Summary: I would propose up front that God does answer our prayers more often than we like to think....Why?
I was asked recently, Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Here is my answer.
I would propose up front that God does answer our prayers more often than we like to think, its just that we aren’t getting the answers we want. God can answer with a No, but we wanted a Yes and so we keep praying, looking for the Yes even though the answer has already been given. God sometimes answers with a Wait – but again we were after a Yes and so we ask – Why isn’t God answering me?
Having said that though, there are example of prayers going unanswered in the bible.
* King Saul prayed for guidance but God did not answer him. Saul had pronounced a curse on any of his army who ate before evening. Jonathan, unaware of the curse, had eaten. The lesson for us is we should be very careful about making vows. 1st Samuel 14:37; Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.
* King Saul prayed for help and guidance. Saul had removed so far from God that He no longer answered Saul’s prayers. Saul then sought an answer through a medium. 1st Samuel 28:6,7.
* David prayed for the life of his son. The son died because of David’s sin with Bathsheba. 2nd Samuel 12:13-23. Lesson for us – sin has its consequences.
* Elijah prayed that he might die. God had much more work for Elijah to do so it was not in God’s will for Elijah to die at that time. In the end Elijah didn’t die but was caught up into heaven by a whirlwind. 1st Kings 19:4; 2nd Kings 2:11.
* Jonah prayed that God would take his life as it was better to die than to live. God does not answer this type of prayer for there is a time to die and we must wait for God’s timing not ours. Also, Jonah had yet to accomplish the work God sent him to do. Jonah 4:3.
* King Zedekiah prayed for help in defeating Nebuchadnezzar. God’s answered that He would not help because of the many sins of Israel. Jeremiah 21:2.
* The disciples James and John with their mother requested the highest rank in the kingdom Jesus was to establish. Jesus’ answer was that this position was not His to give. But, they first were to be servants of one another before greatness would be given them. Mark 10:34-45.
* Jesus prayed, “May this cup be taken from me.” He also prayed, “Your will be done.” It was the Father’s will that Jesus drink the cup of suffering for the sins of the world. Matthew 26:36-46; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:9; 12:2,3; 13:12,13.
* Paul prayed that his “thorn in the flesh” be removed. Paul’s thorn was not removed, so that Christ would be glorified, not himself, and to keep him from becoming proud. 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10.
A point I will make is this:-
We are called to trust God, even when the answer to our prayer isn’t what we were hoping for:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful
One thing we need to consider and this has certainly been my experience is that there are many times when we don’t get what we ask for in prayer and then years later are glad that we didn’t get what we first wanted. Has that ever happened to you? As a parent, I’ve had the experience of having to say ‘no’ (or remain silent) to a request made by one of my children, even when I so desperately wanted to make my child happy in the short-term by simply saying ‘yes’. But I knew there was something more valuable in store if I could just help daughter understand the value of waiting, or the danger of actually getting what they were asking for. In those situations, my kids needed to trust my wisdom even if they couldn’t understand my response at the time. I was confident that they would someday understand why I said ‘no’. In a similar way, we need to patiently accept whatever answer we get from God, knowing that we will someday understand why He responded the way He did.
God has a complete understanding of what is good for us, even if it doesn’t make sense to us at the time:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”