Q&A: Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?

Why doesn’t God answer my prayer?

Question

Why doesn’t God answer my prayer? I keep praying the same prayer over and over but I don’t get an answer.

Answer

The question is very general in nature and therefore very difficult to give a specific answer. However, here are some general truths about prayer which may help you work out an answer for yourself:

First, at times God remains silent. This is in and of itself an answer. It may not be the answer we are hoping for, but God knows what is best for each of us individually. At a later date he may clarify his reason(s) to us. And then again, he may not. This is God’s prerogative.

Second, God doesn’t always answer prayers immediately. Sometimes he desires to first work something out in our lives. God often uses this in his sanctification process to help us mature. Think of the book of Job. It’s a long book and there are a lot of unanswered questions at the beginning, but as we near the end of the book, we discover God had a purpose in everything that Job went through. Ultimately, Job repented of his pride and God restored him.

Third, sometimes our prayers involve wrong motives. James 4:3 states, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” At times, we don’t realize this. We think we are proceeding on the right path, but we’re not. Or, we think we’re something we’re not. Look at Peter and the disciples. Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times, all before a certain time (cf. Matt. 26:34). But Peter responded saying, "“Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same." But a short time later Peter denied the Lord just as Jesus said he would. And after the crucifixion, all the disciples went into hiding. They weren’t on the right path. There was something present in their hearts that they didn’t realize (cf. Eccl. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21-22). In time, Jesus changed their hearts and renewed their faith in him.

Fourth, sometimes God answers prayers rather quickly. James 5:17-18 says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (cf. 1 Kings 17:1; 18:1; Luke 4:25). That’s some praying!

Praying can be rather difficult. We have to examine both ourselves, our motives, what we need to learn, and what God desires according to his sovereign will. This isn’t always that plain to us. Sometimes we’re going to mess up. I know I have. Fortunately, God built in a fail-safe plan for prayer. Romans 8:26-27 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words….” The Spirit always gets it right. We can rest and be assured that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).