Eric Speir

Life and Leadership by the Book

7 Reasons Why God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers

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Have you ever had a prayer go unanswered? If you’ve been a follower of Christ for any length of time, then you probably have. If you’ve had all your prayers answered, please let me know your secret because I’m obviously missing something!

Photo by Jan Smith

Photo by Jan Smith

It’s hard to know the reasons why God doesn’t answer all of our prayers. I’ve often thought about this and I’ve come to a few conclusions as to why God doesn’t answer all of them. My conclusions have been drawn from the Scriptures.

1. There is unconfessed sin in your life.

Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Our culture doesn’t like to use the word “sin.” Instead, we’ve become accustomed to using the words “mistakes” or “issues”. God isn’t obligated to answer our prayers if we harbor unconfessed sin. The scriptures tell us our sins are a wall between us and God. If you’re harboring unconfessed sin in your heart, there’s no room available for God. The Lord is a gentlemen; he’s not going to cohabit with your sin.

If your prayers aren’t being answered, this is your first step. Confession and repentance are the first steps toward answered prayer.

It’s important to take regular time to examine your heart to make sure you haven’t gotten off track.

2. Your motives are wrong.

James 4:3a, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives….”

Many of our prayers go unanswered because our motives aren’t right. It’s tough to admit because our motives often wear disguises. We justify our motives by saying we need this prayer answered because it will help us help more people.

The best way to check your motive on your prayers is to reflect on how you acted when your prayer went unanswered. Were you upset and angry at God? What was your response?

3. The Lord might be protecting you from something.

James 4:3b, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

The famous country singer, Garth Brooks, once wrote a song entitled, “Unanswered Prayers.” This song was wildly popular. The premise was simple; he was thanking God for not answering some of his prayers.

The reason he was able to thank God for unanswered prayers was because he was able to look back over his life and reflect on the times when an answer to prayer might have been a curse instead of a blessing. Some pleasures in life are enjoyable at the moment, but not good for us. Many of our prayers are often an attempt to get something to please our flesh (passions). If you’ve ever purchased something and had buyer’s remorse, you know what I’m talking about.

4. You may not be ready for the answer all at once.

Exodus 23:29-30, “But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”

The Israelites had been waiting 400 years for God to answer their prayers and deliver them from Egyptian bondage. (That’s a long time to wait!) When he finally delivered them he didn’t give them the Promised Land all at once. He gave it to them in stages because they wouldn’t have been ready to handle all of it. If they would have received it too soon, then what God had intended to be a blessing for them would have turned into a curse for them.

I have three children ranging from ages 11 to 30 months. As a loving parent, there’s not much I wouldn’t do for them. This means providing for them, but also protecting them. I give my oldest child more responsibilities because of her age and maturity level. I expect more of her than I do her 22 month old brother. Consequently, she also gets more privileges than both of her siblings. At first glance, you would think I was being an unfair parent. In reality, I’ve learned that with greater responsibilities comes greater privileges. What she would consider a blessing could turn into a curse for her 30 month old brother. Their privileges and blessings are given to them in direct proportion to their ability to manage it. (This is the principle of stewardship.)

If we think this way as parents I suspect our Heavenly Father uses greater wisdom than we do as parents.

5. You lack the faith to see it happen.

Matthew 21:22, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

James 1:6, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

The way to get more faith is to listen to the Word of God. Paul said in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

I think sometimes God is waiting for us to take him at his Word. This year he’s spoke some things to me that I can hardly fathom. I continually pray over them and ask God to accomplish them because he’s the only one capable of doing it. My part is simply to believe!

6. The answer may not be God’s will for your life.

Matthew 26:39, “Going a little further, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Even Jesus didn’t get all of his prayers answered. (Let that sink in for a moment.) We saw a glimpse of his humanity in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus wanted an easier way to accomplish God’s will and purpose for his life, but skipping the cross wasn’t God’s best plan.

Jesus chose God’s will over what was easy and it cost him something. Jesus was more committed to doing God’s will than being comfortable.

7. The Lord might want to give you something better.

Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

God can do more than we can possibly ask or imagine. If we can dream it, God can do more. God is not limited by our finite minds. I think sometimes God laughs at some of our prayer requests because they’re an insult to his abilities.

Recently, on an outing with my youngest daughter I heard her say, “I wish I could have one of those.” Her request caught me off guard because in my mind, it was such a simple request. I looked at her and said, “Sweetheart, Daddy can do much better than that. I can give you the whole thing. All you have to do is ask for it.”

It was such a simple thing for me to do this for her. In her mind she thought it was easier to ask for something small. I wanted to get her to start thinking differently by telling her to ask for the whole thing. I wanted for her to see the heart of her Father. Her Father was willing to do more for her than she knew to ask for.

I didn’t answer her first request because I wanted to give her something better. As her father, I had to change her perspective before I could change what she received from me. (Let that thought sink in for a moment!) If I didn’t change her perspective first, then she wouldn’t have been ready to receive what I was prepared to give her.

Question: What would happen if we started praying for God’s will in our lives instead of our own?

About Eric

I'm a pastor and writer. I like to help people to grow in their relationship with God. I live outside of Atlanta, GA. I've written a book, Stubborn Faith: 30 Day Devotional Guide For New Growth. It's available for free as a download on this blog. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @ericspeir

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One Reply

  1. I believe if we prayed for God’s will instead of our own we would see things we almost couldn’t believe. If God had answered the prayer of his Son and let that cup pass. Well that really gives you something to consider. For we know what God had in mind in that instance. Something that would last forever.

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