5 Reasons God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers

You’ve heard the old cliché, “Prayer changes things.” Yeah, okay, but what about the times when it just flat doesn’t? What’s wrong?

prayer

(Photo by Photodune)

Why doesn’t God answer your prayers? As I’ve searched the Scriptures, I have discovered at least 5 reasons.

In some cases, we are not waiting on God; He is waiting on us.

5 Reasons God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers

1. It could be you’re not a child of God.

This may sound obvious or even cruel, but God has no obligation to answer the prayers of unbelievers (Psalm 34:15, 17; Proverbs 15:8, 29; John 9:31; 1 Peter 3:12). He may answer, but He has not obligated Himself to do so.

The only prayer an unbeliever may be assured God will answer—and answer immediately—is a prayer of faith and acceptance of His Son, who died on the cross and rose again, as the basis for the forgiveness of your sins.

2. It could be your motives or actions.

As Christians, there are a couple of reasons God may choose to delay or deny answering our prayers. In these cases, He is waiting on us.

  • Your motives in prayer. It may seem simplistic, but if we don’t ask, God won’t answer. And when we do pray, our reasons for asking must not be selfish (James 4:2-3).
  • Your actions in life toward others. Our actions also can hinder God’s answer. If you are flagrantly disobedient to God, you may expect your prayers to be hindered (Psalm 66:18; Micah 3:4; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 John 3:21). This is by design—so that you may return to the Lord wholeheartedly.

3. It could be your misunderstanding of God’s priorities.

Some of the problems we have with prayer arise out of a wrong understanding of God. The better we know about God in the Scriptures, the better we will understand how to pray—and why God responds to prayer as He does.

God answers prayer according to His will (1 John 5:14-14). But just like us, the desires are not all equal. My desire to remain faithful to my wife until I die is not on the same level of my desire to take a nap on Sunday. It’s a matter of priorities.

God has a will too, but not all aspects of His will are of equal priority. For example:

All are His will, but this final priority comes after the first two. Our problems with prayer often come when we think the first thing on God’s mind is our happiness and not His glory.

God's glory is most important.

(Photo by Robert Bishop, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

4. It could be that it’s just not time yet.

So let’s say we are living for Christ in our attitude and actions and praying according to His will. What do we do when all systems are go, but the answer still hasn’t come?

You keep praying.

He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. —Luke 18:1

You don’t lose heart. Here’s why:

  • It may be that circumstances require changing before you can accept the answer.
  • It may be that the answer depends on someone else responding to God too (remember God’s order of priorities).
  • It may be that the delay is to see how seriously you are willing to pray.

God may delay answering your prayers in order to give you far more than you’re asking for. (Tweet that.)

5. It could be God wants to give you more than you’re asking for.

If God is able to answer (and He is), and if He has promised to answer the prayers of His children (and He has), then the delay in the answer—we must know—is not that God is apathetic or absent.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think . . . to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. —Ephesians 3:20–21

In the final analysis, it may be that God desires to give you more than the simple answer to your prayer, making the answer—once it is received—all the more sweet.

Question: What have you learned from unanswered prayer? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • elizajose

    i have learnt an important lesson from this. we’ve praying for our sibling Henry’s salvation for a very long time. He has been resisting God every time, is now 55yrs and embittered with life., over the years, he has turned into a big hoarder of junk and our apartment is totally hoarded, in every room. we don’t have visitors home for the same reason. we are now praying specifically for our home to be set free. But God might also be depending first on Henry responding to His Call to surrender his life to Jesus our Saviour. Because the only reason the apartment can’t be cleared of junk is because Henry hinders any of us from doing that.He can become very abusive at such times…….We are praying for God’s Hand of intervention at least in the coming new year. peace in Christ, Mumbai India.

    • Your words, Eliza, remind me of Jesus’ command:

      “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” —Matthew 6:19–21

      You never know, but God may be preparing something you can’t see during this process. God bless, and thanks.

      • elizajose

        thanks brother Wayne. comforting words.

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  • What if this Ministers reasons to be healed is to do Gods work? Thats what he lives for every single day! Helping Gods Children, doing Gods work! He hasnt defaulted in anyway! So this is very confusing! Hos reasons for wanting healed is to bask in The Glory of God bringing The Glory to God! Both of us are very confused why hes not answering our prayers for healing!

    • God’s will often is confusing from our perspective, Donna. Not only does He keep secret the difficult valleys you’ll experience (and many of the mountaintops), but also the tremendous lessons you’ll glean no other way. Lessons you didn’t know you needed to learn. Lessons
      you’ll thank Him for one day. Very often, we fail to recognize God using us significantly because we define God “using us” in terms of what we consider significant: results. God often defines results in terms of character. Words like “productivity” and “efficiency” remain conspicuously absent from the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). These results of God working in our lives all reflect character—His character. Character alone produces godly results.

      Think of Joseph’s life in Scripture. He did nothing wrong, and yet he walked through valleys for a higher purpose. It’s possible you’re in that same place.

      • Thank you my brother very interesting prespective

        • You’re welcome, Donna. Keep praying; God bless you.

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  • stephen moore

    About to lose everything l own ! Been fighting this for years ! My faith is almost drained ! I give up ! I think to myself that I could steal , cheat , lie my way out of this mess ! It’s like he is saying ” go ahead ” .

    • I’m sorry to hear of your situation, Stephen. Truly . . . you sound desperate. In situations like yours, it’s easy to issue God an ultimatum, and if He misses the deadline we’ll assume He approves. We begin to make decisions based on feelings of entitlement— as if we’ve waited long enough. We deserve to move ahead. It’s time. God is welcome to follow as an optional guest. It’s never easy Waiting on God, but it’s essential.

  • Sophia Dee

    wow thank you. That has confirmed and answered my questions that ive had in my heart.

    • You’re welcome, Sophia. I’m so glad if it helped. Thanks.

  • Carlo Calumpong

    I should not be any more faithless.

  • Kate

    It’s such a hurtful circle. Maybe I am not a child of God anymore because he has never ONE answered a prayer for me. I have one simple prayer/request, and that is to be loved by a man and to have a boyfriend. I don’t need even care about marriage. I would like ROMANTIC LOVE. I am 42 years old, and it’s ALL I’VE EVER WANTED. I pray, literally every single day, and I think I’ve been praying for, what, 35 years? 35 years and absolutey ZERO response. ZERO. How can I believe in a GOD that chooses to ignore my one simple request for one of the most simplest and purest things in life? Don’t tell me I don’t believe or I’m not a child. I feel STUPID to follow someone who does not listen or care or respond. I ask for signs, I ask for ANYTHING, and he ignores. I’m beyond heartbroken that my life has passed by. I’ve done amazing things, but I’ve had 100% control over them. I can’t make someone love me. I can’t. It’s the one area of my life I need help with, and HE ignores it. So, they say, pray for the desire to be taken away; the desire to be with another human, to love that human. What do you think God did? It’s even more intense now. MORE.

    • It’s never easy, Kate, to put your hopes in just one thing and to have those hopes never happen. I have found that when I wait on God for something, there are good reasons for His delay— though they are impossible to see now. My book, Waiting on God: What do Do When God Does Nothing, deals with these very issues. I believe it may offer you the encouragement you need while you wait.

      • Michael Gale Hardy

        Waiting is one thing, but 35 years is inexcusable.

    • Michael Gale Hardy

      That’s a good question.

  • Enelesi

    Thank you..
    It has helped me learn much from God, is should visit this site often😊
    Can i get your book online?!

  • Michael Gale Hardy

    If God can create the universe in 6 days, He can answer someone’s prayer in 1. When my 2 daughters were little, I always man aged to answer their questions right away.

    • Our own perspective always makes the most sense, doesn’t it, Michael? At the same time, as fathers we occasionally must allow our children to hurt so that they learn what they must. If you think about it, this is love–not apathy or cruelty.

  • How does one know if the gifts of decern in spirits was given to you by God or Satan? To see, hear, and even smell a Demonic in my home is easy for me. Why do these abominations come after some people constantly and others never have to event think about that. Others like me fight them day and night as entities in our homes???

    • Great questions, Donna. The only time the Bible mentions the “ability to distinguish between spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10) comes in a context of spiritual gifts that God has given to the church for the good of everyone. Specifically, this gift enables a Christian to tell the difference between someone who proclaims God’s Word in truth and someone who is a satanic deceiver (see also 2 Cor. 11:14-15; 1 John 4:1). This being the case, I’m not sure this gift applies to any demonic presence in your home. I urge you to tell your pastor and to ask him and your elders to pray for you, for your home, and for your thoughts to focus on what is true and righteous. You can also have scripture to quote out loud whenever you think you sense an evil presence. It’s always better to follow what you know God says is true rather than your feelings.

      • Thank you Wayne, oh I’ve learned to stand my ground after 10 years. Only way to fight these things is God the Father, Jesus Christ our Mighty Savior and The Blessed Holy Spirit and God’s Holy Word! For 4 years one named Death tried to kill me. It made it clear it wanted my life. I did nothing to cause it, it was in the house when we moved there. But, I did not have a close walk with God. I think God had to take me to that level to reach me. I was so stubborn I wouldn’t listen. I shamefully kept God in a box. 🙁 he was there if I needed him but if I didn’t then he was there when I did! I think he gave me those gifts to protect myself and my family. But now I have a unshakable walk with him and I cunsult him in every aspect of my life. But the gift remains. I’ll fight whatever God wants me to, do anything he wants me to until he brings me home! I am blessed highly beyond what I’m worth as a disgraceful sinner! Even though I try my best not to sin, we all sin and fall short of the Glory everyday!

        • May our God powerfully bless you, Donna, as you walk closely with him.

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  • Critical Thinker

    God is evil, STOP giving your money and time to a cause that only vindicates a character of nearly pure evil. Cancer, HIV, Plague, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Starvation, Child Abuse, Molestation, Rape, Murder, LUCIFER (If god is so powerful then why cant he defeat his own creation? or why create him/her/it in the first place?) and the whole sacrifice of jesus is a load of poo poo, what sacrifice did jesus make he died just like everyone who has ever lived and like everyone who is living will do. now if he died to grant humanity immortality I would understand his sacrifice. and as for heaven and hell.They are the same place, you either spend forever bowing to god on your knees or you spend eternity on fire. When you break it down both will be equally excruciating and undesirable. If god is so powerful then why does he need to hear your prayers, sounds like he is insecure and weak. (or man made)

    JUST STOP being a Lamb. Stop walking towards the lion.

  • Rodney Rose

    Yup god hates me i need salvation answer my prayers

    • God doesn’t hate you, Rodney, even though it may feel like it. Instead, he demonstrated his love for you by giving his own son, Jesus, to die on the cross for your sins. Although your sins separate you from God, you can have a relationship with God if you’ll simply place your faith (trust) in Jesus Christ. The salvation you say you need you CAN have, if you’re willing to come to God on his terms. Read more here.

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  • Dana

    From age 9 through 11, I prayed really hard every day that my Dad would stop raping me. With my eyes tightly close an trying to hold back the vomit i felt in my throat each minute he was raping me, I prayed especially hard. The rapes stopped when he got caught by my mother, but I lived in fear and felt ashamed every day thereafter. I didn’t understand why I felt that way, but I did. Singing in my church choir moved me so much, and one day I found God. I became a ‘Jesus Freak’: that’s what they called the teens who held prayer and scripture meetings before school. Eventually, I was 16 and was assistant teaching Sunday School when I sensed that I needed to be absolved of wrongdoing (my sense of being filthy came from the scriptures), so through prayer I asked God to make the pain go away. I decided I needed guidance. With anguish, I asked to speak privately with my minister, and told him what happened, but before I could ask for advice , he sternly told me that it “must have been my imagination”. My father was an admired man in the community after all. My prayers and faith were shaken by his response. Thereafter, the harder I prayed, the less worthy I felt. I knew God wouldn’t stop my pain. The shame and pain continue to this day. Over fifty years have passed. I’m wiser; I know now that it was not my fault. But I feel that God doesn’t actually send help. I thank God for what I have and for this world, yet I have no idea why God would ignore the cries of any child.
    I know there are many innocent children who pray this very minute as they are tortured. Yet their pleas go unanswered. I know of no blessings that come from child rape , and find it really hard to believe that the children needed this pain to learn a lesson from God.
    If you are a child being mistreated, know that even though God isn’t helping you, this is not your fault. It is not happening because of how you pray.

    • The evil in the world is one of the greatest struggles we all deal with, Dana. No honest individual would ever presume to satisfactory explain the “whys” of life—especially with regard to the suffering of children. The real question is why God doesn’t deal with evil immediately, because that’s really what we’re praying. Your answer came—but it took two years. Even Jesus asked, “My God, My God, why…?” Our challenge becomes trusting God when His delay makes no sense.

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