A 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.