Reasons why prayers aren’t answered

praying_hands_clipart_3A leaflet came in with a packet of sample tracts at our church which listed a few reasons why prayers aren’t answered. I began to think of others and added to that list in a section in our ladies’ newsletter last week, but thought of some more since then.

We have to remember prayer isn’t a heavenly vending machine: insert prayer, push the right button, and get what you want. It’s more like a child requesting something of a parent, and every good parent sometimes has to say “No.”

Here are some Biblical reasons why God sometimes says “No.”

1. Sin.

Psalm 66:18: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

2. Turning away from hearing God’s Word.

Proverbs 28:9: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”

3. Praying half-heartedly.

Jeremiah 29:12-13: “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

4. Asking for the wrong reasons.

James 4:3: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

5. Pride.

This was one on the list I mentioned. I wasn’t sure it applied at first because the verse doesn’t specifically mention prayer, but I think indirectly it could be a hindrance to prayer — though it is probably more of a subset of #1 or #4.

Luke 14:11: “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

6. Unforgiveness

This also could be considered a subset of #1, bu since it is mentioned specifically, I’ll list it here:

Mark 11:26-26: And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

7. Spiritual conflict.

Daniel 10:12-13: Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.

Here we’re getting into things beyond our understanding, but those unseen conflicts are a factor.

8. God wants to show His grace through our weakness instead.

II Corinthians 12:8-10: For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

9. Disciplinary measures. It might seem at first like this is a subset of #1, but I think in that case the sin wasn’t acknowledged: I think in this case it is, but the answer is still no.

Deuteronomy 3:25-26:I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.

10. It’s not the right time.

Abraham’s desire for the son God had promised was not fulfilled until his old age.

Genesis 21: 1-2: And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

11. Not asking in faith.

James 1:6-7: But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

Matthew 17:19-20: Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

12. It’s not God’s will.

I John 5:14: And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.

Matthew 26:42: He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”

Can you think of any others?

Some would say God does not answer the prayers of someone who doesn’t know Him, except the prayer for salvation, but Cornelius, a man who did not yet know the Lord, was told in Acts 10: 4b, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” Nevertheless it stands to reason that God would more readily answer the prayers of one of His own children.

And though this list might sound negative, really the bulk of Scripture has more to say positively about prayer. God wants to answer our prayers when they are in line with His will and when there is not something blocking the channel of communication between us.

24 thoughts on “Reasons why prayers aren’t answered

  1. Another reason why prayer does not not result in thing happening “our” way might be that God knows it’s not the best solution. He sees the overall picture.

  2. It is important to pray that God’s will be done. We do not understand His ways but know He loves us and wants what is best for us just like earthly parents do for their children.

  3. Barbara,
    Thank you for posting on prayer. These 12 Scripture based reasons for unanswered prayer give one pause to stop and think and evaluate what you are asking for and making sure it is done in a right spirit.

    Thank you for your sweet words!

  4. Barbara,
    I just saw your comment on today’s post. I hope your dress turns out well for the wedding. Sometimes it does pay to be assertive but always in a kind manner. I got a tad bugged with the sales guy because he kept trying to push an expensive phone off on me and I knew my needs and my budget so I stood firm. Happy sewing!

  5. It’s amazing to ME that God EVER answers ANY of our prayers — and yet he DOES! Allllllllllll the time! (not ALL, obviously — but you know – OFTEN!)

    But as for God not answering the prayers of non-believers…. well, number one, if they don’t believe then WHO are they praying to? BUT aside from that – we are ALL God’s children! Not just Christians. He made us ALL and He wants us ALL to come live with Him… and He hears ALL prayers. Because no one is condemned as a non-believer until they have DIED without accepting Christ. And even THEN, that is what WE believe …. but we don’t know what FINAL decisions God could make! ONLY He can judge!

    • Actually — the Bible says we become God’s children when we believe on Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

      John 1:12: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

      John 3:3: Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

      And…it also says “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

  6. The purpose of prayer is not to bend God to our will, but to attune our will to his. Sometimes a prayer seems unanswered, because the answer we received wasn’t the one we expected.

    • The trouble with any and all answers as to, “why prayers aren’t answered”, is that Christianity/Bible has a reason for everything: No matter what happens…there is absolutely no way to tell if prayers are answered.

      Example: A child goes missing. If found it’s “oh God, thank you for answering my prayer”. If not found…or found dead…it’s always, “oh, it was meant to be”, or God’s will, or something equally as abstract.

      The bottom line is that there is not one piece of evidence that prayer was ever answered…because no matter WHAT HAPPENS…there’s always some clever way to (supposedly) explain it.

      I do believe in God…just haven’t seen a prayer definitively answered in 54 years.

      • You say, “There is not one piece of evidence that prayer was ever answered.” Don’t you think that is a pretty broad and presumptuous statement for one man in one point of time to make for everyone who has ever lived, and against the testimony of the Bible itself?

        If you have never had a definitive answer to prayer, then you need to read this list more carefully to see what the trouble is rather than coming to it with preconceived notions.

        You say you believe in God. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it does not make one a Christian. James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble..” Even demons believe in God — they know more about Him than many people do — but they are not repentant or in submission to Him. A Christian is one who has more than a general belief that there is a God: a Christian is one who has recognized his or her own sin and need of a Savior, has realized that there is no way he or she can earn their way into heaven, has turned from his or her own way and has trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. If you haven’t done that — no wonder your prayers are not answered. If you have, then there is a problem somewhere.

        Would you really want to live in a world where there is not a reason for everything? I don’t think God orchestrates things like a child going missing or a horrible murder, but we live in a world where sinful people (and that’s all of us) have free will, and sometimes bad things happen. One of the greatest comforts in times of my life when things didn’t make sense to me was the comfort that God knew what was going on and why it was happening.

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  10. I have great faith. I have asked Him to show me any sin in my heart/life.

    Yet, I have been unemployed and without money for over 8 months and have been living in my car in cold, cold, snowy Central Indiana for 7 weeks. I have $400 and only $400 left in unemployment. My precious cat and I sleep in the car and pee in the street.
    Why is this happening?

    • I don’t know, Ann. Perhaps #8? Job is an example of someone whose heart and actions were right with God yet experienced a series of devastating events. At least one reason in His case was that God wanted to show that his love for Him was genuine and not based on just His blessings, as Satan had accused in Job 1 and 2.

      My heart goes out to you and I pray for His strength and grace for you as well as His provision for your materials needs.

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