I realize that all or most of us have had prayers which were unanswered. I’m also aware that some simple answers have been given which don’t make us feel any better when we are the one who is struggling. For example, “there are three possible answers to prayer, yes, no, later.” But we want to know which one, NOW!
I also realize that this honest question is not asked hoping to get just a theological answer. We want practical answers. In all fairness, however, we must look at what the Bible reveals to us or we are only answering according to our own opinions. We’ll look into the Scriptures in a moment.
Let’s begin with a very practical examination of the question. Just using sheer logic, consider:
- If God answered all of our prayers there would be no more trouble or heartache of any kind. No one would die, no one would get sick, there would be no natural disasters, etc. We do not pray that God will send us difficulty!
- When two people are praying about the same issue and they take opposite sides of the issue, how can God answer both of them to each person’s satisfaction? Many of the problems that trouble us, we have created ourselves. God had nothing to do with it; they were our own bad choices for which there are consequences. When and how does a good parent start to teach lessons, responsibility and discipline?
- Does any authority figure who has far more knowledge and understanding about the issue at hand than we do expect that everyone will understand, agree and be satisfied with all of his decisions and actions?
- Let’s face it, we are never satisfied! If there is too much sun we complain, if there is too much rain we complain, if it is too hot we complain, if it is too cold we complain. If you feel you are a far better person than another individual, and the other individual prayed for more than you did, and God gave you both what you wanted, you’d be upset with God because He gave the other person more than you!!! We are the problem, not God! If God gave us everything we want, we’d still find reason to question and complain.
- Does a loving father allow his child to do whatever he wants or are there boundaries to protect the child? What happens when the child disobeys? That is precisely why we need to examine what God tells us in His Word about prayer.
I do know some reasons why God does not answer prayers. The Bible spells them out. To save space, I am not quoting all of the scriptures but I plead with you to look them up so that you don’t think I am stretching the truth to make my own point.
- If you do not consistently walk with God, what obligation does he have to you when you are in trouble? Ignoring Him when everything is going well and then wanting Him when you are in trouble is not a winning combination! See John 15:17 and I John 3:22.
- When you know you have sinned and have not confessed it there is a wall of separation between you and your Heavenly Father just as there would be if you wronged your earthly father and did not ask forgiveness. See Isa. 59:2. Unconfessed sin hinders answers to prayer. See I Pet. 3:12; Psalm 66:18.
- God is not obligated to answer prayers which will merely feed our carnal, worldly appetites and lustful pleasures. If you have improper motives, God may not give you what you ask for. See James 4:5.
- When we ask anything that is in His will, we can have assurance that those requests are granted to us. God’s will is revealed through His Word; anything promised by His Word is His will, and we can be confident that He’ll honor our prayers based on what He promised. We cannot expect to get everything we want if He hasn’t promised it to us. See I John 5: 14-15.
- How we handle the faith issue is of importance to God. Do we believe He will do what He promised; do we misinterpret what He promised because we twist His promises according to our own desires; do we waver in our faith by believing one day and disbelieving another day? See Hebrews 11:6, Mark 11:24 and James 1:6-7.
- There are times that some prayers may not get far until we incorporate the spoken authority of the Name of Jesus because there is demonic activity surrounding the situation. Until we deal with the demons in Jesus Name, nothing will happen. Too often in our sophisticated society we don’t even think of demons: they remind us of heathen lands. But they are here! That’s why we pray “in Jesus’ Name”. See Mark 11:23.
- Probably the greatest reason that some prayers go unanswered is because many give up praying and believing before they receive their answer. We should persevere. Never give up. See Gal. 6:9.
So we ask, “Why are my prayers not being answered?” In reality, what we are REALLY asking is, “What sort of an extra-special, super-powered prayer is needed to make everything turn out the way I want it?” That sounds facetious, but isn’t it true?
The truth is, difficulty, pressure, pain, sorrow and the like more often than not make us into better persons. And if we are willing to admit it, sometimes God needs to allow these things in our lives just to get our attention. When they come, we can allow them to make us bitter or better! The choice is yours.
For any mature Christians who feel they are consistently pursuing each of the seven (7) qualifications above and specific prayers have not been answered, relying on that maturity can bring peace in knowing that “the secret things belong to the Lord” (Deut. 29:29) and “God’s ways are not our ways” (Isa. 55:8-9). Even the great Apostle Paul did not have all of his prayers answered in the way he wished. Rather, Paul says God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” (II Cor. 12:7-9). We have to choose to “Trust in Him at all times.” (Psalms 62:8)
So do what you are told to do, “Pray without ceasing.” I Thess. 5:17. Leave the rest up to the all-wise God. “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25)
Written By Neil Fichthorn: Rev. Neil Fichthorn is a seasoned conference and camping servant having served at Gull Lake Bible Conference, Sandy Cove Ministries as President, and an interim Executive Director at Pinebrook Bible Conference. He also served in church music for decades as a choir director and arranger. He has been Bill Welte’s mentor and friend for over 45 years.