“Well, I believe in God, but he doesn’t answer my prayers.” I have heard this from a few people. One person in particular even told me that in his forty-two years of life, God had never once answered one solitary prayer for him.
Why do some people not get answered prayers from God? Well, no one can answer that question with certainty, but I do have some Biblically grounded thoughts to offer for consideration.
God Knows What Is Up The Road
Sometimes our unanswered prayers are blessings in and of them themselves. God knows our needs. He knows what is best for us, and he knows what lies in the future when we don’t. Sometimes, God doesn’t answer a prayer because he has something better planned for us than what we have asked of him.
I had worked for the same company for sixteen years. I loved my job, and my co-workers were like family to me. When rumors spread around that the company may close its doors down, I panicked. I began to pray to God that He would cause good things to happen so that our company would not shut down. I prayed for this often and for many days and weeks. But, alas, the company did shut down and my job came to an end. God did not answer that prayer.
But, guess what? Soon after, God provided me with a new job much closer to home, a job that paid more, a job that I actually enjoyed doing, a job that gave me more opportunity for overtime, good benefits and a whole new great work family of good, friendly people! As much as I enjoyed working for the first company, I can now look back and see that God blessed me by not answering my prayer! If God had answered my prayer, I would still be driving a further distance to work with higher gas prices, not making as much money, and not as much opportunity for overtime. By not answering my prayer, God gave me much greater blessings!
Sometimes, Our Faith Needs Exercising
(Hebrews 11:6) “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
We must have faith to please God and we must believe that he will reward that faith. God does not reward doubtfulness. He rewards faith!
In Mark 9:14-29, a father brought his epileptic child to the disciples of Christ to ask them to heal him, but try as they might, the disciples could not heal him. So, when the father saw Jesus coming, he took the child to Jesus.
Notice what the father says to Jesus. “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
The father was not strong in his faith. He obviously doubted because he tells Jesus, “If you can do anything.”
Now watch how Jesus replies to the father. “If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.”
You see, Jesus is pointing out the father’s doubtfulness and wanted to encourage the man to believe.
The father understands then that it is his weak faith that is holding back his blessings, because with tears, he cries to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Jesus then healed the man’s son of the epileptic spirit. Afterward, Jesus’s disciples asked him why were they unable to heal the child. Jesus answered, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
You see, just like Jesus knew that the father’s faith was weak and needed strengthening, so God knows when our faith is weak. Sometimes, God wants us to do more than just ask for something. He wants us to show a little faith, to exercise that faith. Maybe we need to fast, maybe we need to get out our Bibles and study to strengthen our faith. Maybe we need to examine ourselves for any sin in our life that we need to repent of and make our hearts right with God. Sometimes, there is something amiss in our lives that is making us weak in faith and God wants us to exercise that faith to make it stronger. We know that our bodies will grow weak without exercise and so will our souls grow weak without exercise!
Sometimes We Are Just Blind And Unthankful
Maybe sometimes we don’t get answered prayers because we are not willing to open our eyes and see just how much God does bless us! Thankfulness and faith go hand in hand. Do we recognize the blessings that God gives us every day? Do we see that God blesses us with our health, shelter, clothes, transportation, jobs, food? Every day that we wake up, do we see that it is another blessing from God? Every time we get in our vehicles and drive safely to our destinations, do we see that God protected us? Every time something comes up to cause us concern and then we see it all get worked out satisfactorily, do we see that it is God who took care of it? Do we see these little blessings that come and go every single day of our lives? And, do we ever stop to thank him for these blessings? If we never acknowledge God, why should he acknowledge us?
(James 4:8) “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
(2 Chronicles 15:2) “The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”
Thankfulness And Faith Go Hand In Hand
(Luke 17:12-19) “Then as he entered a certain village, there met him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.
And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’
So when he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?
And he said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.'”
Why did Jesus tell the leper his faith had made him well? Because he showed his faith. He exercised it. He was the only one out of ten that acknowledged what God had done for him and he was the only one who made an effort to give thanks.
If it seems like God is not answering our prayers, maybe it is because we are not grateful for the many things he already does for us.
I have a friend who says it well. She says “If I can see or talk to my mother, my sisters, and my children every day and then go to sleep beside my husband every night in our own bed rather than a hospital bed, it can’t get any better than that and I am so thankful to God, and I tell him so.”
Is There Something Hindering My Prayers?
(I Peter 3:7) “Husbands, likewise dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may be not hindered.”
The apostle Peter is instructing husbands to treat their wives with honor and respect here. Why? Because he says that both husbands and wives are heirs together in the grace of life. If they are not in a right relationship with each other, how can they be in a right relationship with God? Think about it. If you are angry or resentful at your spouse, it is not always easy to be humble and to pray to God with the right attitude.
But, this doesn’t just apply to husbands and wives. It can also apply to our relationships with anyone. If we are having a bad relationship with someone, it can hinder us from being right with God.
(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.”
You see, as God’s children, our heavenly father desires that we all love and respect one another. God does not want us coming to him in prayer while all along we know we have either done something wrong to another or we are holding a grudge in our hearts toward someone else. When we are harboring a grudge toward someone, it casts a dark shadow around our hearts. This dark shadow stands between us and God. When we come to God in prayer, God wants our hearts to be pure, to be free of hate, to be free of grudges, free of negativity. And, certainly, if we have done something wrong to someone else, God expects us to make it right with that person or else we can not be right with God. These things can hinder our prayers from being heard or answered by God.
(I John 4:7,8, 20) “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
Is My Relationship With God A One-way Street Or A Two-way Street?
(John 9:31) “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, he hears him.”
How can God answer our prayers if he does not even hear them? But notice, whom does God hear? Those that are worshipers of God and those that do his will.
If we don’t seem to be getting any response from God, maybe it is time we should ask ourselves what kind of relationship do we have with God? Is it a one-way street? Do we only acknowledge God when we need him?
Having a relationship with God is just like having a relationship with our spouse, child, friend or anyone else. Suppose you had a loved one who called you or came around only when they wanted something, but when you needed something from them, they were never there for you? You would not like that very much. Chances are, after enough of that kind of treatment, you would probably ignore them when they do call. God does not want to be treated that way either. We want the people we love to listen to us when we talk to them. We want them to come visit us, to share things with us, to do things with us, support us in our goals. And, we want them to avoid doing the things that hurt our feelings and disappoint us. We want them to be faithful and loyal to us.
God is the same with us. He loves us and wants us to listen to him. He wants us to read his word, hear what he has to say to us. He wants us visit him in prayer and in worship. He wants us to support him, to shine his light to the world. And, he wants us to be loyal and faithful to him, to avoid the things that disappoint him.
(John 15:7) “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Notice, Jesus wants a two-way relationship here with us! You abide in me and I abide in you. It has to work both ways!
(I John 3:22) “And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”
Why do we receive the things we ask of God? Because we “keep his commandments and do those things pleasing in his sight.”
Is There Something Standing Between Me And God?
(Isaiah 59:1) “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor his ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”
Ever notice how dogs knows when they have done something wrong, like when they have chewed up the toilet paper? They will often run and hide under something. They know they are guilty and they are ashamed and they allow this guilt to separate them from their loving owners. On the other hand, many cats also know when they have done wrong, like tearing the toilet paper in shreds throughout the house. They, too, often will run and hide from their owners, but they do it in a rebellious manner, striking their tails back and forth in stubbornness.
Either way, the ashamed dog or the rebellious cat both allow their wrongdoing to keep them from the loving hand of their owners. How can you pet and play with a dog that won’t come out of his hiding place? And, a rebellious cat will not allow you to come near it until it finally decides to surrender to you.
You see, people are the same with God. Some live in shame and guilt and hide from God. Some are rebellious and won’t let God near them. How can God help them when they let their sins separate them from God like this? Does God want to punish us? No more than pet owners want to punish their pets. As pet owners, we may get angry when the dog chews up our best shoe or when the cat scratches up the couch, but do we stay angry? No, we love our pets and we enjoy petting on them, playing with them, and taking care of them.
What if our pets never got over their guilt of wrongdoing? What if the dog never came out from under the chair? Or, what if the cat never stopped hissing at us every time we tried to pet it? How could we love and take care of our pets if they refused to allow us? Thankfully, our pets get over it pretty quick.
Unfortunately, people don’t. I know we are not animals, but we often behave the same way with God. We refuse to give the opportunity to God to love us and take care of us. If we want God to hear our prayers and help us, we have to come out from our hiding places and surrender our stubborn and rebellious hearts to him and let him heal us and help us. God wants to answer our prayers, but he can’t if we have a wall standing between us and him. We have to tear down that wall and let God in.
Is My Motive Right?
(James 4:3) “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
Sometimes when we are not getting an answered prayer, we should examine ourselves and ask if our motives are right. Why am I asking God for this? Is it for my own selfish desires? Do I want this for the purpose of making myself look better than others? Do I want this answered prayer so that I can use it toward something that is sinful? Will the thing I am asking for eventually hurt someone else? Is it something that goes against God’s word?
Further Along, We Will Understand Why
(Proverbs 20:24) “A man’s steps are of the Lord; How then can a man understand his own way?”
(Jeremiah 10:23) “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”
Then, sometimes, we can do our very best for God, have all the faith in the world, and still not get an answered prayer. It is during these times, we just have to resign ourselves to God’s will.
If you are a parent, you know that there are times when your child may ask you for something that you know is not good for them. They ask for it because they do not know any better, but you do. So, you as the parent, can not and will not give them specifically what they ask. Out of your love for them, you may give them something else that you know is better for them because you want what is best for them. God is the same with us. What we ask of God sometimes may not be what is best for us even though we don’t understand that at the time. God knows what is best for us and wants us to be happy. God gives us what is best for us, but it is up to us to accept this and thank him for it.