Why doesn’t God answer our prayers?

I was asked recently, Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Here is my answer.

I would propose up front that God does answer our prayers more often than we like to think, its just that we aren’t getting the answers we want. God can answer with a No, but we wanted a Yes and so we keep praying, looking for the Yes even though the answer has already been given. God sometimes answers with a Wait – but again we were after a Yes and so we ask – Why isn’t God answering me?

Having said that though, there are example of prayers going unanswered in the bible.

* King Saul prayed for guidance but God did not answer him. Saul had pronounced a curse on any of his army who ate before evening. Jonathan, unaware of the curse, had eaten. The lesson for us is we should be very careful about making vows. 1st Samuel 14:37; Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.

* King Saul prayed for help and guidance. Saul had removed so far from God that He no longer answered Saul’s prayers. Saul then sought an answer through a medium. 1st Samuel 28:6,7.

* David prayed for the life of his son. The son died because of David’s sin with Bathsheba. 2nd Samuel 12:13-23. Lesson for us – sin has its consequences.

* Elijah prayed that he might die. God had much more work for Elijah to do so it was not in God’s will for Elijah to die at that time. In the end Elijah didn’t die but was caught up into heaven by a whirlwind. 1st Kings 19:4; 2nd Kings 2:11.

* Jonah prayed that God would take his life as it was better to die than to live. God does not answer this type of prayer for there is a time to die and we must wait for God’s timing not ours. Also, Jonah had yet to accomplish the work God sent him to do. Jonah 4:3.

* King Zedekiah prayed for help in defeating Nebuchadnezzar. God’s answered that He would not help because of the many sins of Israel. Jeremiah 21:2.

* The disciples James and John with their mother requested the highest rank in the kingdom Jesus was to establish. Jesus’ answer was that this position was not His to give. But, they first were to be servants of one another before greatness would be given them. Mark 10:34-45.

* Jesus prayed, “May this cup be taken from me.” He also prayed, “Your will be done.” It was the Father’s will that Jesus drink the cup of suffering for the sins of the world. Matthew 26:36-46; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:9; 12:2,3; 13:12,13.

* Paul prayed that his “thorn in the flesh” be removed. Paul’s thorn was not removed, so that Christ would be glorified, not himself, and to keep him from becoming proud. 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10.

A point I will make is this:-

We are called to trust God, even when the answer to our prayer isn’t what we were hoping for:

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful

One thing we need to consider and this has certainly been my experience is that there are many times when we don’t get what we ask for in prayer and then years later are glad that we didn’t get what we first wanted. Has that ever happened to you? As a parent, I’ve had the experience of having to say ‘no’ (or remain silent) to a request made by one of my children, even when I so desperately wanted to make my child happy in the short-term by simply saying ‘yes’. But I knew there was something more valuable in store if I could just help daughter understand the value of waiting, or the danger of actually getting what they were asking for. In those situations, my kids needed to trust my wisdom even if they couldn’t understand my response at the time. I was confident that they would someday understand why I said ‘no’. In a similar way, we need to patiently accept whatever answer we get from God, knowing that we will someday understand why He responded the way He did.

God has a complete understanding of what is good for us, even if it doesn’t make sense to us at the time:

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

In addressing the question of seemingly unanswered prayer, there are a number of issues that need to be considered and communicated.

1. Who is the God you are praying to?

We live in an age where many people are taking time to explore spirituality and prayer. Jesus is very different to the gods worshipped by any other religion in that He is a very real and living God. Be clear about who you are praying to. Jesus made it clear to His disciples how He would respond to prayers in His name the night before his crucifixion.

“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”. (John 14:13-14)

2. What is prayer?

Prayer is a 2 – way conversation, a dialogue between you and God. You can communicate with God in the same way you would with a good friend, and it’s the act of knowing to whom you are speaking rather than the form that your prayers take that is important. You can ‘connect’ with God at any time, wherever you are, He welcomes all. When you pray, engage with your heart and believe you are in the presence of God.

3. God views time in a different way to how we see it.

Sometimes you need to be patient and wait for God to respond to your prayers. Many will find this difficult to do as prayers are often perceived as URGENT. However, God views time in a very different way to how we see it on this earth. Don’t forget God conceived everything in heaven and on earth and He is aware of everything yesterday, today and forever. Don’t get down at heart if your prayers aren’t answered immediately, He has heard you and He will respond.

4. God communicates with us in many different ways.

You need to be aware of how God can speak to you, and remain perceptive and prepared to receive at all times. A response could come via scripture, talking to friends, through reading books, media or through your day to day circumstances. God often speaks but we are either too occupied or blinkered to hear or understand.

Having said all that – The bible teaches us how to pray and that there are keys to effective praying and also things that will block our prayers.

Lets deal with the blockages first.

1) Lack of faith

We don’t really believe God can answer them.

Jesus said:

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

James wrote:

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6-8).

Believing is perhaps the best known condition for prayer.

Is all prayer answered? Scripture teaches that God does answer our prayers (John 16:24); but Scripture also says that there are some conditions for effective prayer. What are some reasons the Bible gives for God not answering our prayers?

2) We ask with wrong motives.

“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

3) Unconfessed sin separates us from God, so that He cannot hear.

“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities (sins) have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).

4) We set up idols in our hearts that come between us and God.

“Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?” (Ezekiel 14:3).

5) We don’t answer those who cry to us for help.

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13).

6) We don’t remain in God/God’s Word doesn’t remain in us.

“If you remain in me and my word remains in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you” (John 15:7).

7) A Sinful Lifestyle

Proverbs 28:9 says,

“He that turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.”

The phrase “turns away his ear” literally means to turn off, or avoid. The Hebrew word for “hearing” is (shaw—mah); it is a primitive root meaning “to hear intelligently with the implication of obedience.” Do you reward a willfully disobedient child? Simply stated, if you do not care to listen to God, why would you expect Him to listen to you?

Psalms 66:18 says,

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

And Proverbs 15:8 says,

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.”

8) Conflict with your wife/spouse

1 Peter 3:7 says,

“You husbands likewise, live with {your wives} in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

9) If you are not right with people you are not right with God.

In I John 4:20 we read,

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

10) Lack Of Fervency And Character

James 5:16-18 says,

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”.

Stated negatively, the ineffectual, lackadaisical prayer of an unrighteous man avails nothing!

Now:- What does the bible teach about effective praying.

1) Start with a forgiving heart

Matthew 5:23-24

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar; and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”

2) Seek God’s will

Another key to successful prayer is to be absolutely sure that—as far as possible—you align your will and your requests with GOD’s will. As you zealously study the Bible and yield to let Christ live within you, His will increasingly replaces your own. It affects how you pray. You come to realize that God has made all men and women in His image—that He will “call” ALL mankind to understanding and repentance in His time. With this in mind, you will not be praying just for your own good, but for the good of others as well. Then you can sincerely say to God, as Jesus did: “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Remember this key phrase from the Lords prayer in Matthew 6: “YOUR WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven” (v. 10). We all need to focus on this as we pray. What is really best for us and everyone concerned in the long run? Only GOD knows for sure.

3) Be persistent

Perhaps you are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the “unjust judge” (Luke 18:1-8). This is the story of a certain widow who kept coming and kept coming to the “unjust” judge until he finally said: “Because this woman troubles me I will avenge her [thus honoring her request], lest by her continual coming she weary me” (v. 5). Then Jesus said: “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” (vv. 6-7). When you have a really deep desire for something, you should cry out to God day and night—NEVER giving up.

God wants us to be persistent. He wants us to walk with Him, talk with Him and commune with Him continually—day after day in this age, and ultimately throughout eternity! The Apostle Paul instructs us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

4) Put your heart into your prayers

I once knew an extremely dedicated and zealous servant of God who often said: “Brethren, one of the reasons we in our modern society do not receive more answers to prayer is that we do not put our HEARTS into our prayers!” One of the key Scriptures he would then cite was Hosea 7:14, which describes one reason that God did not hear the prayers of the ancient Israelites. The Moffatttranslation perhaps renders this verse the most clearly: “They never put their HEART into their prayers.

5) Give Praise and Thanks to Almighty God

King David was a man that was described as being after God’s own heart. He knew how to touch God and his life was characterised by worship, praise and adoration.

6) Pray in the name of Jesus

Through the “name”—the office and authority of Jesus Christ—we can directly approach God in prayer and worship. We do not need any human priest as a kind of intercessor. For we already have the greatest High Priest—Jesus Christ (v. 14). And He taught His true followers: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My nameHe will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).

So there are a few thoughts on Prayer.

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Categories: Answers to Questions, Church related, Sermon Notes, Theology, Uncategorized

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5 replies

  1. Thanks Peter. I go to COC in the Shire. I met you many years ago and was impressed with your teaching (you did a leadership retreat I attended with Skip and Leah). This was a great answer to the question of unanswered prayer – very thorough and well thought out, backed up with scripture – thanks again!

  2. There are times I do not ask, simply because I may not like the answser! So I just wait and see what happens.

  3. God does punish many of us, and i would like to know why.

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