Why Isn't God Answering My Prayers?
Does it sometimes feel like God isn't listening?
God always answers prayers. Of course, the answers come in three varieties: “yes,” “no” and “wait.” As a child, my requests were pretty simple. I’d ask for good weather for a trip to the beach, or quick recovery from a cold. For many, these types of requests remain the standard. After all, we tend to be focused on the difficulties we face in life, and our desire for comfort. But, if we’re honest, those are not exactly needs, but wants.
Life’s brutal truth is that our “needs” are more complex—increasingly so—as we take on adult responsibilities. Company mergers, economic downturns and conflicting parenting methods among friends create a vast pool of potential prayer requests.
We hear pastors preach about how all of life’s struggles have been conquered at the cross. We have peace and joy with Christ. If only we would ask Him to heal our broken relationships, bank accounts and job prospects. Often, if not always, our prayers for these things seem to rise into an empty sky or bounce off a steel ceiling, unheard by God.
But, we read Mark 11:24:
“Therefore, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (ESV).
We’ve asked, we’ve believed, we’ve waited, and nothing happens. Our experience seems to be a constant “wait,” or “no” from God.
Then we turn to Matthew 18:19 which says,
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
Does this mean that all we need is strong faith, and agreement from one, maybe more, and presto, our prayers will be granted? We’ve tried that, too. We’ve met with friends and agreed … but jobs are lost, health fails, children rebel and the answer is still “no,” or “wait.”
So, is Mark 11:24 wrong? Is Matthew 18:19 mistaken? Is it just that people don’t have enough faith? Is God not able to perform miracles at our bidding because we don’t really, really believe it will happen?
The problem, however, might be in how we’re viewing prayer, and the purpose it serves. Maybe we’re looking at it like a child might view his mom and dad—as a source of money for things he wants. The problem with that is it makes God into more of a genie than our Almighty God and King. It reduces salvation from our sinful rebellion to a side benefit, where this world’s high life takes center stage, with God bankrolling our dreams. It changes the focus of redemption from God’s glory to our own happiness.
Some will argue that Christians should be the healthiest, the most joyful and those with the most abundant life here and now. This will attract everyone else to Christ. But the light we shine is not made of the things of this world. Namely, we’re not going to attract people to Christ because we drive Bentleys and never catch the flu.
Along the same lines, we shouldn’t attract people to Christ with some promise that He will fund our dreams and ambitions. Jesus didn’t die on the cross to bring us fame and fortune. He died on the cross to defeat the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), to redeem a people for Himself (Titus 2:14) and to bring glory to God the Father (Phil 2:11).
Jesus is not our sugar daddy. Rather, He canceled our debt with the Father (our sinfulness), and that act should be enough to satisfy our desire for anything else.
Looking at it another way, if we owed an unpayable debt and faced dire consequences in this life, then someone came along and paid it all for us, would we then ask that person to give us more goodies? Probably not.
But, aren’t we promised wealth, health and abundant prosperity? Aren’t these things Biblical guarantees to which we can lay claim? Aren’t our prayers for such things simply counting on the promises of God? Some will find passages in the Old Testament and apply them to each believer, asserting that they are still true today. Such passages are taken vastly out of context. Without getting too deep into the matter, the financial well-being of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament was a physical promise to a physical people, foreshadowing the spiritual promises to a spiritual people (see the book of Hebrews). Many will point out the wealth that Solomon had as proof that God wishes to lavish us with wealth. But they fail to note that Solomon had a lot of things that were not good for him, and they led him far from God (he had many wives, was enamored with wealth and was miserable as recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes). They also fail to notice that most people in Israel didn’t have a fraction of Solomon’s wealth. Should we assume they were not pleasing to God?
If we look at the New Testament, the promises point to our hearts. If we interpret the Old Testament through Jesus, we see that God was always talking about wealth of trust in Him, not wealth in the things of this world. We’re actually called out of this world and the desires that make it such a sinful place. Why would God grant our prayers that seek things that lead us away from Him?
Bryn Jones resides in Burnsville, MN.