Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?

Some days, it seems like prayers only reach the bedroom ceiling. It's enough to cause anyone to wonder if God is really listening and why He doesn't seem to be answering our prayers. 

When God seems distant and our prayers seem useless, we can turn to the Bible for the perspective we need to press on. 

Two truths we must keep in mind concerning prayer:

1. God hears us and loves to give good gifts. 

No matter how you may feel, your prayers do not bounce off the ceiling. God loves to hear from His children just like a good dad loves to hear from his kids. In Luke 18, Jesus gives His disciples a parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1).  Through this story, Jesus affirms that God is better than this indifferent judge who responded to the pleas of the widow. God hears our appeals to Him, and we can expect His loving response. He is a good father who eagerly desires to give good gifts to His children.

2. God knows what we need even before we ask. 

God knows everything — past, present, future, and all possibilities. But because we’re human, we’re not always going to understand God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8-9, Romans 11:33). If we could understand all the mysteries of God, we would be Him. In the Bible, we see Him work unexpectedly. Even Abraham and Sarah were surprised by the way that God gave them a child in their old age (Genesis 15:2, Genesis 18:12-14). God may not work in the way we desire or anticipate but we can trust that His plan is best.

We also see in the Bible that we can hinder our own prayers. James 4:3 declares, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

  • What are your motives for prayer?
  • Do your desires align with the Lord’s or are you seeking selfishly? We are too small a focus for the world to revolve around. At the end of the day, God's plan is always going to be better than our own. 

In a letter to the church, Peter makes it clear that there are ways of living that can affect our prayers (1 Peter 3:7 and 1 Peter 4:7).

  • Have you impaired your connection with God because of sin?
  • Has the Lord spoken to you on a sin issue that you need to repent of? 

Jesus also affirmed faith as necessary for prayer, and James echoes this in his letter to the church (Matthew 21:21-22 and James 1:6-7). Do you have faith to believe God can fulfill your prayer? If not, ask Him to help you with your doubt.

James assures us that prayer is powerful and effective, supporting His belief with the example of Elijah, who was a man just like us, and earnestly prayed for rain to cease for three and a half years. If God hasn’t answered your prayer, trust His goodness, His timing, and that He hears you.

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