Why Your Prayers Are Not Being Answered
You’ve prayed for a sick child to be healed. Nothing. You prayed for your marriage. Nothing. You prayed to find money to pay your rent. Nothing. These seem like reasonable prayers so why aren’t they being answered? Is it too much sin? Is it a lack of tithes? Are you praying wrong? Let’s discover what these unanswered prayers are all about.
Before we proceed I want to make sure to avoid any unintended damage that may cause anyone to stop praying or to pray less. Let me be very clear, God hears all prayers (even if you’re struggling deeply in sin). God still answers prayers. God still heals. God still performs miracles. God loves us beyond comprehension and wants us to pray to Him about anything and everything. You should also know that even when we don’t seem to have our prayers answered, He is never leaving us or forsaking us. Yes, through the worst storm God is right there with us, counseling us, comforting us, and giving us a peace in every situation.
Now, with that point made clear let’s talk about why it’s important to understand why it appears that many prayers are not being answered. If we don’t understand this we can fall into this false trap of thinking God is punishing us or that He won’t respond until we perform some kind of religious duties, like confession, or turning from our sin first. I’m not saying confession is bad and I’m not promoting the idea of remaining in sin, but as an example I can’t imagine talking to a drug addict who is praying his heart out to God for freedom from his addiction, only to have me tell him that God won’t listen to his prayers until he confesses and stops doing the drugs. What am I saying here? I’m saying God wants us to come to Him in the middle of our sins. After all, that’s when we need Him the most. We seek Him for the power to defeat the enemy who tempts and accuses us daily.
There are many flavors of the gospel that sound very spiritual, especially as we pull out a verse from scripture that seems to suggest if we’re doing our part then God will answer our prayers, or on the other hand if we’re struggling in some kind of sin then we might as well forget about it because God won’t hear a word we say. I’ve witnessed Pastors abusing sermons on prayers by delivering messages of what I call “fast cash” sermons skillfully written to guilt us into giving in fear that whatever is wrong in our life is a result of tithe, or lack thereof. They might start by quoting verses from Malachi 3 where, under an old covenant, God states “test me and see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows”. The message is essentially this, “your life is bad because you’re robbing God, but if you’ll write a big enough check today everything will finally workout”. For a clear explanation on tithing requirements under the new covenant I invite you to read our post titled “Are Christians Required to Tithe”.
The idea that God is ignoring prayers and punishing Christians based on our giving patterns totally undermines the new covenant promises. God promises He remembers our sins no more (Heb 8:12). When we are faithless God remains faithful (2 Tim 2:13).
The legalist teaching would say those verses are true…..unless you sin or don’t tithe. The fact is there is not a single verse after the cross commanding a tithe, but instead we are called to give freely, not under compulsion, with a joyful heart, and where there is need.
So we find ourselves still asking why aren’t some prayers being answered? I recently heard a sermon on prayer totally centered on James 4:2.
[James 4:2] “You do not have because you do not ask”.
Wow, that sounds simple. Just ask. But then the sermon goes on to say if you ask and don’t receive then you must have weak faith or you have too much sin in your life. Both are hogwash and not biblical answers.
Yes, James 4:2 is true, but only in context. Left alone it sounds like God is a slot machine – just pump in your quarter and God spits out a dollar. It sounds like if we just do our part God will give us anything we want. I think 1 Timothy 6:5 explains it best:
1 Timothy 6:5 “and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain”.
We must understand that God has not promised to satisfy all of our fleshly desires. I know that’s not a popular teaching, and it’s odd coming from someone like me who is obsessed with the message of grace and forgiveness. But let me be clear. The gospel message should be the same for believers everywhere. Can you imagine going on a mission trip to some country stricken in poverty and telling them “you don’t have a nice house because you didn’t ask”? How about saying “Your child is dying of cancer because you are not tithing”? “You don’t have shoes on feet because your prayer life is not like mine”. Let’s be honest, these people are generally far more thankful to God for what little they have than most American Christians are who have an abundance. So why do they have less? The answer is simple. Most of what many of us have has nothing to with how godly we are or how awesome our prayers are. In fact, if it were then we now have to explain why evil non-believers have financial security beyond our wildest dreams. You see, the truth is that, contrary to popular prosperity teaching, God is not interested in answering all of our selfish prayers that are merely for personal pleasure, and we see this clearly in James 4:3.
[James 4:3] You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
The hard truth is we really don’t know exactly how pray. None of us do. But the good news is we have the Holy Spirit in us and He intercedes for us and prays to God on our behalf. Yep, God is praying to God and that’s the prayers that get answered!
[Romans 8:26-27] In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
What should we pray for? I think we should pray for the will of God to be done. What’s Gods will? Ultimately the will of God is that no one perishes and that all men be saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4). You see what God really cares about is our eternity and that we are made holy and sanctified (through faith).
Remember, Jesus prayed and asked God to “let this cup pass”. This was not a prayer that would be answered because it would have prevented the forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:22 – without blood there is no forgiveness of sins), which obviously was not the will of God.
Unfortunately many people are quick to pull out verses and “assume” they are teaching the will of God but they bend its meaning to match their religious agenda. Let’s look a few verses that clearly tell us what the will of God is.
Bible Verses on The Will of God
[1 Tim 2:4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
[1 Thes 4:3] For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;
[1 Thes 5:18] in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
[Gal 1:4] who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
[1 Peter 2:15] For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
Is the will of God that the sick be healed? Sometimes, but unfortunately sometimes it’s not.
Is it the will of God that all Christians prosper financially? No. I’m not saying there are not times when God blesses us financially, but if think that a promise then we have missed to gospel.
Is the will of God that all men be saved? Yes. Above all this is God’s will.
So if the will of God is that all men be saved and we pray that a friend accepts Christ, then how do we explain it when they don’t? The answer is that God won’t take away their free will to choose, but God does hear prayers and I am confident that He will reveal His truth to this person.
We live in a fallen world that is saturated with sin and people of free will are basically totally free to choose evil or good, and until the day the Lord returns people will die of cancer, people will be raped, people will suffer, and this includes Christians. So why pray? God is a God of love and even though man is evil He cares deeply for us. God never promised us we would not suffer, and in fact He said just the opposite in John 16:33 which says we will have tribulation in this world. Our hope is not in the world but in what is to come, and more than anything God wants us to be made right with Him. God is offering a free gift, through faith alone.
I encourage you to pray for all things and to know that sometimes God does answer our prayers for financial difficulties, sickness, broken marriages, any so much more. But if you’re a believer you need to know that God never promised to answer all of these prayers, and I hope that you would not chalk it up to being out of favor with God or being under some type of punishment. God promised He will never turn His back on us. He promised that even we are faithless that He will remain faithful.
Lean on Him for everything. One thing I do know is no one on planet earth loves you more than He does.
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.