Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?

Washington D.C. is where the political power game is played on a scale that most of us cannot even begin to comprehend. In Washington, it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. The ultimate power in the universe of Washington is access to the Oval Office and the President of the United States.

As Christians we have something infinitely greater than access to the president of the United States. We have direct access to the Throne of God, and no appointment is necessary. Prayer is the great privilege of the Christian and a great responsibility. Unfortunately, precious few of us realize it. We fail to take advantage of the incredible opportunity to spend time with the Supreme Commander, who has jurisdiction over everything in the universe!

Why does so much prayer seem to go unanswered? And why do we have to pray at all since God knows everything? The problem is not with God but with our understanding, or lack thereof concerning prayer. Let me begin by saying that talking to God is one of the most normal, natural, sane, rational, intelligent things a person can do.

Studying the Word of God, prayer and giving are the three greatest tests of true spirituality. There are many types of prayer, and the Bible provides ample proof of the efficacy of prayer. There are prayers of intercession and supplication, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of praise, prayers of confession, prayers of dedication, etc. But in its most basic form, prayer is simply talking to God. It should be as natural as breathing.

We do well to remember that God is a person. How would you like it if every time someone spoke to you, all they ever did was asked for favors? Not even a “Hello,” or, “How are you?” How long would a relationship like that last? God is not an impersonal force, He is our friend! In order to have a friend, one must show thyself friendly. Usually, it’s best to get to know someone before you start asking for favors. How do you get to “know” God? You cultivate the relationship by praying and by reading His book. The better you know the Word of God the better you know the God of the Word.

God Always Answers Prayer. It’s Either, Yes, No, or Wait!

In Genesis 18:27, we are told how Abraham approached God—in great humility,

“And Abraham answered and said, ‘Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am {but} dust and ashes.’”

As you read through the rest of the story in Genesis, Abraham called upon God again and again for wisdom, guidance and strength. Abraham prayed, and in humility, he trusted the Lord to provide for his every need and God supplied it.

As you look at the Old Testament prophets, in many cases when they had a request, they accompanied their requests with the reasons why God should answer them.

Genesis 18 records the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. God tells Abraham that a cry of distress has risen up to heaven, because the sin in Sodom is great. God plans to destroy the city and Abraham appeals to God and His sense of justice. Abraham actually haggled with God and God granted His request!

Moses provides another example in the book of Exodus. Incredibly, after all the miracles the Israelites experienced in the Exodus from Egypt, and at Mt. Sinai, they turned to idolatry and worshipped a golden calf. God was understandably angry and was about to bring judgment when Moses interceded for them. Here is the exchange from Exodus 32:7-14,

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted {themselves.} They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why doth Thine anger burn against Thy people whom Thou hast brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil {intent} He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about {doing} harm to Thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your  descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit {it} forever.’” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.”

Moses, quoting from God’s Word is reminding God of His own promises of mercy and grace. Then he appeals to God concerning His reputation (What will the Egyptians say?) and God grants his request!

Moses provides God with the reasons why He should spare the people and God changes His mind!

Does God Actually Change His Mind?

God is not whimsical. He always knows what He is going to do. He is speaking anthropomorphically. An example of this would be,

“The sun sets in the west.”

The sun does not actually “set” it only appears to do so. God is speaking anthropomorphically. In the same sense, God does not “change His mind” in the sense that we change our minds. God is omniscient. He knows every thing there is and everything that could be. Let me illustrate.

If I choose to ignore God and live in sin, God’s Word has already declared, He will reject me on judgment day. But if I repent, God has already promised to save me. It’s not that God is just one minute, and merciful the next. He is always both. It’s my heart that has changed, not His.

Why, if God knows everything, do I need to pray? In many cases what God wants to see is, “How important is this to you?” The fervency of your prayer shows how much you care. In Ezekiel 22:30-31 we discover an amazing truth,

“And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD.”

This is an incredible verse. God was looking for someone to pray and ask Him to spare the nation from judgment, but He found no one. The obvious implication is that He was willing to show mercy, but since none of them even cared enough to intercede for their own nation, He “brought their own way upon them!” Either way, God’s will would be done.

There is often, but not always a direct correlation between how much we care about a just cause and how much God is willing to help. If we don’t care enough about our nation to cry out to God for revival, we get what we deserve!

Consistency Counts

In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus calls a child to Himself and says to the disciples,

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

I have raised 5 children. I never had to train them to be persistent or of the benefits of asking again and again. It’s natural to them. If the answer is “No” or “Wait,” the immediate response is “Why?”  If I say, “No” again, they will provide me with all the reasons why I should say “Yes.” If they still don’t get what they want, the next step is to form a think—tank in order to pool their ideas and develop a new strategy. Then they decide which child has the best chance of closing the sale.

This approach can be very effective. They know I love them and want to say “Yes” as often as possible. So what does all this have to do with prayer?

Everything—Keep Reading!

Luke 11:5-9 says,

“And He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he shall answer and say, “Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’’’ “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.”

The lesson here is not that God is a crank and if you bug Him enough He will give you what you want just to get rid of you. The lesson is fervency; to filter out what is not important. Prayer is not like impulse buying or trivial pursuit. God does not show His favor to the curious, He shows His favor to the serious.

Sometimes God Says, “No.” There Are Several Reasons for this. First of all, it may not be God’s will.

In Jeremiah 7:16-19 in reference to Judah, God said to Jeremiah,

“So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger. But am I the one they are provoking? declares the LORD. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?”

And in Luke 22:41-42, Jesus prays,

“And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and {began} to pray, saying, ‘Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.’”

Friend, if it is not God’s will for you to have something, you can demand all day and then demand all night. You can hold your breath until you turn blue in the face, stomp your feet on the floor, and throw a temper tantrum. You can name it and claim it, but if it is not God’s will for you to have what you are asking for, you are not going to get it. There is a very good reason for this. Does a loving parent give a child anything and everything they want? God knows so much more than we do, He loves us too much to give us whatever we want. If God gave me everything I asked for I would be spoiled, more proud than I am already, and useful for nothing! Thank God He does not answer all our prayers the way we want Him to.

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.”

Asking With Wrong Motives:

God not only knows what we do, He knows why we do it. James 4:3 says,

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend {it} on your pleasures. You adulteress, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

I remember seeing a TV preacher (I’m not kidding) commanding his congregation to, “Repeat after me. I want my money now!” And they were all standing shouting at God, “I want my money now! I want my money now!”

I’m sorry, but I did not watch the rest of the “show.” Apparently, they were expecting money to start falling out of the sky. I don’t know how else they would have received it, “now!”

Mistreating Other People

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.”

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.”

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!

Sometimes God Says “Wait”

We live in an age of instant gratification. The faster we can get whatever we want, the better. In the “olden days” our parents often saved up the money they needed to make large purchases.

In case you haven’t noticed, God is not in a hurry. He promised Abraham he would have a son, and 25 years later He shows up and says in essence, “Okay, it’s time.” It was 9 months later that 100-year-old Abraham and his 90-year-old wife, Sarah, had their first child! That is why Isaac is called, “The son of promise.”

The Israelites were enslaved for 400 years before God delivered them from Egyptian bondage. Of course it took that long for the tribe of 70 to become a nation of 2-3 million. Nevertheless, our God does things in His time, not ours.

The sacrificial system lasted for 1,500 years providing a literal, historical, and theological context, so when Jesus came along, the idea of the blood sacrifice for the atonement of sin would make sense.

God required approximately 1,500 years to complete the Bible. So far, it covers about 6,000 years of mankind’s past and present. We do not know when this age will come to a close. We do know, thankfully, God is very patient.

There is much more on this subject in our new book, Where Did God Come From? Its available on this website under the “store” tab on the home page.

 

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