‘There is nothing too small for his love!'”
– Rosalind Goforth

These are the types of questions I have about prayer and how God works.

  • If God ends up healing you from a disease, why didn’t he spare you from getting it in the first place?
  • If he saved you from catastrophe this time, why not that one?
  • Is a situation turns out “good” in your own eyes, how do you know it’s good in God’s eyes?

They are also the types of questions I had while reading Rosalind Goforth’s book, How I Know God Answers Prayer.


She was more confident in her answers than I am in mine (I rarely know the answers). However, I found her faith to be encouraging; don’t mistake my doubt as disparage.

She compiled this short book to document ways she did see God answer prayers (she felt so compelled, that to do otherwise would have been disobedient). I admire that. Through the years I’ve kept records sporadically of how I’ve seen God answer prayer. I wish I’d done it more.

I’m just uncertain at times about what to pin on God and what not to. So by default, I just count all good gifts as from him (James 1:17).

One answer from Goforth is this:

“Perhaps, however, the most blessed element in this asking and getting from God lies in the strengthening of faith which comes when a definite request has been granted. What more helpful and inspiring than a ringing testimony of what God has done?”

Asking a specific request, and seeing it answered that way, could be one evidence (although I’m glad God hasn’t given me everything I’ve asked!).

Rosalind shared several stories where if God had not been involved, someone would have died. She and her husband (and children) were missionaries in China during very difficult years, and faced true persecution. Yet time after time they were rescued to live and preach another day. I thank God with her for his mercies on her family.

“Our strength as a mission and as individuals, during those years so fraught with dangers and difficulties, lay in the fact that we did realize the hopelessness of our task apart from divine aid.”

But I appreciate that she didn’t tell only of the happy rescues. She also shared her times of doubt and resistance.

“The need was truly appalling, and there was no other woman to do it. In my innermost soul I knew the call had come from God, but I would not pay the price. My one plea in refusing to enter that life was the risk to the children. Again and again my husband urged that ‘the safest place’ for myself and the children ‘was the path of duty’; that I could not keep them in our comfortable home at Changte, but ‘God could keep them anywhere.’ Still I refused.”

And of her times of surrender anyway.

“A few hours later, when we were kneeling round her bedside waiting for the end, my eyes seemed suddenly opened to what I had been doing—I had dared to fight against Almighty God. In the moments that followed God revealed himself to me in such love and majesty and glory that I gave myself up to him with unspeakable joy. Then I knew that I had been making an awful mistake, and that I could indeed safely trust my children to him wherever he might lead.”

She also shared times of deep sorrow, such as when she prayed fervently for the healing of her child, but he died anyway.

Although few, at times I felt she placed too heavy a responsibility on our actions for how God answers prayer. I know we aren’t supposed to ask, then sit back and do nothing, but I need God’s help precisely because I can’t get it all together on my own.

“We therefore prayed that God would make the new house a means of reaching the people—a blessing, and not a hindrance. The answer to this prayer, as is often the case, depended largely upon ourselves. We had to be made willing to pay the price that the answer demanded.”

While I couldn’t always relate to her exact struggles (thankfully, because her life was hard!), I could relate to her joy in seeing how God cares even about the details of our lives.

“How to get the sewing done for my family and yet meet the pressing calls made upon me as the wife of a pioneer missionary, for almost thirty years has been perhaps the most difficult and constant problem of my missionary life. In connection with the solving of this problem, I have seen some of the most precious evidences of God’s willingness to undertake in the daily details of life.”

While this book isn’t written as a how-to guide or as a sermon to pray more, after reading it, I was convicted to not grow weary in talking to God about large or small matters, and to trust that he will answer, whether or not I understand how.

“As the past has been reviewed, and God’s wonderful faithfulness recalled, there has come a great sense of regret that I have not trusted God more, and asked more of him, both for my family and the Chinese. Yes, it is truly wonderful! But the wonder is not that God can answer prayer, but that he does, when we so imperfectly meet the conditions clearly laid down in his Word.”

* * *

I read this book along with Carrie’s Classic Book Club 2014 for October. Thanks to Barbara for this pick. If you’d like a list of inspiring Christian biographies, Barbara has a great series here.


6 thoughts on “Review: “How I Know God Answers Prayer”

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    The question of unanswered prayer is probably the hardest one in all of Christianity, and the queries you raise at eh beginning of the post are completely valid.

    When I think of the people who were trapped in the upper stories of the WTC towers on 9/11, I wonder – did God hear their prayers?

    And those who faced the fatal choice of burning, or deliberately jumping – did they not pray hard enough, or well enough?

    There are those who say that 9/11 was a warning to America to turn back to God. It’s one of the most heartless things I’ve ever heard, and a God who would casually let people suffer and die to make a point is something out of a nightmare.

    The retort’s often, “You imply that they were innocent, but no one’s innocent…we’re all condemned as sinners, fit for nothing more than eternal damnation without God’s grace.”

    Precisely. The grace of physical salvation, unextended in extremis, begs the question of just what that grace is.

    My belief is that grace is given to endure the life we’re in, and to remain a light even in the darkest, last moments. The world was created perfect, and fell because of God’s necessary condition of allowing free will.

    To answer prayers that would negate free will would be internally inconsistent, and would turn a real and immanent and divine God into something of a pagan deity, one whose favor we could obtain with the right words and the right gifts. It would be another way to buy our way out of Hell.

    To say that the quality and quantity of our answered prayers is proportional to the faith we muster turns the process into something like Uri Geller bending spoons through the power of the mind. Jesus used the example of being able to toss mountains if we had the faith of a mustard seed not to teach us advanced earthmoving but to show us how deficient our faith really is, by virtue of our human state.

    Like you, I think we pray when we know we can’t do it alone, and our prayers open a door for that still small voice to tell us what we might do, or how we might best endure.

    And yet…there have been things that happened in my life, that I can only ascribe to an answered petitionary prayer.

    So in the end, I have no idea. I pray like it’s all up to God, and work like it’;s all up to me, and that has to be enough. I hope.

  2. Barbara H.

    I don’t have all the answers, either, but my first thoughts in some of your questions at the beginning are that He has something to teach us or something He wants to show of Himself, either to us or through us or both, by what He allows in our lives, even the “hard” things. One of my favorite parts of the book was when she was asked why God so miraculously spared their group during the Boxer rebellion while others died, and in their study of the Scripture could only come up with similar situations of God sparing some but not others. Somewhere behind everything that goes on in the world I have to trust that God sees and knows and has His own purposes in what’s permitted and will set everything right when Jesus comes again.

    Thanks for the link to the biographies!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I agree we’d always be wise to look for lessons in what we’re going through. Sometimes they’re obvious; sometimes not. And sometimes maybe they are someone else’s lessons and not really our own except as a companion. Some things we just aren’t meant to know on this side of things.

      Thanks for recommending this book. It was a good read!

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