When it seems your prayers aren’t being answered, try asking yourself these questions:
Am I sure that what I’m praying for is what God also wants?
Our requests are often shortsighted, whereas God is able to see the big picture. He doesn’t answer some prayers the way we would like or expect Him to because He knows that what we’re praying for isn’t really good for us or someone else. Or He may know that something else will prove better for us and others in the long run. Not giving us what we want, when we want it, is sometimes God’s way of getting us to consider other options or take actions that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise, to positive ends.
Are my motives right?
If our motives are selfish or misguided, we can’t expect God to give us what we ask for.1
Have I done my part?
If you are fulfilling your part of the deal by living as God would have you, as best you can, and if you are doing what you can in practical terms to help bring about the desired result of your prayers, then you can be confident that He will answer, perhaps not exactly as you had hoped, but in the way He knows is best for you and the situation.2
Is God perhaps testing my faith?
Sometimes God wants to see how serious you are about getting the answer you desire. He likes the kind of faith that refuses to quit, the kind that will keep on believing in spite of obstacles. He appreciates the faith of those who keep believing it willbe so simply because He saidso.
A good example of this is the Old Testament patriarch Abraham. Although God had promised Abraham that he would have descendants “as [numerous as] the stars of heaven,”3 by the time he was 75 and his wife Sarah was 66, they had no children. But Abraham believed God’s promise, and God came through. Sarah conceived and gave birth to a son, Isaac, when she was 90 years old, long past childbearing age.
The Apostle Paul wrote of Abraham’s stand of faith: “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”4
Faith will say, “I claimed God’s promise and I’m going forward, even though I cannot see the way ahead!” That’s the kind of faith that pleases God and gets results.
Is the Lord perhaps trying to teach me patience or some other lesson?
God often uses those times when He has our attention to teach us lessons that will bring us closer to Him and make us better people. Patience seems to be one of His most frequent lessons, but He may also be trying to teach you to be more loving, more humble, more prayerful, or any one of the other important life lessons. If that’s the case, when you have learned whatever He’s trying to teach you, He will answer.
Is His answer being affected by the decisions or actions of others?
The outcome of prayer depends on three principal factors: God’s will (what He wants), your will (what you want), and the decisions and actions of everyone involved. Even when your will and God’s will are in agreement, things may not play out exactly as you hoped because He has given everyonethe majesty of choice.
Is it God’s time?
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”5 You can’t rush God. Sometimes prayer is like planting a seed: it takes time for the seed to sprout, break ground, mature, and bear fruit. Some types of seeds take longer than others; some flowers spring up overnight, but trees take years before they bear fruit.
* * *
On the wings of prayer
On wings of prayer our burdens take flight
And our load of care becomes bearably light
And our heavy hearts are lifted above
To be healed by the balm of God’s wonderful love!
And the tears in our eyes are dried by the hands
Of a loving Father who understands
All of our problems, our fears and despair,
When we take them to Him on the wings of prayer.
—Helen Steiner Rice
1. See Psalm 66:18; James 4:3.
2. 1 John 3:21–22
3. Exodus 32:13
4. Romans 4:19–21 NIV
5. Ecclesiastes 3:1