Season: 9 Episode: 144
Listen to episode 138 in Spanish:
People often think that just because they pray, God will answer them.
Sometimes prayer is used in the same way as an ax in a “Break glass in case of emergency” scenario; prayer is the last resort. The hard truth is that God doesn’t answer everyone’s prayers. But there is a reason He doesn’t, and that’s what we’ll talk about today.
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Hey guys! Welcome back to another episode of Her Faith Inspires podcast where we take cultural issues and align them to biblical truth. We are one month away from the IDHEF to be an atheist adult course and middle school course titled Let’s Get Real: Examining the evidence for God. Go to OCC.school to register because you gotta get in and get your kids in while you can.
Don’t forget about the WIA Discipleship Begins at Home conference on September 9-10. In person, and virtual is available as this will be live-streamed. It is time to equip yourself and your kids and there are great things happening for you to do just that.
I have a great episode for you today because we are going to talk about why God doesn’t answer some people’s prayers.
One of the things that bugs me is when someone says, “God doesn’t always answer prayers and that is a blessing as well.” This statement is vague and misleading. Why? Because there’s more to it than God just refusing to answer a prayer. And I read in the Bible where we see where God says He will not answer prayers, and He gives the reason.
So yes, there are times when God doesn’t answer prayers. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Specifically, we are going to talk about:
- Why doesn’t God answer everyone’s prayers?
- How do we know what to pray?
- Prayer is not an option.
Why doesn’t God answer everyone’s prayers?
Now there are going to be people who make a comment on social media about this or email me or post something on YouTube and say, “If someone sincerely calls out to God, He will answer.” Of course He will. But we’re not talking about when God answers, we’re talking about why He doesn’t. And I don’t think a lot of people talk about why God doesn’t answer everyone’s prayers.
Now you might be listening to this thinking that this is all going to be negative and gloomy. On the contrary, it will be encouraging. It will hopefully motivate you to get on your knees more and pray in boldness and sincerity when we’re done. So hang in there!
Ok. So I’m going to go in a listing fashion as I give the reasons to why God doesn’t answer prayers.
And I’ve said this before, we have to be careful not to isolate verses and we must read them within context. So as I leave verses here for you, they will be isolated, but please know that there is a context and I will try my best to recap the context of each verse when I mention it and why it shows God doesn’t answer someone’s prayer. Ok? Ok.
Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” To regard is to consider wickedness or to hold to it. The NIV substitutes regard for cherish. The Psalmist is talking about how he brings burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrifices animals to Him. He speaks of God’s goodness and what He has done for the Psalmist. Now, we know that animal sacrifice in the OT was for sins. And the Psalmist in verse 18-20 said that God heard his prayer but if he would have cherished sin in his heart, God would have rejected it.
We have to remember that the thing that separates us from God is sin.
That is why Jesus came. We cannot love our sin and go to God for His blessings. It is double minded. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his faith from you so that you do not hear.” Isaiah warned Israel about the looming captivity of the Babylonians because of their refusal to follow the Lord. They did not listen. So God didn’t listen to them.
That is not to say that we will not sin this side of heaven. We are not perfect, but we are being perfected as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us into the image of Christ. But it is when we regard our sin or love our sin that we are not walking in tune with the Holy Spirit.
And that brings me to the second reason why God won’t answer – doubt.
James 1:5-8 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
I am going to do a podcast on doubt because it is a normal part of life that everyone -Christian or not – will battle. In fact, I’m reading a great book on this called Doubting Toward Faith by Bobby Conway, the One Minute Apologist, who also pastors a church up in North Carolina. He talks about the different types of doubt. I will also have Brett Kunkle on my podcast from Maven ministries and we are going to talk about the 3 types of doubt, but until then, know that you cannot beat yourself up over doubt. You just can’t stay there. And when we linger in doubt and allow ourselves to be tossed by doubt, we are not battling it, we’re succumbing to it.
When we doubt, we are double minded, meaning we believe God will and in the next minute we believe God won’t. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Bobby Conway says that doubt isn’t neutral.
It will spiral you away from God or propel you toward God as you get to the root of your doubt. I believe when we go to God with our doubts and are honest with Him, He will see us through. We all have doubts, so I am not saying you won’t or that you’re a sinner if you do. Not. At. All. But we cannot linger in doubt.
To doubt is to lack confidence. And the reason we have to be careful with this is because the serpent in the garden got Eve to doubt, or lose confidence, in God’s command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge and good and evil. When this happens, we are tossed like a wave of the sea.
Our confidence in God is not steady.
What’s the reason for that? Is it because we are not in the Word? Because studying the word, knowing the word and trusting in the word increases our faith because it reveals the character and faithfulness of God.
One of the things I tell the middle schoolers in the middle school curriculum Let’s Get Real is when you doubt, don’t freak out. Turn your doubts into a question and find the answer.
So, what if you doubt but pray anyway? I am an advocate for being extremely honest with God. If you doubt, tell Him. Ask Him to help increase your confidence in Him but also, act on that doubt by searching God out in His word and through prayer.
Wrestle through your doubts in prayer.
So again, James 1 tells us that when we doubt and are double minded, don’t expect to receive anything from God. Again, be mindful of the doubts and don’t be OK with staying in doubt. I will have more on this in a future episode.
So the main reason God doesn’t answer our prayers is because of unrepentant sin and doubt. If we live how we want and only go to God in times of need, I’m not saying God won’t hear, but He hears the sincerity of the heart, not the selfishness of it.
So, how do we know what to pray?
In order to answer this question, we have to understand what prayer is. Oftentimes we think it is a formality of Christianity. And what it really is is communicating with God. It’s talking to the only one that we know who can do anything we ask. He is the only infinite being I have access to and the only one I know. He is all powerful, infinitely good, profoundly wise, extremely personal and wants to hear from you.
Do you know God sees you? He literally sees your coming and your going and He wants to hear from you? He longs for you to depend on Him? I told one of my boys a couple of weeks ago – you can and are becoming an independent young man, but you cannot be independent of God’s commands.
God wants you to depend on Him.
So that sets the stage for how we ought to pray – how we approach God goes right along with what Hebrews 11 says – we must go to Him knowing that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
We also have to pray with what is in line with Scripture. American Christianity has always promoted God giving us the desires of our hearts. But what does that mean? Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Take note: we isolated that verse). Does it mean that God will give me all that I desire?
John 15:17 says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Phillipians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
If I didn’t know better, I’d think God was a genie in a bottle. Or, who needs the lottery when you have God on your side? It’s like hitting the jackpot.
I see verses like this all over social media. Ok. Let me ask this question though – did Paul, who was in jail when he wrote Phillipians and beheaded for the name of Christ, get the desires of his heart? Sure, he did, but not in the way most modern Christians think. Paul’s desire was to see men saved.
Did Peter, who is noted to be crucified upside down, get whatever he wished?
Was James, the brother of Jesus, who was martyred in Jerusalem, fulfilling the desires of his heart when he died for the name of the Lord?
No. So what do these verses mean?
Let’s start with the first verse in John 15:17 – Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you … then you will ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” People who quote these verses often skip over the if/then part of them. If is contingent upon you in this verse. The contigency is on abiding in Christ and His words abiding in us.
We must go to God with the easy to digest parts of His commands and the not so easy parts. We must be like Peter in John 6 when Jesus said some really hard and confusing things, like eat my flesh and drink my blood. Peter and the disciples didn’t understand it. This is where the rubber met the road for the a lot of Jesus’ followers and they left Him. Why did they follow Jesus? For the, “Ask for whatever you wish and it will be done for you” part of the relationship.
They forget the contingency – the part where Christ says we are to abide in Him and His words abide in us.
To abide means to accept or act in accordance with.
Isn’t it funny how you can look words up and they mean something different than you thought they meant? Happens to me all the time.
Once again, we see that we are to love God’s commands. We do not get to come to Him with open hands and then reject the things we think are hard sayings. When we say like Peter, “Where else can we go? You have the words of truth and life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Peter and the disciples didn’t always understand either.
But they knew Jesus was who He said He was, and they trusted His words because of it. We may not always understand. But when we go to God and say, “God, I don’t understand. And I don’t even like this right now. But you are God and I am not. And for that reason, I will abide in the vine, in Christ, and trust that you will see me through this.”
God can handle your honesty. In fact, He doesn’t mind wrestling through it with you.
The next verse, Phil 4:19, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.” We have to look at the context of this scripture and that’s why it helps to know what the author was going through when he wrote it. Paul was in prison. In this chapter, he talks about rejoicing in the Lord and thinking on whatever is pure, good, etc. He talks to the Phillipians about sharing in his troubles and how he knows what it means to be in need and in plenty. And he reminds them that God knows the need and will supply it. It has nothing to do with riches, wealth, or success in the worldly sense.
This is why context is important.
When we go to the Lord, we are to understand who He is and believe He is who He says He is. But we can also be honest with God and wrestle through our doubts and our struggles with Him. In fact, He wants us too. But we must also recognize that we abide in His words, He doesn’t abide in ours. We must go to Him understanding that He is God and we are not. I believe that is the most basic attitude in which to approach God in prayer. When we do, we more easily can align ourselves with the words of Jesus – nevertheless, your will be done and not mine.
And finally, prayer is not an option, but it’s not always easy.
Fight through it anyway. We must remember that Ephesians 6 tells us we are in a spiritual battle. The only one you and I know that is infinite, all powerful, unlimited in knowledge and wisdom is God. There is none like Him. There is no one on earth that can do for you what God can. We have full access to the Father because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and we have the Holy Spirit leading us to His feet and beckoning that we come sit with Him.
Psalm 116:2 says, “Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” If that isn’t beautiful, what is? Who am I that the God over all creation would want to hear from me? I can tell you I’m not going to argue with that verse. He loves you and He loves me and He wants to hear from us because He delights in our time spent with Him.
Prayer isn’t always something I want to do.
I have seasons of easy time in prayer and season of hard. It’s usually when I’m on a project that I don’t want to take the time to prayer with the Lord. But I make myself because He is the only one who can do abundantly above all that I ask or think. And honestly, I can’t save my loved ones. That is something I must take to His feet because He works on the heart of man.
We don’t have time to wonder if we should pray. We must do it. Jesus said to Ask, Seek and Knock. He tells us to get aggressive in prayer and don’t stop until we get the answer.
So, does God answer every prayer?
It depends on who’s asking. If someone who cherishes sin in their hearts goes to Him, He won’t answer. You can call yourself a Christian all you want or say you love God until you run out of breath – if you love sin, you don’t love God. 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”
That’s harsh in this emotionally driven and victimhood culture we live in. But it’s the truth of God’s word. Now, the reality is that everyone has the invitation to come to the Lord. Everyone. No one is excluded. But how do we approach Him? In expectation that He is God and we are not? Or in expectation that my words should abide in Him instead the other way around?
That’s something to chew on.
I want to close this out by saying, if you abide in Christ and His words abide in you, God hears you. He bends His ear toward you. And there is never a prayer that goes unanswered. It just might be a NO instead of a YES. And I thank God for all the times He said no just as much as I thank Him for all the times He said yes. And honestly, God has said no a lot. A lot of times in been by way of closed doors in my life. At the time, it was hard. Looking back, it’s a good Father guiding my path.
Oh, how I love Him.
So, you can trust Him. He is good and there is no one like Him.
If you have any questions about this or anything else I talk about, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please leave a 5 star rating and review. I really appreciate that. And I’ll catch you on the next one!