I have sometimes been troubled by unanswered prayer. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences.
I have thought of verses such as Matthew 7:7 – ‘Ask, and it shall be given you‘ – in which God promises to give what we ask for. Yet, I have asked for things, which seem to be biblical, but have not received them. Why do my prayers appear to go unanswered? Is God failing to keep his promise? Is he not answering because he is unable to?
The answer to these questions is a resounding “no”. God is faithful to all his promises and able to do anything he pleases. If my prayers are not being answered, then there must be another reason.
We find an answer to this in James 4:2. Teaching about the things we desire, but do not have, he writes, ‘Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts‘. When we do not receive those things we ask of God, it is because we are asking amiss. The fault is not with God’s goodness, or his ability to keep his promises, but in our own prayers. So we need to think about what it means to ‘ask amiss’?
The first answer is given to us in the verse in James 4, ‘ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts‘. We are commanded not to covet, and this verse is in the context of desiring and trying to get things we do not have. If we are seeking something out of envy of what others have, or to boost our own pride, or to make us look good in the eyes of others, then our motives are wrong and we are asking amiss. God will not deny us any good gift for his glory, but he has not promised to give us things we don’t need just to boost our pride and self-worth. In fact, he denies us these things for our good, to humble us and to turn us to him in a state of dependence. When we ask, we will only receive if the motives of our hearts are right.
Another way that we can ask amiss is to ask for things which are not compatible with God’s word. There is much in the Bible about Christian living and the way that God wants us to behave and conduct ourselves. If we ask for things which go against the Bible’s teaching for our lives, then we cannot expect God to answer those prayers. For example, if you want a really flashy car but don’t have the money, you can’t expect God to provide you with that money as spending it on an expensive car would not be a good use of it in accordance with Biblical principles. Or if you’re praying that a particular person who is not a Christian would be romantically interested in you, you can’t expect God to answer that prayer, when the Bible is so plain in teaching that marriage should be between two believers. God will be faithful to His promise, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you‘, insofar as we are faithful in praying according to his will.
Praying in Faith
Finally, we should always pray in faith, believing that God can answer. Earlier in James we read ‘But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord‘ (James 1:6-7). If we pray, not really believing that God can or will hear and answer then we betray our lack of faith and cannot expect God to answer such prayers.
I have briefly outlined three reasons why our prayers may go unanswered – although in reality maybe there has been an answer of “No”. Much more could be written on this subject, and it might be that you feel you are praying rightly, but God does not appear to be hearing. If this is the case, I would encourage you to keep on praying, but as you do, search your heart and ask God to reveal anything wrong in your prayers.
Sometimes God does not answer immediately, but delays and asks us to wait – look out for another blog on this soon.[A00108 – 02/05/2019]