“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). This verse tells us that God is ready to answer our prayers and supply our needs. So why are all our prayers not answered? Why does it seem that God sometimes does not hear us? What is going on when it seems like our prayers are not getting any higher than the ceiling?
Right Motives (James 4:3)
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). It is so important for the Christian to evaluate his or her life from time to time. Are our motives pure? Are we doing what we are doing for God’s glory, or our own? James tells us here that we must ask with the right motives. Sometimes we can ask for the right things , but for the wrong reasons. This could be the reason our prayers are not being answered.
Not praying in the will of God (I John 5:14-15)
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him“ (I John 5:14-15). It is so important to keep our relationship with God active and alive at all times. When we do so, we are more resistant to the temptations we face every day, and our prayer life will be focused on the things that God wants them focused on. Not only will we pray according to His will, we will structure our entire lives around Him.
Sin In Our Lives
“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (I John 3:21-22). It is amazing that so many professing Christians live their lives as if God was no more than a genie in a bottle to them. They willfully spend their time fulfilling their sinful desires and then pray to God when they want something from Him. This is a recipe for disaster. The Bible says that, “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). It is only a matter of time before the person living this way comes under the judgment of God.
Even the Psalmist knew that God does not answer the prayers of one who is willfully sinning against Him. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). Many times our prayers are not answered because we have unconfessed sin in our lives or we are still currently involved in some sin. Sin must be confessed and repented of before we can expect our prayers to be heard.
Our Timing May Be Wrong
God may indeed answer our requests in the exact manner we have submitted them to Him, but the answers may not come according to our schedule. God may even use delayed prayer to teach us patience. Nothing teaches patience  like waiting.
Our Prayers May Have Been Answered In A Way We Were Not Expecting and/or We Did Not Recognize
God sees the big picture; we only see a small portion of that picture. We could actually be praying for something that would be harmful for us to get. It should be seen as encouraging when God does not answer our prayers exactly as we want, in the time frame we expect. This shows us that He is still in control and sovereignly overrides our expectations with His perfect will.
Praying In Jesus’ Name
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son“ (John 14:13-14, also John 15:16, 16:23-24; Matthew 7:7). Too many people think that this means simply tacking the phrase, “In Jesus’ name” onto the end of their prayers. This is a shallow way of interpreting this verse and is an affront to the holiness of God. How can we think that simply by adding “In Jesus name” to the end of our prayer forces God into giving us what we want?
Apologist Dave Hunt writes, “For a prayer to be truly “in the name of Jesus,” it must be as He would express it if He were praying. It must be for the furtherance of His interests and to His glory. His name must be stamped on the character and engraved on the heart and life of the one praying “in His name.” (Hunt, p. 191, emphasis his)
Therefore, not only must one be praying in the will of Jesus [God], but one must also be living according to God’s will . An unholy life will not produce a holy prayer life. Nor will it produce effective prayers.
Right Relationships Between Husband And Wife Contribute To Fruitful Prayer
For those who are married, even the relationship between a husband and wife affect the effectiveness of one’s prayer life. In the Epistle of First Peter, the apostle Peter instructs wives to be subject to their husbands (vv. 3:1-6), and husbands to likewise honor their wives (v. 7). The last phrase of verse seven says, “…so that your prayers may not be hindered”. This is a testament to how precious the union between husband and wife is to God. It is also very practical, since it is very difficult to keep your mind on the things of God when your married life is unsettled.
The Example of the Apostle Paul
Even the biblical saints were not immune from the occasional unanswered prayer. The apostle Paul writes, in II Corinthians 12, that he had some sort of problem that was given him to keep him from becoming conceited. Apparently, this ‘thorn in the flesh’ was something that Paul greatly wished to be rid of. He writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:8-10). Paul’s attitude is the attitude we should strive to exhibit. An attitude that says that, even if it seems that God is not answering our prayers, we can be content knowing that He will not let us down.
Whether our prayers are answered to our satisfaction or not, we can always rest in the fact that God is in control.
Christians must keep in mind this promise from God, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We must trust God to know what is best for us and the situations for which we pray. We can take comfort in knowing that He loves us enough to have sent His Son to die on a cross for our sins.
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All Scripture is from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Hunt, Dave. In Defense of the Faith. The Berean Call, 2009.