Summary: This message focuses on why our prayers sometimes go unanswered.
What Will It Take?
What Will It Take For Me To Sincerely Pray To God & Receive An Answer Part 2?
In my message two weeks ago I asked you “What will it take for us to sincerely pray to God and receive an answer?” In that message I focused on the act of praying and as promised, this week we will examine why our prayers sometimes are not answered. As a reminder from two weeks ago, prayer is having a conversation with God. The most common word for prayer in the New Testament is the word “proseuche” (pronounced “pros-yoo-khay) which informs us that prayer should bring us into a close contact with God. It is much more than a mechanical act or formula to follow; it is a vehicle to bring us to a place whereby we may enjoy a close, intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father.
If the act of praying is supposed to bring us into a closer relationship with God then why do many prayers go up to God but those sending the prayers do not believe that answers are being sent back down. There are several reasons that this is the case and we will start with the most obvious one – selfishness. Turn with me to James 4:2-3.
I. Why Prayers Go Unanswered
Reason #1: Selfishness. I want us to think about our children for a moment. While they are young, one of the lessons we try to teach them is to share. We ask that they share their toys, their candy and other things. The lesson we are trying to get them to understand that in order to exist in this world you have to be focused on more than just your own needs, desires and wants. This is a lesson that we need to remember when it comes to our conversations with God. We are quick to go to Him and tell Him everything we want but we are slow to listen to see if He desires something from us. Here is how James addressed this situation: “You lust and you do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:2-3
James gets to the heart of the problem pretty quick. He says that we lusts and we do not get it so we kill so that we can have it. He says we are envious of others and cannot obtain what they have so we fight. Does this sound like the world in which we live in? We want what others have and because we cannot have it we fight with them or actually kill to have what they possess. How many murders are committed each year because someone wants something that someone else has? James then transitions to the fact that we do not have because we do not ask and when we actually get around to asking we do not receive because we’re asking with selfish motives – meaning that if we receive what we ask God for it will be used solely on us. How would you like it if you went to God and asked Him for $1000 and He asked you what you were going to do with it? Would you tell Him that you’re planning to donate half to the Church and some to the needy when you’re actually planning to buy that flat screen TV that you’ve had your eyes on? What if God told you that He would give it to you with the restriction that you needed to use it for the betterment of others versus yourself? Would you still want it? Some of us would take it, buy the flat screen TV; invite our friends over to watch the game and claim we are bettering their lives because they only have a regular color TV. Our justification is that our friends can now see the game in a much more clear and focused format. As you continue having your conversations with God when you are petitioning Him for something, ask yourself what is the real reason you want what you’re asking for and if you had it, would anyone other than yourself benefit from it. This is not a recipe for getting what you petition God for, but a gut check for you to monitor your own motivations. Let’s go to the second reason some of our prayers are not answered. Turn to Isaiah 55:11 and then we will go to Mark 16:16-18.
Reason #2: Praying Outside Of God’s Word. The second reason our prayers are not answered is because we pray for things outside of the Word of God. Isaiah 55:11 says “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) This verse does not mean that whatever God “wants done gets done by the people He wants to do it. It does mean that it will get done by those listening to God and are willing to abide by His word.” When our thoughts and actions line up with God, He has someone He can work through and things get done. When we begin praying according to the Word of God, we can know that our prayers will be answered because we are praying His word. Let me give you an example. God word has promised me that He will supply my needs. If I need a car, I can go to God and pray confessing His word that He has promised to provide my needs. Once I have prayed this prayer, I can begin searching for transportation while allowing God to work out the situation. Praying this prayer does not mean I can go out and lease a brand new luxury car because that is not what I need. I might need a good used vehicle that I can easily afford. You see the difference? When we begin to pray God’s word, we pray with the understanding that God’s primary motivation for His interaction in this world is to get people saved. He wants to have a personal relationship with all of us, not just the Baptist, Catholics, and other Christians. He wants a relationship with all people so when we are praying to help this get done by any means necessary, we get God’s attention. Now turn to Mark 16:16-18. It reads: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed; in My name they will cast our demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.” (Mark 16:16-18)