Q. Are there reasons why God would not answer our prayers?
Sometimes Christians don't want God's will done in their lives and refuse to ask for things according to the will of God. "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us" (1 John 5:14).
There may be sin in our lives and we may not be walking in the will of God. "We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him" (John 9:31).
Sometimes we are out of "sync" with God. He says, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you" (John 15:7). The New Living Translation says it this way:
"But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted."
How can His words be in us if we don't study and read the Bible daily? This is also why many teachers suggest that Christians learn to "pray" the Scriptures.
Sometimes our motives are wrong. "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3). Asking for a Ferrari and a 10,000 square foot mansion may mean our motives are wrong and may not be God's will for your life.
We may not be praying with faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours" (Mark 11:24).
We might not be persistent enough. "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1).
Praying in His Name
We need to remember to pray in Jesus' name: "If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14).
The Answer may be "No"
Sometimes the answer is "no." Paul prayed, "Brethren my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved" (Romans 10:1). Many Jewish hearers continued to reject the gospel message. Paul asked that God would remove his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor. 12:7-9). But, God told him that his grace was sufficient for Paul.
We may harbor Unforgiveness toward someone: "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins" (Mark 11:25).
Peter 3:7 warns, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."
Modern Day Idols of the Heart
The prophet, Ezekiel, warns: "Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?" (Ezek. 14:3).
This is a spooky verse! Ezekiel warns that God will not answer their prayers if they are seeking idols of the heart. These are not statues. "Idols of the heart" in modern day terms can be your television set, sports (how many miss church to watch the football games)? A 401k and IRA or brokerage account (rather than trust in God). An idol refers to anything we give higher priority than God.
"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered" (Proverbs 21:13).
How can we ask things of God if we will not help those less fortunate than we are?
"A generous man will prosper. But, he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25).
Arthur, Kay. 1996. Teach me to pray. New York: Walker&Co.
Missler, Chuck&Nancy. 1999. Faith in the night seasons. Coeur d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House. Available from: www.khouse.org.
Moore, Beth. 2000. Praying God's word. Nashville, TN: Broadman&Holman.