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Why isn't God answering my prayer? How do I deal with unanswered prayers?

God loves us all and desires for us to talk to Him in prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Prayer is a privilege (Deuteronomy 4:7); who else gets to talk to the Creator of the universe? God will answer all prayer from His people, but keep in mind that He may not answer in the way that we would like. An "unwanted" answer is still a response from Him.

How should we respond when it seems like God isn't answering our prayers? The first thing to realize is that He IS answering, but the answer could be "yes", "no", or "not now." Matthew 15:21-28 tells the story about how Jesus did not immediately grant the request of a woman whose daughter was demon-possessed. The mom had to ask a few times before He healed the girl.

I know it's hard to face what feels like endless waiting or the answer of "no". Some perspective might help us deal with it a little better...

God Knows Everything

God is Omniscient, which means He knows everything about everybody, every situation, and what's best for every individual. Psalm 147:5 says, "Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit." He understands what you're going through, and He wants the best for you (Hebrews 4:15).

Since God knows what is best for us, He will not say "yes" to a prayer that goes against what is good for us. We may not be able to see the bad in what we pray at first, but He knows what will happen in the end with whatever your request may be. He can see how that request would play out—we can't.

Yes, God answers every prayer. But whether or not that answer is the answer we want is another thing. God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), so He won't guide us in the wrong direction when we pray something other than His will.

When I was a kid, I wanted to stay up real late on school nights. My parents always said "no", and that made me so upset at the time. I couldn't understand what the problem was. I realize now that they said "no" for my good! If they would've let me stay up, they would be setting me up to fail the next day because I would be too tired to do anything.

What I wanted was to stay up late, but that wasn't what was necessarily best for me. My parents did me a favor by saying "no" to me. Sometimes what we most desire is not what we really need. In the same way, God says "no" or "not now" to us because He loves us!

How We Sabotage Ourselves

Sometimes WE are the ones who get in the way of God blessing us. As sinners, we can easily do stuff that hinder our prayers or sabotage our lives without even knowing it. Here are a few things that get between us and God when we pray:

  1. Unconfessed or Unrepentant Sin - Ongoing, unrepentant, deliberate sin sets up a wall between us and God. Without repentance (completely changing our minds about committing this sin), our prayers fall flat. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." Holding onto your sin willfully will not make room in your life for God to bless you.

    If you truly want to repent, go to God and ask Him to forgive you. He is faithful to forgive our sins when we confess to Him (1 John 1:9). All of us will sin (Romans 3:23), but it's the sin that we refuse to let go that is deadly to our prayer life.

  2. Wrong Motives - James 4:3 says, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." Asking with wrong motives is like praying for a new iPhone just because everybody else has one, or praying to win a race because you want to gloat to your teammates.

    When we pray according to our selfish desires, at best, we can expect God to say "no". At worst, He might eventually say "yes" in order to teach us a lesson about relying on His decisions. Just read 1 Samuel 8: Israel demanded a king to reign over them, but the Lord told them through Samuel that a king was a very bad idea. They continued to demand a king, and He finally gave them Saul. Read the next few chapters to find out how that turned out!

  3. Not Praying According to His Will - 1 John 5:14-15 says, "Now this is the confidence we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of him."

    When we don't study the Bible or spend time with God, we can lose sight of what His perfect will looks like in the first place. Of course, we don't know all of God's plan for our lives, but His Word reveals His character to us, and that can really help us understand what He would want for us.

    When we pray, if we ask anything that aligns with what God sees as good, He will listen and consider granting that request. Things "according to His will" refers to things that God would also want for us—like matters of the righteous heart, opportunities to share His love with others, etc.

  4. Doubting God's Power - James 1:6-7 says, "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord." If you pray without believing that He will answer, then your prayer has no meaning at all. When you pray, you have every right to expect an answer—just be prepared for the possibility that the answer may not be what you were hoping for.

If you fear that you are hindering your prayer in any way, ask God to reveal to you your sin or whatever it is that may be standing in the way of you and God. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with your whole heart." God will reward those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Yes, God does want to hear from us. He wants us to communicate with Him and make Him a part of our daily lives. Sometimes He doesn't answer our prayers exactly the way we think He should, but He knows what is best for us. Psalm 145:18 says, "The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth."


For further study: Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 5:44; James 5:17-18; Psalm 34:17-18; Hebrews 4:16; James 5:16

Related to Prayer
TL;DR

God always answers prayers, but we must realize that the answer could be "yes", "no", or "not now." Even though it's hard to wait and even harder to hear "no," trust that God knows everything about everybody, every situation, and what's best for every individual (Psalm 147:5). He understands what you're going through, and He wants the best for you (Hebrews 4:15). God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), so He won't guide us in the wrong direction when we pray something other than His will.

By: Cameron

Cameron loves God, his family, and music. He lives in Kentucky and enjoys Show Choir, band, and playing the piano.

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