The DEEP

The Best Answers to Prayer

are complicated.

John 4:11–15

The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

It’s worth noting here that this conversation is more friendly than it sounds in English. Terms like “please” (Bee-vak-a-shah in modern Hebrew) haven’t even been invented yet. Jesus can be super friendly when the situation warrants. That must be the case here, or this woman—who came in the heat of the day to avoid bumping into anyone—wouldn’t have continued the conversation.

And she asks good questions. “Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

Notice that Jesus doesn’t answer the questions. His statement hints at the fact that living water doesn’t come from a well, but He doesn’t say that outright. Instead, Jesus explains what’s so great about living water.

This woman, who is desperate for many things in many ways, thinks she has found the answer to her prayers. So she says, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.

She’s hooked, though she’s still thinking about water that comes from a well. If Jesus was talking about that kind of water, He wouldn’t have asked her for a drink in the first place.

She doesn’t get it. That doesn’t matter though. Jesus will change the subject two more times.

The woman at the well has found the answer to her prayers, just not in the way she thinks.


The best answers to prayer are complicated. We pray for one thing and God gives us something else. Thus we get what we need and, if we’re paying attention, a lesson.

What was the difference between what we asked for and what we got? Why was what we got better? What did we miss? (Why were we wrong about what we needed?)

Answer these questions and you’ve gotten a lot more out of it than the direct benefit of the answered prayer.

More on this tomorrow.


These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.