Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayers?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 26, 2007


Main Passage: Psalm 17:6-9 (NLT)

[Play commercials of poor cell phone connections]

That poor guy. But can you relate? When Shera and I first moved here to the Island, we each had cell phones with Rogers AT&T. I understand they’ve added some towers since then, but at that time they had extremely poor coverage of this area. In fact, we found only two locations where our phones would work: Out by the airport, and in the Subway parking lot by the University. Outside of those two locations, we just couldn’t depend on making that connection.

Of course, that’s also how some of us see prayer. We might pray and pray and pray, but we just don’t seem to be making that connection. We just don’t seem to get any kind of response. Which doesn’t seem right, does it? Karen just read these words for us from Psalm 17… Now let’s read it together…

Psalm 17:6 (NLT)
I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God.

So if that’s true, why is that sometimes it seems God doesn’t answer? Why does it sometimes seem that our prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling? I mean…

•    I can remember praying for a young girl with leukemia to recover and she died.
•    I’ve prayed for couples who were having tough times and I’ve prayed for them to stay together, but they ended up getting divorced.
•    I’ve prayed for people who I know are far from God to respond to Him and accept Jesus, but they haven’t.
•    I’ve prayed for the Toronto Maple Leafs and we all know how that’s turned out.

So I think the only conclusion we can reach is this: if you need prayer for something, don’t ask me!

Well, to be honest, there are several times that God has answered my prayers. But I have my fair share that seem to go unanswered, too. Why is that? Why doesn’t God answer all our prayers? And when he doesn’t, what does that mean?

This morning, I’m going to give you three things that you should do when you pray and pray and pray but you don’t see any answer. Three ways to try to figure out what’s going on and why God doesn’t seem to be answering. And you can use your notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along. Let’s go…

When Prayer Goes Unanswered…

1.    Examine Yourself

When your prayers aren’t being answered, maybe the problem’s with you. Maybe there’s something wrong with you. And so you need to ask yourself some questions. One question you need to ask is…

•    Is there unconfessed sin in my life?

Now, this is not always the reason for unanswered prayer, so don’t automatically make that assumption. But the Bible is quite clear that unconfessed sin can be a hindrance to answered prayers.

Isaiah 59:2 (NLT)
It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

Now, we’re living in a society where we’re not held responsible for our actions anymore. If we have a problem in our lives, it’s because of our parents or some traumatic event that happened when we were young. Even our view of sin has softened… to the point that we don’t even call it sin anymore. We now call it a mistake, a lifestyle choice, an option.

But the truth is that while we’ve softened our view of what sin is, God’s view of sin has remained the same. He’s still aware of it, He’s repulsed by it, and He knows just how devastating sin can be in our relationship with Him. It’s a roadblock to our communication with Him.

Psalm 66:18 (NLT)
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

So when you become aware of sin in your life, you need to confess it to God, apologize for hurting Him, and allow Him to forgive you and restore you into relationship with Him.

“You don’t have to be perfect for God to hear your prayers, but if you are living in deliberate defiance—if there is a closed closet in your life that you will not allow Christ to enter—that acts as a barrier to prayer.”
~ Bob Russell

•    What are my motives?

Why are you praying for what you’re praying for? In the New Testament, James talked about the problem of motive…

James 4:2-3 (NLT)
You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

Are you asking out of pride or selfishness or greed? Are you asking just so you get some recognition or praise from others? What are your motives for what you’re asking for?

•    Do I believe God can answer?

I grew up in the days before cordless phones became popular. Do you remember those days? Do you remember when the handset for your phone actually had a cord coming out of it? Well, in our house, we had a phone attached to the wall in our kitchen on the main floor, and then there was another one upstairs in my parents’ room.

So if the phone rang and my sister answered it upstairs and found out that it was for me, she might set the receiver down beside the base, go to the top of the stairs and yell down for me to pick up the other phone, and then forget to go back and hang up on her end. Or perhaps I’d be the one downstairs and I’d answer the phone and find out that it was for my brother. I might run upstairs and get him, and then forget to go back downstairs to hang up. And I can remember more than one occasion where several hours would go by before we’d start to wonder why we weren’t getting any more phone calls.

You see, while the phone was off the hook, we weren’t prepared to receive any calls. We were actually preventing calls from coming in. And that’s essentially what happens when we don’t believe God will answer our prayers. It leaves us unprepared to hear from Him.. So when we pray, we need to believe God hears our prayers, that He’s fully capable of answering our prayers, and that He wants to answer our prayers.

James 1:6 (CEV)
But when you ask for something, you must have faith and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like an ocean wave tossed around in a storm.

Next question… If bad things are happening to you and you pray about it but they keep on happening, maybe you need to ask…

•    Is this a consequence to something I’ve done?

(2 Samuel 12)

In the Old Testament, King David is referred to as a man after God’s own heart. But he wasn’t perfect. One spring evening while his troops were off to war, David was having a hard time falling to sleep. So after he tossed and turned for a while, he got up and went up onto the roof of his palace for some fresh air. As he was walking around, he looked over toward some homes and saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. And I believe his exact works were. “Hubba Hubba.” It’s true, look it up.

Okay, that’s a loose translation, but the truth is, he just couldn’t take his eyes off of her. So He did a bit of research and found out that her name was Bathsheba. And he also discovered that she was the wife of Uriah, one of the soldiers in David’s army. Well, Uriah was off to war, so David sent for Bathsheba to come to him and they had an affair.

Well, come to find out, she got pregnant. And David, being the honourable man he was, tried to cover it up. He tried to make everyone believe her husband got her pregnant. And when it looked like they were going to be discovered, David arranged for Uriah to be placed on the front lines of war so he would be killed. Nice guy, eh? David had an affair with a married woman, got her pregnant, and then arranged for her husband to be killed. Then he took Bathsheba as his own wife and they had a son.

Well, after all this, God wasn’t too please with him. So God sent the prophet Nathan to David to confront him about what he has done. And David came clean. He confessed what he had done, and Nathan told him that God had forgiven him. But he also told David that there would still be a consequence. The child that they had would become sick and would die. Well, David prayed and fasted for days, but the consequence remained, and the child did die.

Galatians 6:7 (NLT1)
Don't be misled. Remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!

Even if you are forgiven, there may still be consequences to your actions.

•    Do I have a strained relationship?

If you’re holding a grudge against someone or if someone else has a grudge against you that you haven’t tried to take care of, that can hinder your prayers. Jesus Himself said this…

Mark 11:25 (NLT)
But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.

And by the way, this includes your spouse. If you have a strained relationship there, it can hinder your prayers.

1 Peter 3:7 (NLT)
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives… Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

Okay, so the first thing we should do when our prayer is going unanswered is examine ourselves. We need to ask ourselves those questions. But that’s not all. We also need to try to see things from God’s perspective.

2.    Seek God’s Perspective.

Maybe God’s not answering our prayer because it isn’t in our best interest in the long run. Maybe there’s something in the big picture that we just don’t see because of our limited vision. But God has perfect vision, so He knows the absolute best way to answer our prayers. And perhaps from His perspective, He has a higher purpose in not answering the way we’re expecting.

For example, maybe God’s trying to teach you something. We’ve talked before about what the apostle Paul called his “thorn in the flesh”. Paul didn’t really tell us what that was, but we do know that Paul prayed three times for God to take it away, whatever it was, but He didn’t. Talking about this “thorn in the flesh”, Paul wrote…

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NLT)
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Paul prayed that God would remove this “thorn in the flesh”, but God chose not to because he wanted to teach Paul to rely on God and to teach him humility. So maybe God’s trying to teach you something.

Or maybe He’s got another purpose in mind that prevents Him from answering the way you want Him to answer.

That happened to Jesus Himself. Just before Jesus was taken away and nailed to the cross, he spent some time praying to His Father. Jesus knew what was ahead for Him, He knew the suffering He would have to endure, He knew the painful death He would experience. So listen to how He prayed…

Luke 22:42 (NLT)
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.”

That was Jesus’ prayer. He didn’t want to have to die. Especially through crucifixion! So He prayed passionately that He wouldn’t have to go through it. But Jesus also understood that His Father had a higher purpose. And so He added…

“Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

So sometimes we don’t get what we pray for because God is working things out for a higher purpose. Try to see things from God’s perspective and see if you can understand a little better why He answers your prayers the way He does.

But you know what? Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t see any purpose. And when that happens…

3.    Keep trusting God.

[Play Nooma DVD 006: Kickball]

Wow, that’s a powerful thought, isn’t it? But how often do we cry out to God like the son in that video… “But I thought you said you loved me!”

Well, you know what? God does love you. And He wants the very best for you. And He is fully capable of providing the best. So when your prayers are going unanswered and you can’t understand why, just remember that you can always trust His heart.

Why? Because He is trustworthy. He has proven that over and over again. Throughout history God has proven Himself trustworthy. We may not always understand why our prayers aren’t answered, but we can trust God’s providence. We can trust His wisdom. We can trust His heart.

Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

So there can be different reasons why your prayers might go unanswered. Maybe there is a problem of sin that needs to be addressed. Or maybe God just has better plans. Whatever the case, you can be sure that God loves you dearly. And as a loving Father, He wants to give you the very best. And you can trust Him.



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