Why Our Prayers Go Unanswered
I’m going to unpack in this message, an answer to one of the most common questions people have: “Why hasn’t God answered my prayers?
There are as many clouds in the sky as there are theories about why our prayers remain unanswered. To answer the question, it may be helpful to have a realistic understanding of the relationship we have with God, and more importantly—how His will is worked out in our lives and how He answers prayer.
The creation narrative in Genesis reveals something we must factor into the equation: God gave dominion to Adam and Eve over the earth. This dominion gave them rulership and authority. They were, in a sense, the royal family that ruled over the entire planet.
The serpent stole their authority through trickery and derailed God’s plan. But God didn’t give up on the plan. At the cross, Jesus won back all that had been taken in the garden. As the New Testament teaches, we have been seated in heavenly places, high above all the powers of darkness. And it is from this place that we now rule and reign over the earth.
How do you like the view?
I once saw prayer as little more than the act of begging God to sovereignly fix my problems. I was taught that He did whatever He wanted and if He had some reason for not answering my prayers, He wouldn’t—and I would never know why.
There are many models of prayer, and this one turned out to be the least effective of all. It almost seemed as if the more I begged God to do something, the more my prayers went unanswered.
A few years ago, He began instructing me about healing. He reminded me that He had already given me all the power and authority I would ever need to heal someone. I love the way he instructed John Wimber about this: “Don’t ever beg me again for healing.”
What became apparent was the fact that when people were not healed, it was not because He was unwilling to heal them. It was because believers had refused to exercise their power and authority for healing. God is not responsible to do something He’s already delegated to us. That’s what it means to have authority.
A friend confessed the other day that he’s avoided the call of God to step into a full-blown prophetic ministry because of fears he had that the body of Christ would not support him financially. He’s been a believer for decades and he’s seen the way gifted people have struggled financially, because the saints have refused to support them. Rather than stepping out of the boat and trusting God to provide for his finances, he stayed on the sidelines. He realized God would answer his prayers for financial provision, mostly through the church. And he didn’t trust that system.
And now we must address a touchy subject:
Christians are quick to point out that someone with a gift must freely give it to others. For many, this means there can never be an expectation of paying for something they receive. They can be asked to give a donation, a gift, an offering or even an honorarium (an agreed-upon price) but they must always have the option of saying no. There can never be an agreed-upon price placed on ministry. That would be unthinkable. We must have the option of taking as much as we want from someone without paying them a penny. Of course, when we look at it this way, we see both sides of the coin, don’t we? As freely as we receive, we are to freely give to others. They freely give to us of their gift and we freely give back to them. It’s a two way street, isn’t it?
The stinginess my friend saw in the church, led him to believe he would always live in poverty if he dared to walk away from his secular job. So he never got out of the boat. He hid in the shadows with his talent, along with the rest of us. He could have prophesied to thousands of people who needed a word from the Lord. But it didn’t happen.
Ask a missionary what it’s like trying to pry money from believers to help pay for their ministry. Better yet, if you know a waitress, ask how they feel about waiting tables on Sunday for groups of Christians. The response will likely be that they would rather eat broken glass than serve the rude, stingy, and obnoxious believers who visit their restaurant after church.
Why do prayers go unanswered?
The real reason is that God answers prayer primarily through us. And we’re either to busy, to cheap, too wounded, or too ill-equipped to be the answer to the prayers of others.
We blow off the dream He gives us instructing us to help a relative. The waitress who prays for extra tip money has her prayers dashed by the very people God wanted to use to answer them. The sick who pray for healing have their prayers ignored because we’re unwilling to lay hands on them. The neighbor, who’s been praying to God for help with their yard work has their prayers fall to the ground because we don’t realize God has been nudging us to help them.
Please don’t take this as condemnation for something you’ve failed to do. It’s never my intent to condemn anyone. Everything we do should be done out of a place of rest in the knowledge that God is pleased with us, and not out of condemnation, guilt, or a need to please a God who is disappointed. He is not disappointed with you. He’s quite okay with where you’re at. But you might ask yourself if He’s been nudging you to step up your game a little.
Maybe you need help understanding what He’s has called you to do and how you’re supposed to do it. Maybe you’re not even sure you’re hearing Him at all. That’s okay. I can help.
I can’t free up five hours a day in your schedule or give you more compassion. Those are things you and God need to sort out, and He’s great in those departments. But I can teach you how to exercise the power and authority He’s given you. And if you’re already on the road to living as an ambassador of the kingdom, I might be able to move you a little further down the road. All you need to do to enlist my help is sign up for my e-mail list, or read a few more posts. Maybe listen to a podcast or pick up one of my books. If you need training and equipping, I have plenty of resources to help.
I’d like to challenge you to be the blessing God wants you to be to others. He will answer the prayers of hundreds (maybe thousands) of people through you … if you’re willing.
p.s. I’ve personally been blessed nearly every day by my friends. They’re quick to answer the call to prayer. They’re generous givers and they’re the most compassionate group of people you can imagine. I’m living proof of just how much God answers prayers through the people we choose to have in our lives.