You’ve heard the old cliché, “Prayer changes things.” Yeah, okay, but what about the times when it just flat doesn’t? What’s wrong?
Why doesn’t God answer your prayers? As I’ve searched the Scriptures, I have discovered at least 5 reasons.
In some cases, we are not waiting on God; He is waiting on us.
5 Reasons God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers
1. It could be you’re not a child of God.
This may sound obvious or even cruel, but God has no obligation to answer the prayers of unbelievers (Psalm 34:15, 17; Proverbs 15:8, 29; John 9:31; 1 Peter 3:12). He may answer, but He has not obligated Himself to do so.
The only prayer an unbeliever may be assured God will answer—and answer immediately—is a prayer of faith and acceptance of His Son, who died on the cross and rose again, as the basis for the forgiveness of your sins.
2. It could be your motives or actions.
As Christians, there are a couple of reasons God may choose to delay or deny answering our prayers. In these cases, He is waiting on us.
- Your motives in prayer. It may seem simplistic, but if we don’t ask, God won’t answer. And when we do pray, our reasons for asking must not be selfish (James 4:2-3).
- Your actions in life toward others. Our actions also can hinder God’s answer. If you are flagrantly disobedient to God, you may expect your prayers to be hindered (Psalm 66:18; Micah 3:4; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 John 3:21). This is by design—so that you may return to the Lord wholeheartedly.
3. It could be your misunderstanding of God’s priorities.
Some of the problems we have with prayer arise out of a wrong understanding of God. The better we know about God in the Scriptures, the better we will understand how to pray—and why God responds to prayer as He does.
God answers prayer according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). But just like us, the desires are not all equal. My desire to remain faithful to my wife until I die is not on the same level of my desire to take a nap on Sunday. It’s a matter of priorities.
God has a will too, but not all aspects of His will are of equal priority. For example:
- God desires, first and foremost that He receives glory.
- God desires all people have a choice about the decisions they make.
- He also desires people to live a reasonably happy life while here on earth.
All are His will, but this final priority comes after the first two. Our problems with prayer often come when we think the first thing on God’s mind is our happiness and not His glory.
4. It could be that it’s just not time yet.
So let’s say we are living for Christ in our attitude and actions and praying according to His will. What do we do when all systems are go, but the answer still hasn’t come?
You keep praying.
He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. —Luke 18:1
You don’t lose heart. Here’s why:
- It may be that circumstances require changing before you can accept the answer.
- It may be that the answer depends on someone else responding to God too (remember God’s order of priorities).
- It may be that the delay is to see how seriously you are willing to pray.
5. It could be God wants to give you more than you’re asking for.
If God is able to answer (and He is), and if He has promised to answer the prayers of His children (and He has), then the delay in the answer—we must know—is not that God is apathetic or absent.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think . . . to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. —Ephesians 3:20–21
In the final analysis, it may be that God desires to give you more than the simple answer to your prayer, making the answer—once it is received—all the more sweet.
Tell me what you think: What have you learned from unanswered prayer? To leave a comment, just click here.