7 Ways to Question God When You Pray

We're used to asking for things when we pray. But how about posing a direct question? Here some Biblical figures who did just that.

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Posted in , Aug 5, 2019

How to question God

If you’re like most people, a fair portion of your praying is given to asking…but not questioning. That is, most of us ask God for things—healing, help, a job or simply for strength to get through the day. But we seldom question Him when we pray, despite the fact that the people of God portrayed in the Bible did so fairly often. Here are seven questions from the Bible that can still inform and energize your prayers today:

1)  “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9, NIV)

You know, of course, that after Cain killed his brother Abel, God came calling and asking, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We know, of course, that Cain’s cynicism met with God’s judgment. However, it’s still a question we can ask, especially if we ask it when we’re tempted to pass by someone in need or overlook some situation in which we can make a difference. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” can remind us that the answer is always yes.

2)  "Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" (Psalm 10:1, NIV)

The ancient songwriters and singers of the Bible often asked such questions. Honest. Raw. Desperate. Their songs, preserved in the book of Psalms, indicate that God doesn’t mind when we express our frustration and impatience. He may not answer as we would like, but He prefers passion to platitude. And sometimes the very act of voicing our real questions is something like an answer all its own.

3)  “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” (Psalm 119:9, NIV)

Young or old, this question remains relevant today. The psalmist answered it, “By living according to Your word.” That’s a great answer. But maybe it’s not the only one. Maybe, if we ask it about ourselves and our own desires to live uprightly, God will speak more about our specific circumstances.

4)  "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen?" (Habakkuk 1:2, NIV)

Like the psalmists, the prophet Habakkuk was frustrated by God’s silence—he wasn’t the first, and he’s far from the last. It can be difficult to wait on God. So go ahead. Ask “how long?” Keep asking. It’s a fair question, and even if God doesn’t answer as or when you’d like, you’ll be in good company (see Revelation 6:10).

5)  “Lord, how many times shall I forgive?” (Matthew 18:21)

Peter, one of Jesus’ first followers, asked how many times he should forgive a brother or sister, and even suggested what he thought was a generous number. Jesus answered with a seemingly impossible number. But it’s still a good question to ask, even when we know the answer, as it should remind us to keep forgiving…and forgiving…as our Lord does with us.

6)  “How will this be?” (Luke 1:34, NIV).

When the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah, she asked, “How will this be?” And the angel supplied a few salient details. We’ll never be in quite that position, but “How will this be?” is nonetheless a helpful question, especially as we read and meditate on the promises of God, which are always sure. The question often is, how will Your promises be revealed to us? 

7)  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NIV)

Okay, so this wasn’t a question asked in prayer. It was Paul’s soaring rhetorical question in his Magna Carta of faith, Romans 8. But try asking it in prayer, anyway: “If God is for me, who can be against me?” Ask it often, in faith. Shout it, even. And rest in the certainty of the answer: no one.

Those are just seven questions to ask God in prayer, drawing from the examples of the people of God in ages past. They’re only a beginning of course. There are many more that the people of God portrayed in the Bible asked. Keep your eyes open for such questions as you read, and you may find more questions—and answers—than you ever imagined.

What questions do you want to ask God?

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