Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?
If you ever meet a person who says they have the guaranteed-works-every-time formula for prayer figured out… RUN. They are lying.
How can I say that?
I have met many wonderful people who display a well-practiced and seemingly perfect prayer life. I don’t claim to be one of those people, but neither would they.
Let me explain.
Prayer is one of the most mysterious things about Christianity. The deeper you delve into prayer and communicating with your Creator, the more you realize you have to learn about prayer because you are learning about your Creator.
The mystery of prayer and of God Himself can feel frustrating at times.
Come on! I just want some solid answers here!
I get it. I have the desire for answers too. But take a moment to reflect. If an all-powerful, ever-existent, everywhere-at-once God exists, wouldn’t it be a disappointment if we could figure Him out in just 30, 40, or even 5,000 years?
Think about it.
If there were special words you could say, and actions you could do every day, to get God to bend to your every desire, would you want to follow this type of weak, submissive god?
The pride in us screams, “YES!”
Human history is littered with gods who could be appeased, manipulated, and tricked into giving their followers whatever they wanted. These gods were one-dimensional, understandable, and popular. Their names have changed throughout different cultures and eras, but the ideas have stayed the same.
Do this, and you get that.
It’s easy. It’s doable. It’s transactional.
The best part is you can figure it out in a year or less.
The problem is the God of the Bible refuses to be put in the same category as these lesser, controllable gods.
Do Not Use God’s Name in Vain?
You may have heard about the Ten Commandments. In a long and powerful story of God saving the Israelites from brutal slavery in Egypt, God asks the people if they would like to be His special and chosen nation.
The people unanimously agree, and God gives them the Ten Commandments to set them apart from the nations around them so all nations might find their way back to a relationship with God.
One of the most distorted and misunderstood commandments is the third commandment. Here it is:
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
(Exodus 20:7 NIV)
You may know it by the KJV translation which says,
“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.”
(Exodus 20:7 KJV)
Many modern readers claim that this means people shouldn’t say, “oh my God!” as an exclamatory in their everyday speech. This is a massively watered-down understanding and is borderline false. It is birthed from not considering the culture at the time the commandments were given.
This is why the Bible can be so hard to read.
Ok, whatever. What does it actually mean then?
Here is the simplified answer: In that culture, invoking a god’s name and using proper ritual would allow you to control that god. The name of a god was thought to carry power over that particular god.
What was God’s response to this practice? He basically said, “Yeah, no. You can’t control me. Don’t try to manipulate me because the consequences will be dire.”
That was revolutionary.
No gods of that time even remotely claimed this type of authority. All of them could be manipulated. All of them could be controlled. God stood out above them all and said, “Absolutely not! I am the only one you cannot control.”
The Old Testament is filled with examples of people who ignored this commandment and tried to control God to their own peril.
If I think about it, I have broken this commandment myself. I have attempted to pray the right words to get God to do what I wanted. I have taken God’s name in vain not by saying, “oh my God!” but by trying to manipulate my Creator.
We are given the opportunity to pray because we are invited to enter into a mysterious place of communication with our Creator. We were made to have a relationship with our Creator. When humanity chose to sin and separate ourselves from God, this relationship became fractured beyond human repair.
That’s why the grand story of the Bible is about God reaching down to us in our brokenness and suffering which we chose for ourselves. He made a way for our relationship with Him to heal.
Prayer, then, is us reaching up to God’s open hand and seeking His direction for our lives and His comfort in our sorrows.
Prayer is also God’s way of allowing us to take part in what He is doing in the world. He grants prayer when we ask because He loves to be acknowledged as our loving Provider.
Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?
We arrive back to the question that inspired this blog. Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? But, that isn’t the real question we want answered, is it? I think the real question on most of our minds is:
Why doesn’t God answer my prayers the way I want?
It is with a heavy spirit that I write the following words. I know some of you reading this right now have been through traumatic and painful experiences in your life. You may have lost a loved one. You may have been abused by someone you trusted. Maybe difficult financial times have fallen upon you, and you can’t see the way out.
Right now, you may be confused, angry, or depressed. You can’t hear God saying anything back to you in your desperate prayers.
First, you need to know that God hears you and is with you in all of your suffering.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:38-39)
Second, you need to know that nothing bad or evil is from God.
"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me,' for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone… Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows…”(James 1:13, 16-17)
Lastly, you need to know that God does answer all of your prayers, but sometimes it is not the answer you were looking for. Remember, prayer is not a device you can use to manipulate your Creator. It is a communication tool to bring you closer to Him in all circumstances.
Are you listening for His answers?