Summary: Why doesn’t God answer all our prayers? And when he doesn’t, what should our response be? Part 4 of a series inspired by Philip Yancey’s book "Disappointment with God."
Back when I was a student at Bethany Bible College in Sussex, NB, I lived in one of the dormitories. They’ve since renovated the dorm, but when I was there we had two pay phones in the dorm… one on the second floor, and one on the third. The one on the third floor worked fine, but the one on the second floor had a problem. It only worked one way. I could talk to someone on that phone and the person on the other end could hear me, but I couldn’t hear them. So we all kind of got in the habit of answering the phone whenever it would ring, and without being able to hear the person on the other end we would give them the phone number for the other payphone on the third floor and tell them to call it.
Sometimes when we pray, it feels like we’re using that phone. We’re saying words and assuming that they’re getting through, but it doesn’t seem like God is answering us. Or at least we can’t hear Him.
• I can remember praying for a young girl with leukemia to recover and she died.
• I’ve prayed for couples who were having tough times to stay together and they got a divorce.
• I’ve prayed for people to respond to a message and accept Christ and they didn’t.
• I’ve prayed for the Toronto Maple Leafs to win and they lost.
Why doesn’t God answer all our prayers? And when he doesn’t what should our response be? Good questions. This morning we’re going to explore these questions a bit. You can use your notes provided in the Sunrise Update to follow along with the message.
When our prayer goes unanswered, what should we do?
When Prayer Goes Unanswered…
1. Examine Yourself
Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because there’s something wrong with us. You need to ask yourself some questions. Let me give you five of them:
• Is there sin in my life?
This is not always the reason for unanswered prayer, but the Bible’s quite clear that unconfessed sin can become a hindrance to God hearing our prayers.
Isaiah 59:1-3 (NLT)
Listen! The LORD is not too weak to save you, and he is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call. But there is a problem—your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your mouth is full of lies, and your lips are tainted with corruption.
We’re living in a world today that likes to remove anything that casts blame or makes anyone feel uncomfortable. We’re not held responsible for our actions anymore. If we do something wrong or have a problem in our lives, it’s because of our parents or some traumatic event that happened when we were young. Even our view of sin has softened… we now call it a mistake, a lifestyle choice, an option.
But the truth is that while we’ve softened our view of what sin is, God’s view of sin has remained the same. He’s still aware of it, He’s repulsed by it, and He knows just how devastating sin can be in our relationship with Him. It’s a roadblock to our communication with Him. So we need to confess our sins to God, apologize for hurting Him, and allow Him to forgive us and restore us into relationship with Him.
Psalm 66:18 (NLT)
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.
“Spirituality is not how little you sin, but how quickly you repent when you do sin.”
~ Tim Elmore
“You don’t have to be perfect for God to hear your prayers, but if you are living in deliberate defiance… if there is a closed closet in your life that you will not allow Christ to enter… that acts as a barrier to prayer.”
~ Bob Russell
What are some sins that can hurt your relationship with God?
Violence (word, thought or action)
• Is this a consequence to something I’ve done?
Last week we talked briefly about King David in the Old Testament. We talked about how he’s referred to in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart. But he wasn’t perfect. One spring evening while his troops were off to war, David was having a hard time falling to sleep. So after he tossed and turned for a while, he got up and went up onto the roof of his palace for some fresh air. As he was walking around, he looked over toward some homes and saw a beautiful woman bathing. And he watched her.