Why Doesn’t God Answer my Prayer?
“Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong.” (Paul in 2 Cor 12:8-10, CEV)
Have you ever earnestly prayed for something, only to have your prayer seemingly go unnoticed? We can understand why God won’t answer prayers for things that are selfish or immoral. But it’s often hard to understand why it seems like our heartfelt, well-intentioned, biblical prayer has gone unanswered.
The first step is to make sure our prayers are not selfish: “Even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure.” (James 4:3). Nor can our prayers be immoral (contrary to God’s Word), since “if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.” (1 John 5:14). We must also be sure there is no unconfessed sin in our hearts: “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12), and “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (James 5:16)
But what if none of these caveats apply to our own specific prayer? What about when we can’t see any “wonderful results”? In our “I want it and I want it now” culture, this can be very frustrating. While we may not know why a prayer is not granted in the manner that we have requested, but we may be assured that God is still in control, even though His timetable is not the same as ours. God’s answers to our prayer do not include just “yes” and “no”; they may also include “not yet” and “yes, but not in quite the way you were expecting”. We know that “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12) When we remember that God is infinitely wiser than we are, we can demonstrate real faith, which is trust in God even when due to our limited understanding we can’t comprehend why certain prayers seemingly go unanswered.
We can also take comfort in the fact in not just Paul’s experience, but Jesus Himself in the Mount of Olives: “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”" (Luke 22:39-42) Of course, the cup was not taken from Jesus. The very next day, He was crucified. The disciples no doubt thought that their prayers had gone unanswered. The disciples could see no possible good coming from the crucifixion, yet this event ended up being God’s great triumph.