Prayer can be a frustrating mystery. No one really knows for sure why one prayer is answered and another is not. What we do know is that the Bible says we should never ever stop praying. In fact, we should be praying so much that it actually annoys God. (Luke 18:1-8)
A complete discussion of prayer is too complicated to address here (please see Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer, for an analysis). What we can do is take a look at three biblical reasons why what you’re praying for right now isn’t being answered.
1) You don’t have a right relationship with God
2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Being in the family of God means living by the spirit and not by the flesh. You’re going to have a harder time understanding His desires if you’re constantly stealing, fighting, or generally living for the satisfaction of earthly things. How can an alcoholic know what God is telling him if he’s constantly drinking Miller Lite?
The only way Christians can know the proper way of living and what to ask for is by being in a right relationship with God. The further removed from the source of good things, the harder it is to get answers.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
2) You don’t ask for the right thing.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
If we’re not in a right relationship with God, we’ll tend to ask for things that aren’t good for us. I used to work as an usher in a church and would see the prayer requests submitted by the congregation. In the stack of requests next to someone praying for her sister to be cured of cancer would be someone’s request for a better parking spot at work. Really? God isn’t going to grant your requests unless they are edifying to His body of believers.
So the next time you plead and plead for God to grant your request to get that awesome Russian nesting doll you’ve always wanted, don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.
3) You don’t ask in confidence.
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt… you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
Lots of times the answer we get isn’t what we expect or things don’t make sense until we’ve had a little time and perspective to understand what happened. Unfortunately this can lead to a lack of confidence that we’ll receive an answer to what we’re asking.
I’ve met a lot of Christians that believe in a loving, prayer-answering God, but one that answers prayers for others and not themselves. Not getting a timely response can become maddening. Uncomfortably long waiting often leads to impatience, or even worse, not asking or behaving as if an answer is coming.
When praying we need to behave as if an answer is inevitable. If we lose faith it can affect our behavior and may keep us from acting in such a way that prevents us from being in a position that God needs for Him to be able to answer.
1 John 5
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.