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Unanswered Prayers?

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

Recently, my pastor discussed many valuable points about our prayers and God's responses. I wanted to share this with you because prayer is a huge expression of our relationship with Jesus. Sometimes it feels like our prayers go unheard or unanswered, which may make you feel like there is no point in it. So let's look at some possible reasons you're not seeing an answer to your prayers! 1. Check your heart for unconfessed sin As believers, we all have fallen and continue to fall at times. God always invites us into His presence to repent and find His grace. However, it's important to reflect and recognize any unconfessed sin in our lives. The Bible does say that if we regard iniquity in our hearts, He will not hear us (Psalm 66:18). This means that if we are aware of unrepentant sin and refuse to confess it, He will not hear our prayers. It's important to approach Jesus with humility and talk about our sins. If you're struggling to defeat it, talk to Him about it. There's no shame in communicating with Him, but it's critical that we acknowledge how far we've fallen and seek to change our ways. The purpose of prayer is to grow in our relationship with God, not just make requests of Him. Therefore, we should approach Him in a posture of honesty and humility, recognizing who He is. 2. What's your motive? What are you asking God for and why? Is it to spend selfishly on your own pleasures or build His kingdom? James 4:3 says, "You ask and don't receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires." Prayers for a new cell phone or for an A+ on a test you didn't study for may not be granted because of the motive. God isn't our genie in the sky. He is our loving Father who delights in giving to us abundantly, but His goal is to help us grow and mature in Him. He wants us to approach Him with our needs and loves to bless us, but it might help to assess your motive first. Before approaching God, you may reflect on this question: Whose kingdom am I trying to build? His or mine? 3. Did you ask in faith? Praying with the belief that God is able to hear and respond is essential. James tells us this about prayer: "When you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord" (1:6-7). We may approach God in doubt for a couple of reasons. One might be because of our shame. We may believe He can, but we don't believe He will because we feel undeserving. I've been there! There's been many times I don't even ask because I know I don't deserve to have anything. However, I want you to think of someone you trust. I always think of my mom. I hurt her in the past, disobeyed her rules, and didn't deserve her grace, yet she still offered forgiveness, cared for me, and gave good gifts to me.

The Bible has something to say about this very scenario: "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matt. 7:9-11). When we refuse to approach God because of our shame, this is actually distrust in God's character. In this scenario, we are struggling to believe the cross was enough for our sin (sit in this for a moment!). We are struggling to trust God loves us despite our failures. God is our Father, and He wants you to ask! He loves to give to you! Don't let shame silence you. God knows all about it and loves you still--always has and always will! Another reason we may approach God in doubt is that we don't believe He actually will or can. We might believe in God's power, read all the Bible stories, and hear how God's moved in others' lives but still struggle to believe He can move in ours. You may be battling to believe because you can't see. You're not alone, but God is so powerful that we could never see Him and still know He is working. I struggle with this sometimes too, and when I recognize my unbelief, I remind myself of the father asking Jesus to heal his possessed child: “‘And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘If You can? Everything is possible to the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do believe! Help my unbelief'” (Mark 9:22-24). This father inwardly warred with believing in Jesus' power and abilities. Jesus recognized the lack of faith, reassured him, and the man asked Him to help him in his unbelief. In response, Jesus healed his son! 4. Ask according to His will When we pray, we must ask according to God's will instead of demanding our own. We have all fallen into this trap, but it's important to share with God that it's His will you are seeking to follow. Remember Jesus' prayer before His crucifixion? Jesus prayed, "My Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matt. 26:39). Jesus asked if He could not be crucified but still communicated His willingness to submit to God's will. How powerful is that? How often can we relate to that? Jesus' prayer here seemed unanswered, but really, God's answer was "no" because of the good work God was doing through Jesus for US! Even when the answer is "no," we must choose to obey. The "no" God gave Jesus has become the easy "yes" to all those who want salvation. His will be done, not ours. 5. No, Wait, and Yes are the answers Keep reflecting on Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane. We often feel like God didn't answer our prayer because His answer wasn't "yes." We all know, though, that "no" is definitely an answer. Sometimes, His answer is to wait. The answer seems delayed because His timing is different than ours. We have to trust His timing, which sounds cliche, but viewing only a "yes" as an answer could be a lack of trust on our end. God works all things together for good to those who love Him (Rom. 8:28), but that doesn't mean that every circumstance in life is good--God will just bring forth good from evil. That's what He does!

So yes, this means that not everyone will experience physical healing. We may still lose our loved ones. We may never get that promotion. However, we can trust that if we don't receive those things, it's because God is going to use it for good! He never has any ill intention with us. Even when He disciplines us, it's because of His great love for us (Heb. 12:5-6)! Sometimes God does answer quickly, but more often than not, His answers seem slow or delayed. There's a bigger purpose than what we can see, and we have to trust that God in His infinite wisdom is working things out for our good and for the good of others!

6. Pray unceasingly

Have you ever wondered what the Bible meant when it said to "pray without ceasing"? Does that mean we are supposed to be on our knees in prayer all day every day? Not at all! Prayer is a conversation with God. There is formal prayer and informal prayer--neither is more right than the other. Formal prayer might look like praying at the altar or on your knees. Informal prayer might happen silently in the car and might be as simple as, "God, please give me strength." Unceasing prayer means you are consistently in conversation with God. We don't have to formally pray to talk with God. Think about talking with your friends. It's just a conversation, a quick whisper or thought to God all throughout your day. There is no right or wrong here. You can't have a relationship with someone you never talk to, and the same goes for our relationship with God!

Prayer is so vital to our relationship with God. Be encouraged that He is working even in silence!

~Allyson B.


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