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.
Thanks, my friend. We have yet to embrace the Christian model of community that we see in the book of Acts, (the first Christian church). In those days, everyone gave what they had to support each other and to demonstrate to the world that God lived with them and through them.
While the world may soon bring us back to that reliance on community, we are still deeply engrained in our independant western life style that has taught us to focus on being self sufficient. With that focus, we seldom notice the need to support and grow the larger Christian community around us. We need each other and you have reminded us of a little of what we are missing.
Absolute heresy. The creator of the universe is not sitting back wringing his hands wishing you were more willing.
Honestly, Jesus said, don’t bring your money, your gold your silver your tunic, for a WORKMAN is WORHTY of His hire. when told to go out and cast out the demons, and to stay at a house ( and they would be sowing into their needs) I ask for a specific amount for ministry, because a workman is worthy of his hire. (MY TIME, not my gift ) Paul had that right but didn’t exercise it, however he is saying we are free to do that. To me I am asking for what I consider my time and all the schooling and time I had put in. I do not agree with not putting a price on a particular thing in ministry. People do that when selling books. For a gift of 20 ill send you this book. so the books is worth 10 so they are asking for 10 and try to get the book for free, they will refuse you. – However Jesus said that a workman is worthy of it. We are workmen. They collected money for Paul. People don’t do that anymore, for lone- unaffiliated ministries. The situations of that time have changed. The scripture says, freely you have received freely give is talking about impartation of the gift itself. Not the time, not the schooling that it cost you, or the administration of it. I noticed that those who are most critical are ones who do not work in ministry – living by faith. How easy it is for people to point finger when they are either getting a salary from a church they are in, or they are working a regular job or they have a support from a spouse. A single parent, or what is considered a widow in ministry who charges xyz for counseling or their time is negatively looked at by others sometimes. I say do not judge unless you yourself are in that persons shoes entirely. that is why people go through stuff, so that they can get a taste of it themselves and out of knowing it, walking in their shoes, they are more understanding when they come across a person with similar situations. I would say, If I am one with the Lord and walking in His name, then I should know when I am being directed by Him. If so, then it should be trusted that my placing a amount on a specific ministry for something, that I am being directed by the Lord. Having said that, i tried the ‘donate’ to this ministry – with terrible results. When I charge – i see some are willing to pay a particular required amount, and I would rather work for those who sow into it than those who take it all for granted and want everything free free free. nothing is free, it costs someone something. I see how selfish that attitude is. A minister has to pay the electric bill just as much as a person in a full time job. but people want free free free. It cost Jesus something and people gave into his ministry but he was not poor. People back then were much more generous than this day. We can say to a ministry, God will provide- on the other end of that, lets tell those who sow, that God will provide too. in other words – its a 50/50 deal. God will provide for the sower to sow in, and the ministry will be provided by the sower, unfortunately its a sin for the ministry to ask for $, but its okay that the sower sow nothing but expect something from the ministry. How critical i use to be about people charging – wow.. and now that I am in this position, I realize how dumb i was about that. We ministers are to have faith in what ever people feel like giving but the Lord was SPECIFIC when saying how much to give into the temple. SPECIFIC amounts of things were told – and so that they were provided for. all 11 tribes gave to 1 tribe, specifics and abundance, they lived in abundance. Now if you ask for 5 dollars people say they can’t afford it. I think the hearts are some are cold and indifferent and those who are truly sold out are understanding and compassionate. I would rather work for those who are sold out then those who are callous and tight fisted. I always sow into people, with a generous heart. I think it should be that way in all believers to be thankful and gift into something to keep it going. God will reward the people who sow and yet if a amount is mentioned for their time. so be it. Its not like they are working 40 hours a week are they? Not that they wouldn’t but it is the way it is for ministry. For example – if i charge 40 to ministry to someone its not like i am doing a session every hour and making 40 an hour. no way. Some say if you put a fair price on it, they would take it more seriously. I have to agree.
No clue the connection??
If I recall the Lord’s Prayer, modeled for us, doesn’t focus on us having “authority” or “power” Instead it focuses on a relationship talk. We are to ask God for daily bread and forgiveness of sins. We are to ask for help out of temptation. We are to ask for God’s will to be done.
That is the focus of the Lord’s Prayer. However, in Matthew chapter 10 where Jesus commissioned the disciples, he gave them power and authority. The same can be found in Luke chapter 10 when he sent out the 70.
This! “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.
The real reason is that God answers prayer mostly through us, and we’re either too busy, to cheap, too wounded, or too ill-equipped to be the answer to the prayers of others.”
When I read this, I didn’t feel any smugness because I have it all right. No, I felt the tug of conviction because I’ve been on both sides of this topic. I’ve been “too” many times and I’ve also been frustrated with finances while trying to operate in full time ministry. Neither are God’s desire or best for us.
I 100% agree that for me, It’s time I step up my game! It’s time I stop being “too” and lean in to hear that voice that is prompting me to go and be the answer to someone’s prayer a lot more!
KEEP WRITING!!!! Thank you so much for your thoughts. I would have to agree with “anonymous”
we need to embrace the Christian model in the book of ACTS!!
This is my first visit to your website. I almost never leave comments on peoples’ blogs, but today I was inspired to write the following:
You wrote: “As freely as we receive, we are to freely give to others.”
Matthew 10:8 (KJV) wrote: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
According to Strong’s Greek Lexicon, both uses of “freely” have the same root word, “gift”; and both instances of word “freely” translate to “freely, undeservedly” or “freely, without a cause, in vain, for nought”.
(Kind of reminds me of the definition of “grace.”)
In light of these meanings of the word “freely”, I take the statement “freely ye have received, freely give” to mean the disciples did not pay for–nor were they adjudged to be especially worthy of receiving–Jesus’ teachings. And so, Jesus was sending them out to preach for the sake of preaching, to anyone who would listen, and they were not to be selective about the recipients, nor dismayed if their preaching was not fruitful (in vain).
In the phrase, “freely ye have received,” “received” is in the past tense, already performed. The disciples’ season of receiving is over. With “freely give,” Jesus is commanding them about their next step: to deliver their knowledge to others as they would a gift–freely, without any expectation of receiving something in return. Nothing in verse 8 talks about or even implies “taking”, contrary to your statement, “We must have the option to take as much as we want from someone without paying them a penny.”
Anyway, what could an ordinary Jewish man possibly give a disciple as an equivalent payment for sharing the message of the Messiah, resurrecting a loved one, being cured of disease, or being released from demonic possession?
Matthew 10 consists entirely of Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples; they part company in Chapter 11 verse 1. This 8th verse is Jesus saying, “All right students. Your training is complete. Now go out there and practice what you’ve been taught.” And then in verses 9 through 14, Jesus instructs the disciples on how to survive while in other cities.
I don’t recall reading of a time when Jesus passed the hat through a crowd, took up a monetary collection, or asked for donations for either his miracles or for healing. His ministry was funded by what the disciples earned from their regular jobs (or maybe bummed from friends and family) and donated; and by the unsought generosity of his supporters and converts.
Jesus set the example for all His disciples.
Between the time Jesus showed up to be baptized by John and the day He was crucified, Jesus did not lug around a bag of necessities, a change of clothes, or an extra pair of sandals. He lived like the “birds of the air,” not worrying about provisions, confident that His Father would see to His needs. Despite Scriptures stating that Jesus walked almost everywhere for over 3 years, we never read of him getting a new pair of sandals. Why? Did His clothing never wear out? That happened before, with God’s Chosen People in the desert. Or, did Jesus just ask for what was needed and, confident the Father would provide, He received it?
Throughout His ministry, Jesus demonstrated how capable and reliable the Father is in answering the requests of those who walk according to His paths. And so it doesn’t surprise me, in verse 9, that the Lord admonishes the disciples against taking anything with them on their journeys. Jesus understood that the security of having extra provisions would detract from total dependence on God. Instead, by taking nothing with them, the disciples would continue walking in the assurance that God provides for all their needs, and never experience a lapse in their confidence.
The Old Testament shows us time and again that God richly rewarded those who trusted only in Him and strictly followed His instructions. Despite having plenty and various fruits to eat, Adam chose to eat the one fruit that was forbidden, and thereby expressed his rejection of God as the Source of all things. That act was considered the sin that caused the Fall of Man. God has been trying ever since, to get mankind to return to needing only Him. And so Jesus, who led by example, could not instruct the disciples to take provisions with them; to turn from 100% reliance on God’s ability to meet their needs; to sin.
Then you wrote: “They freely give to us of their gift and we freely give back to them. It’s a two way street, isn’t it?”
No gift should be tied to an expectation of compensation, but if it is, do not call it a “gift”. By definition, a gift does not require something given in return. A “gift” should never be repaid, or else it’s not a gift. If you give something back after receiving a true gift because you believe you should do so, you deprive the giver of the benefit and joy of giving.
Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing! If you receive a “gift” and the giver makes you feel obligated to repay it or asks for donations, it never was a true gift; give the item back. Or else donate an amount you feel is fair, otherwise you lose control of deciding the object’s value to you, and permit the giver to enslave you to an amount *he* determines at a later date.
When Jesus said, “freely give,” he meant it. There is no “take” or “receive” to this command. If you are worried about an unbalanced ledger, you aren’t listening to Jesus!
The reciprocating “two way street” type of compensation you describe has a name. It’s called a “wage”. A wage is earned. Anything earned is not a gift.
Further, the gift of healing is not a job: it’s a CALLING–a mandate from God to believers.
If you *have* a gift, it came from God. Why would anyone with a gift think that *he* deserves to be compensated for using it to do God’s work? Or, perhaps it is not *God’s* work that he is doing? Get thee behind me, Satan!!