Most people who have ever lived, whether they believed in the One True God or not, prayed to some extent. It may be every day or once a year, but most people in the world believe in a Creator. I reach out to people of varied beliefs on a regular basis and you might be surprised how many self-professing Atheists own a Bible and pray!
They won’t admit it at first, but once you get past the early stages of the conversation (arrogance and rebellion) many of them will either admit or make it very obvious by their words and actions that deep down they do believe there is a God. Scripture tells us why this is the case in Romans 1:20 “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.”
But a common question is often asked: “Why Doesn’t God Answer all of my Prayers?” As always, we need to look to the Scriptures for the answer. Psalm 66:18, James 4:3 and several others give a very clear reason for the unanswered prayer of those who are not living as they should be living.
For those who do not desire what is right (which goes right along with repentance and Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who IS all that is right) He simply doesn’t listen. You may think you’re a good person (click here if you do) but God knows your heart better than you do (Psalm 44:21, Psalm 139:23). He knows every secret, every thought and even the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7)!
Before I was born again (James 3:1-18 – one evening in my bedroom). For the first time in my life I began to truly understand how much God hates sin. This caused me to WANT to stop sinning. The problem was, I literally could NOT stop sinning. That tore me up inside because I felt like I wasn’t good enough (and I really wasn’t, and I still am not… thank God for His undeserved Grace and gift of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ)!!
So I started praying (even though at that point I wanted to believe more than I actually did believe) for help. Once my heart was in that condition, it wasn’t long before the peace which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) came into my heart in an instant and my new life began!
So the answer to the question in many cases is this: unrepented sin! But what about the unanswered prayers of those who are repentant and faithful? To answer this, believers need to understand that just as we all have earthly fathers, God is our Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father is infinitely better than our earthly fathers, so there is absolutely no comparison when it comes to the goodness of the two.
When it comes to the role of the Father, there is a direct comparison that can be made. Just as a good earthly father does not provide his child with everything that is asked because he knows what is best (or at least tries to do what is best), our Heavenly Father does not answer all prayer because he knows what is best! He does not have to try to do what is best. Everything he does IS what is best.
When we’re dealing with a dying loved one, or some other extremely difficult situation, it can be hard to imagine that this is God’s will. But we must always remember that ALL THINGS in these temporary bodies … in this temporary world, are just that: temporary! All things in this lifetime, whether good or bad, are temporary!
That loved one dying of cancer is going to die sooner or later (whether from this cancer, from old age, or something else). You have no idea what God is doing with it. He may very well be using that to draw others to Him. He may be using it for a multitude of other good things. That temporary suffering hurts. I certainly do not mean to belittle it, but we must always remember that God always thinks eternal thoughts and the thoughts and worries that we have when dealing with these difficult times, are temporal thoughts!
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Paul didn’t say “some things…” or “many things…” he said “all things work together for good to them that love God.” Remember that! Never forget that! Colossians 3:2 – “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
That is often the problem. We assume that God’s thoughts are temporal thoughts, as many of our thoughts are. We often fail to remember that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Whatever temporary problem it is that you are facing, no matter how tragic and hurtful it is, if you set your affection on those things above and trust in the promises of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will begin to understand that He truly does care and any prayer that is not answered, is because He knows what’s best!
One other very important thing to mention is the fact that many prayers that seem to go unanswered, are answered at a later date or in a different fashion then you had imagined. God is not constrained by time and God always knows better than you and I. He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, which means he is all-knowing, all-powerful and present everywhere at the same time. Born-again Christians are not only “allowed” to pray (thanks to the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ), He DESIRES our prayer! They are like a sweet incense to God! But, that doesn’t mean He will answer prayers that are outside of His perfect will.
For example, you may pray for a lost loved one. That lost loved one may not be saved immediately, but the Lord could very well be working in their heart! That person may be saved 50 years from now! Maybe it’s moments before their death? If your prayer is answered 50 years later, is your prayer still answered? Yes. But you may have gone 50 years thinking that it wasn’t. How many other prayers fall into that category?
What it comes down to is humbling ourselves before our Holy, Righteous, Almighty God and trusting in Him, through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10) and believe the Truth of God’s Word, in that nothing that shouldn’t happen will happen! You can put it ALL in His hands. He is not only capable, He is perfect in every way.
You can “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6) and after doing that, you can have the peace of knowing that His ETERNAL plan will be accomplished in your life and the life of all of your family and friends and NOTHING will ever happen that should not happen.