Why does God not answer my prayers?
It is important to understand that God never said that He would always answer "Yes" when we pray. Instead, God sometimes answers "Yes", sometimes "No" and sometimes "Not yet". We cannot demand anything from God, but we can trust that He will always answer our prayers with great integrity, compassion and wisdom.
We learn much about prayer from the Bible.
We know that God always hears us when we pray (Exodus 22:27, Psalm 4:3, 55:16-17, 65:2, Lamentations 3:25-26, Micah 7:7, 1 John 5:14-15), and that He promises to answer our prayers (Matthew 7:7, 21:22, John 14:13, 1 John 5:14-15). However, we also know that He does not always answer us immediately, or in the way that we would like Him to.
There are several questions that we can ask when our prayers do not seem to be answered, for example:
- Are we using prayer to get to know our Father, or do we use prayer to tell God what we want? This is important because real prayer is about our relationship with God. That is why John 14:13 speaks about asking "in my Name" (or in God's character), and 1 John 5:14 says "if we ask anything according to His will". We are meant to pray as people in a living relationship with our God.
- Do we speak with God each day? We often use prayer as a last resort, and forget to pray when things are going well.
- Are our lives right before God? If we have unconfessed sin, or sinful habits, then that will hinder our prayer life (Psalm 66:18-19, Isaiah 59:1-2, James 5:16).
These questions are important, but sometimes God does not answer our prayers because He is teaching us something, or testing our faith or our character! When you read through the Psalms the writers often call out “Where are you?” to God because he seems distant. How we react when our prayers do not seem to be answered is a real test of our relationship with God.
Look at King David in Psalm 56. He was surrounded by enemies and he says that men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride. There was no hope in the world around him, and yet he cried out to the God he trusted completely, and praised Him, and said he would not fear. At the end of the Psalm he says In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise - in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?. David knew God so well that he knew God would deliver him from death – even though he was still surrounded by enemies, and had seen no help! In the final verse he says you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. This is prayer as God intended it to be.
Read through some of these Psalms (especially 56, 57, 59, 61, 62) and see how the writers completely trusted God, even when they did not see instant answers to their prayers.
The Bible teaches us that God always hears and answers our prayers when our lives are right before Him, and when our prayers are an expression of our intimate relationship with Him.
All scripture quotations from NIV84.