Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” NKJV
Clearly, this passage reveals the desire of God to answer prayer and is a mild rebuke for not praying. There are many passages in the Bible about prayer, answered prayer and explanations why our prayers are not answered. It is not as simple as saying, “If you do not get what you requested, it was not God’s will.” That might be true and it might not be much more involved than that simplistic interpretation. If we take that stance we should also take the stance that God’s Will is always done which would totally negate the need for or purpose of prayer. That, in my view, would be completely opposite of the teachings of Scripture. I believe that prayer is a command, has a purpose, and is effective in securing answers from God. But what about those times when we do not receive answers to our prayers.
Let me suggest, without going into great detail, several reasons that we might not get an answer to our prayers or receive the petition we have presented before God. It is difficult to reconcile unanswered prayer with the passage above where Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you…” He did not say, “Ask and if God wants to He will grant your petition.” It simply said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…” Therefore, if we ask and it is not given, WHY?
Let me take several, not in any particular order and hopefully it will encourage you, inspire you, and instruct you so that you can pray more efficiently and effectively. What are some reasons for Unanswered Prayer?
- Asking Amiss. (James 4:3) – “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” WRONG MOTIVE. God will never share His Glory and will not participate in our pursuit of carnal purposes. He is all about the Kingdom of God, Righteousness, and Redemption. If we are asking selfishly we are asking amiss and we will find frequently that those prayers are not answered in the affirmative.
- Double-Mindedness. (James 1:2-8) dealing with the need for wisdom but can be expanded far beyond simply praying for wisdom and guidance, it tells us that if we are double-minded we are unstable and cannot expect to receive anything from the Lord. A spring does not produce sweet and bitter water and a tree does not produce good and bad fruit. If we live with one foot in the kingdom and one foot in the world we have guaranteed that our prayers will go unanswered.
- Wrong Timing. (Ecclesiastes 3) speaks specifically to this reality that there is a time for everything and we may be asking for something that is perfectly in God’s plan for our lives but the timing is wrong and God will not grant our petitions prematurely for that would likely short-circuit His purposes. Maybe there is something we do not see that He is teaching us before we reach that time. Remember Israel in the Wilderness? They kept circling the mountain and spent 40 years in the wilderness as God was teaching them and bringing them to His perfect timing. I have no doubt that Moses and Israel prayed for the Promised Land but until God’s timing, He did not grant that petition.
- Unspecified Generalized Prayers. (Philippians 4:6) instructs us with regard to prayer we are told to ‘make our requests known unto God’. Make Known requires specificity. It is more than praying “bless me” and expect God to answer specific desires that are undeclared. If you pray generalized prayers how will you know when or if they are answered?
- (Mark 11:23) is an incredible passage regarding Faith Praying and Banishing Doubt. Jesus begins by saying, “Have faith in God.” Then, He opens a door that few ever walk through spiritually. He tells us to ‘speak to things including mountains’ believing that what we have declared is a factual and literal reality without exhibiting doubt. Jesus says if we do that we will have what we said or prayed. BUT, if we say or pray in doubt we negate the Promise and Pollute the Prayer.
- Feelings of Unworthiness. So many passages identify that NOTHING we can be earned and everything we receive from God is based on His Grace, Mercy, and Love, not our deserving or earning. In the natural, if we do not feel worthy we tend to hesitate to make a request of others. In the realm of the spirit, we do the same thing. What we must understand is that we will NEVER be good enough, holy enough, or righteous enough. It is not our worthiness but His that is the basis for our petitions.
- Failure to Ask. Text Verse – If we DO NOT ASK we will not receive but if we DO ASK we will receive. 1 John 5:14-15 is an incredibly powerful directive that we should take to heart. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
Let me conclude with the following emphasis: If we Ask Anything according to God’s Will HE HEARS US. If He hears us, WE RECEIVE the Promise. So, if we know biblically that something is God’s declared will we can and should ASK with complete confidence that He will hear that prayer and if He listens to it He will grant our petition. Therefore, if you are not getting answers to your prayers consider the possibilities I have listed and examine yourself to see if you are failing in any of those areas and ask God to help you correct them.
God, bless you richly as you pursue His Purposes in this life.