Tough Questions Series Part 4 – Why Aren’t My Prayers Getting Answered?
This is the last blog in my “Tough Questions” series. So far we’ve talked about How Can A Forgiving God Send People To Hell, Why Jesus Had To Die and Why Bad Things Happen To Good People. Today we’ll discuss the question; Why Aren’t My Prayers Getting Answered?
First let me tell you that just because I’ve been a Christian for a while now and went to Bible School, it’s not like everything always happens the way I want it to. I’ve been talking to God about my relationship and financial status for a long time, amongst many other things. So I can definitely empathize with the person who is frustrated in their current situation and seemingly not getting the response they would like from God. Throughout this process I have learned a lot though.
Obviously I’m not going to be able to tell you exactly why you haven’t got your prayers answered (I’m not God). It could be for a number of different reasons. I can share what I’ve learned though and give you some common misconceptions as well as mistakes that I’ve made, which hopefully you can learn from.
What Is Prayer?
If you’ve been reading my blog then you are probably used to getting your beliefs challenged. I think it’s a good thing to have your belief challenged every once in a while. My beliefs have been challenged a lot the last few years but it’s why I have been able to come to some of the revelations I have. So let me just challenge your beliefs about prayer a bit.
Think about this example; you see a little girl talking to her Father. She’s telling her dad how great he is and really buttering him up saying things like “oh daddy you’re the best” and “Dad I love you so much”. She proceeds to tell her Father how she’s going to clean her room later and do all her chores, confesses all her sins, etc. Then she asks, Dad can I please have a glass of water? You would think something is wrong with this situation wouldn’t you? Why does this little girl feel that she has to beg her dad for something she can freely get anywhere? You would either think that this Father is very egotistical and training his daughter to beg for things to make him feel better about himself or maybe the Father is a good Father and for some reason the girl is not able to understand the heart of her father. Either way there is some disconnect here.
The way most people are taught to pray would indicate a disconnect on both ends. If we are begging for things then we don’t have a revelation of the heart of the Father for us and everything he has already given us. If we feel we have butter God up in order to please Him then we have a wrong image of who He is. We don’t have to try to manipulate God and twist His arm to get Him to give us things. He is not changed by our much begging and pleading. He is not a reactive God that figures out what He’ll do for you on the fly. God is a proactive God who foresaw everything that man would ever need and provided it for them from the beginning.God is proactive. He foresaw everything that man would ever need & provided it for them. Click To Tweet
I see prayer more as a way of life then an event. Prayer should be born out of joy and desire that comes from hearing about and from God. It is good to talk to God about things and ask him questions but you don’t have to help Him get to know you. He already knows everything about you but is blessed when you talk to Him about what is going on in your life. In a parent-child relationship the parents get to know the kids very well from the beginning, so it’s more about helping the kids learn about what kind of parents they have. Consider how well you can get to know someone when you are always the one who does all the talking. They will get to know you, but you won’t get to know them because you aren’t letting them talk.
The Jews have a prayer they call Shema Shema, which basically means to hear and keep on hearing the word of God. In this context, prayer is not just communicating with God, but could also include listening to praise and worship music, listening to teaching, talking with others about God, etc. It is meditating on what God has said and done for us in Jesus and could include various different activities. It isn’t meant to change God’s heart but to join our hearts with God so we know what He knows, feel what He feels and have His kind of life. So we don’t need to make it a work or create a formula out of prayer. Prayer should be fun. It should be exciting for us to spend time with God. You should feel free to be yourself around Him. Just remember to say over every once in while.How well can you get to know someone when you do all the talking? In prayer say over every once in a while :). Click To Tweet
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. ~ Jesus. Matthew 6:7-8 NIV.
What Are You Delighting In?
I’ve mentioned this verse before but Psalm 37:4 says delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. As Bertie Brits described this verse, he explained what he used to do was see a car at BMW that he liked, then go and delight in the Lord and thank him for giving him the BMW which was the desire of his heart. However, the important distinction to make is, where did that desire for the BMW come from? Did it come from God? No. Now I’m not against people having nice things and neither is God…I happen to have a BMW myself. But again, if you’re not getting the desires of your heart it would be wise to check where those desires are coming from. God’s promise is not that he will give you the desires of your heart while you delight yourself in the world…it says he will give you the desires of your heart as you delight in Him.
Bertie also explained that the word delight in that verse means to be pampered. So what you want to do is just soak in the goodness of God and His love for you. Go back and remember the things He has done in your life. Go over some of your favorite scriptures. Listen to messages that fill you up with God’s love. If you are new in your relationship with God and are not sure of these things, just ask Him to come in and persuade your heart. As you are listening, pay attention to spontaneous thoughts that come up and the desires that come to heart. Trust that is God leading you. Colossians 3:15 says let the peace of God rule in your heart. That word rule is like when an umpire makes a decision in a baseball game. Think about how you feel about going a certain direction and then think about how you feel going the other direction. Once you know which one gives you more peace, be decisive and don’t look back. But don’t be in a hurry. Waiting for peace about which direction to go is absolutely essential. You may just find that the direction you end up going and desire of your heart was completely opposite from your original intention once you spend time talking and listening to God about it.
Who Are You Really Praying To?
It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in traditions and our own routines when it comes to prayer. Sometimes you just have to say things in the most radical way possible in order for people to really wake up. I heard Bob Woods say in his prayer series that it’s like sometimes we pray to Jesus Clause. I thought that was a great way of putting it, and realized it to be true in my prayer life sometimes as well. We get into this mindset sometimes thinking God answers our prayers based on if we’ve been naughty or nice. God never cuts off the hose, our mentality does. God is seeing you through the finished work of Jesus. Your sin is not a problem. It’s moved as far as the east is from the west. There is nothing you can do to get more blessed than you already are.
The other misconception about God that hinders our prayer life is the feeling that God is Master and we are servant, instead of Father and child. That along with the traditional way the cross is presented as being God getting his anger out on Jesus combines to make us fearful about going to God. It’s like when people adopt dogs that previously had an abusive owner. The new owners will go to pet the dog but the dog will cower away because it does not trust the new owner and has been conditioned to think that people will beat it. This type of mentality is detrimental to one’s prayer life because it make people reluctant to come to God.
John 17:3 says that eternal life is knowing God. This is our objective in life…to know God…not our ministry. Ministry will result from knowing God. These misconceptions about God really put a damper on our prayer life and getting to know God. Getting to know God is really big deal. It’s what Christianity is all about. Hence the #GodNeedsNewPR name.Sometimes it's like we pray to Jesus Clause thinking he'll answer our prayers based on naughty or niceness. Click To Tweet
Lusting – The Lie of Lack
I touched on the lie of lack in the last section, but want to elaborate on it a bit more here because it’s a big deal too. Lusting is when you want more of what you already have enough of. Seeking things you already have is a life of lust and stems from the lie of lack. If you think you lack it will lead to you going and trying to get it in your own ability rather than getting with God about it. What we tend to do is try to figure things out in our own ability and then ask God to bless it rather than coming to him based on what we already have in Christ.
James 4:3 says you ask and do not receive because you ask amiss. The word amiss in the original language is sick. The way I see it, if you are asking from a position of lack, your belief system is sick. Therefore you are asking amiss and will not receive because of what you are believing…not because God has said no to your prayer. James also said let not a double minded mind think he should receive anything. Our thinking contradicts itself when we say our refuge is in Jesus but also our ability to perform certain tasks. Which one is it? Don’t let believe in yourself creep in. When you keep your belief solely in Jesus you position yourself to receive from what He has already done for you. You also get to know the Father better when you are dependent on the finished work of Jesus. You get to know His passion and reasoning much better.
2 Peter 1:3 says we have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness. My recommendation would be to get with God about these things until you are fully persuaded, then pray. If you start praying before you are aware and fully persuaded of what you already have, then your prayers become prayers of begging. Biblical hope is not begging but a confident expectation. The scriptures say out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. So if we receive what He is speaking to us, then meditate on it and make a judgment, that is when we are in the proper place to speak on it as opposed to thinking about a situation and going right to speaking on it before we give God a chance to persuade our hearts.
Psalm 78 gives us a good example of how we limit God sometimes. In verse 41 it says they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. So they didn’t remember his power and ability. Mathew 13:58 talks about how the people in Jesus’ hometown limited him because of their unbelief. Psalm 84:11 says no good thing does he withhold from them that walk uprightly. The word uprightly there is not speaking of people who do everything right. It’s translated from a Hebrew word (tamim) which means complete or perfect. The Hebrew word “tam” can also mean simple, in a sense like being single-minded rather than double-minded. We are complete in Christ. His grace and influence are more than enough for all our needs.No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11 KJV. Click To Tweet I love the Lord, for he heard my voice..he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Ps. 116. Click To Tweet
What Should I Pray For Then?
If you agree with the concept of having everything in Christ, then your question might be, well what should I pray about then? If you’re defining prayer as communication with God then I would say prayers of thanksgiving and continued revelation of who God is and who you are in Christ are great things to pray.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention praying in the spirit as well. I am not an expert in this subject but am a believer in it and know it to be very powerful. Praying in the spirit allows you to bypass your brain and pray for things you don’t even know you should or could be praying about. So if you are ever at a loss for what to pray about, you can just pray in the spirit and ask for revelation from God. If this is a new concept to you, Andrew Wommack has an article and video on his website with more information here.
Let’s take a look at some sample prayers in the Bible for more ideas about what and how to pray.
Typically people look at the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 for an example prayer, but if you want to look at a great model prayer from Jesus reference John 17. This happened just before his death and is the closest thing we have to a New Testament prayer from him. Had it been just a few more weeks he could have prayed this prayer as if it was all in the past tense.
The thing I find interesting about this prayer is that it is for believers and He is not praying for our daily needs. He’s not asking that we have money, peace, victory, etc. He knew all things would already be provided for us in Him. The thing Jesus is praying for is that we would get revelation of our union with Him. He’s praying that we would know the way the Father loves Him is the same way the Father loves us.
The other thing I find interesting about this prayer is that is verse 15 he prays that we would be protected from evil. Some translations say the evil one but it should just read evil. That word for evil is poneros, which means full of labors, toils and annoyances. Remember Jesus also said that His yoke is easy and burden is light. When we take on the heavy burdens of trying to produce life in our own ability, that leaves us full of annoyances and is what Jesus called evil.
So if you want to pray like Jesus prayed, don’t repeat prayers in vain repetition. Pray for yourself and others to have revelation of your union with Christ and the way the Father loves you and them.
The prayers in Luke 18 from the Pharisee and the Tax Collector give us some more insight into prayer. In it we see a Pharisee who is praying about how he’s not like the other sinners and how he does all these different things right. The tax collector simply asks God to have mercy on him a sinner. Jesus said the tax collector is the one who went home justified. Why? Because he humbled himself and was not dependent on his own self-righteousness. The difference for a New Testament believer is that you do not have to even ask God to have mercy on you, He already has and you don’t have to identify yourself with being a sinner if you have put your trust in Jesus. It doesn’t mean you deny that you still sin, but as we discussed previously that is not the way God sees you. But it does stress the importance of humbling yourself and not being dependent on your own self righteousness to get your prayers answered.
If you are interested in some more sample prayers, the prayers below are from a document created by John King. It includes all of Paul’s intercessory prayers for others in scripture. You can include your name or the name of others you would like to pray for in the blanks.
INTERCESSORY PRAYERS OF PAUL FOR OTHERS
- That _________ have the spirit of wisdom and revelation.
- That _________ may know him better.
- That the eyes of _________ heart be enlightened.
- That _________ may know the hope of His calling.
- That _________ may know the riches of His glorious inheritance in _________.
- That _________ may know His great power for all who believe.
Eph. 3: 16-19
- That _________ may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in _________ inner man.
- That Christ may dwell in _________ heart through faith.
- That _______ may be rooted and established in love.
- That _______ may have power to grasp the riches of the love of Christ for _________.
- That _________ be filled with all the fulness of God.
1.That _______ be filled with the knowledge of His will.
- That _________ have all spiritual knowledge and understanding.
- That _________ may live a life worthy of the lord.
- That _________ please him in everyway.
- That _________ bear fruit in every good work.
- That _________ grow in the knowledge of God.
- That _________ be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might.
- That_________ may have great endurance, patience and joy.
- That _________ give thanks to the Father.
- That _________ love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.
- That _________ may be able to discern what is best.
- That _________ may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.
- That _________ may be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.
- That_________ love increase and overflow for each other and everyone else.
- That _________ heart be strengthened.
- That_______ be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes.
- That God Himself may Sanctify _________ through and through.
- That ________ whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I hope you get a few main things out of this blog. One, that prayer is not begging. As I talked about, it’s vital for you to understand what you already have and God’s heart for you. He is not holding back from you.
Two, you have to take some responsibility for your prayer life and knowledge of God. It’s easy to blame God, others, our circumstances, etc. Remember what ignorance about God did for Job. Also Hosea 4:6 which says my people perish because of a lack of knowledge. Knowing God is the most important thing in your life. It will totally transform the way you look at things.
Speaking of things, one last thing I want to mention. Don’t use your faith for things, put your faith IN Jesus. That’s it. It’s his good pleasure to give you the kingdom. He knows what is best for you and He wants you to succeed even more than you do. If you have trouble trusting Him and/or spending time with him, my previous series about God’s Campaign For You will help you get to know Him and His character. Also, if you are interested in some more in depth information about prayer, Bob Woods has an excellent Prayer Series which I referenced for this blog. You can check it out here and download all the message for free. Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if you have any questions.