Some of us are “experienced enough in life” to remember televisions before they were flat. They actually used to be cube-shaped and the bigger ones weighed about as much as a Volkswagen.
There were no such things as remote controls. Or cable…or Wi-Fi.
You’d just plug it into the wall and there were these big, gnarly knobs or button controls, typically on the front of the tv. And two metal rods, called antennas, sticking out of the top of the thing that could be moved back & forth, and side to side in order to improve the reception of the TV signal. These antennae could often even be made longer or shorter by collapsing into or expanding out of themselves.
You couldn’t control these boxes from a device in the palm of your hand, much less direct them with your voice.
If you wanted to change a channel or even the volume, you had to get up from wherever you were setting (I know, can you believe it?), walk over to the box and adjust the knobs, dials and antennae until you got the picture and sound your desired.
Once you’d rotated one of the knobs to a single-digit number of the station you were looking for, there was this second knob (or dial) on many TVs that you’d have to fiddle with in order to fine-tune the signal and obtain a clear picture and sound.
Households with some means had an antenna on top of their roof that they manipulated with an auxiliary electronic indoor dial that typically buzzed or made some other odd-sounding noise as you moved it to fine-tune in the station you desired.
It took some work and, there was little to nothing that you could watch past midnight when the 3 primary stations would “sign off” with the Star-Spangled Banner or something similar.
Sometimes you even found yourself watching “flea races,” caused by the frequent static in the signal transmission.
And if there was stormy weather in the area? …fuhgeddaboudit!
Absolutely ridiculous, right?
Well, in church and throughout the Bible, we’re taught that God sees, hears and knows everything, including our prayers. Nothing escapes His attention. He’s never too busy and He never just “pretends” not to hear us (as humans sometimes do with those in our lives whom we claim to love).
Why then, does it sometimes seem that God is not answering our prayers? Like maybe our signal is jammed or fuzzy or we’ve somehow “gone off the air?”
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons our prayers are not answered. It’s possible that people sometimes sabotage their own prayers, causing them to be ineffective. The Bible mentions several attitudes and actions that can short-circuit our prayers. We’ll learn that sin can scramble the signal in our prayer lives. That, when we are tuned in to and listen to the wrong voices, God may not hear ours. In fact, right behind learning to become more disciplined in regularly reading and gaining wisdom from our Bibles, our prayer life is an area that, for most of us, could use some significant improvement. Let’s look, then, at some of the ways we can combat these and learn to fine-tune our prayer lives.
Reasons Why Your Prayers Are Not Being Answered
You don’t really have a relationship with God.
It may seem a bit obvious but it’s true, right? How deep a conversation can you have with someone if you’re not in a relationship with them. Have you ever asked a complete stranger, perhaps in the grocery store or maybe at the gym, how their kids are doing or if they’d help you make a sandwich? They’d likely call security! Only those in true and consistent relationship can really communicate at any level of depth. Similarly, prayer is a communicative privilege for the children of God. Anyone can talk to God. But to really be able to communicate, in dialogue; we need to be in relationship.
Unconfessed sin can hinder your prayer. You may have a relationship with God, but sin cuts off your fellowship. Without fellowship, we cannot maintain good communication. Sin separates us from God. The Bible says, in Psalm 66:18 (NIV), “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Another translation puts it, “If I regard (or hold) on to iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Let’s be honest; we sin every day, even if we’re not aware of it.
But it’s critical that we acknowledge our sin before God and to seek and follow His counsel in order to receive and accept His forgiveness. Like any good parent, our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives – even the stuff we recognize as not so good. The apostle John tells us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify (or cleanse) us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9, NIV)
But if you’re practicing sin in your life as a Christian (i.e., making a regular habit of it, despite knowing it is sin) and try to, or even think you can hide it, this will bring your prayer life to a screeching halt. So again, yes, everyone sins, but the Christian who knowingly, unrepentantly or mockingly continues to sin, cuts off his/her fellowship with God. Open up in prayer and talk to your Heavenly Father about it. Repent, acknowledge for His forgiveness and genuinely ask for His help and guidance going forward. A genuine child of God will never be happy in sin. (See also, Jeremiah 14:10-12 and Isaiah 59:2)
Selfishness or Wrong Motives
Sometimes, our prayers are not answered because we ask with the wrong motives; maybe to get something God ultimately knows will not be good for us or, maybe, that will come at the detriment of others. (James 4:3) Perhaps we pray loudly, lengthily or with words we hope will impress people. (Matthew 6:5) Similarly, it’s possible to pray for the right thing, but with the wrong motive, e.g., praying for a loved one to be saved, just so you’ll get the credit, wanting to lead without having specifically been called, but so that you may have influence or control over others, or offering to serve, but only in order that you might be recognized or well thought of. God opposes the proud so it’s understandable that He will turn away from or even ignore the prayers of haughty people.
Idols in Your Life
Once again, the Apostle John warns us to keep ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21). An idol is anything or anyone that takes the place of the one true and living God in your life. It might be an object, a person, a relationship…anything that you are more passionate about than God. Anything that you’re embracing that can cause you to fall into sin. When we choose to harbor and worship these idols, they become stumbling blocks and our access to the Lord is obscured. In fact, God tells Ezekiel, that with those who do this, “I will set my face against them and make them an example and a byword. I will remove them from my people.” (Ezekiel 14:7-8) Jesus further cautioned, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). If we want our prayers to be heard (and answered), let’s make sure we worship the one and only God and that our worship is toward the true God of all creation.
As believers in Christ, as stated earlier, our sin is forgiven when we confess and repent of it. (1 John 1:8-9, NIV). However, we might say there is a potential catch here when it comes to our prayer life. If there’s someone that you’re harboring unforgiveness against, it can hinder your prayers. In the book that bears his name, Mark teaches, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25) Indeed, the Bible teaches that God forgives us of all of our sins when we believe in Jesus as our savior and make Him the Lord of our life. Therefore, we are to be tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God, in His mercy, through Christ Jesus, has forgiven us. Let’s not let what we’re doing (or not doing), get in the way of what we’re saying (praying). You don’t need to wait for the emotion to want to forgive; sometimes you need to do it as an act of the will – doing what God tells you to do, whether you feel like it or not and allow the emotions to catch up. When we forgive others as we have been forgiven (as we’re taught to pray in the Lord’s prayer), then the distortion is alleviated and our prayers can again be heard.
When we do what God instructs, He is pleased and we remain in relationship with Him. So, it stands to reason, doesn’t it, that when we fail to listen or follow His instruction, just like in most relationships, at some point He pretty much just refuses to listen to whatever we have to say. Proverbs 28: 9 puts it this way, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even his prayers are detestable to me.” If the God who created us; who knows the number of hairs that are on our head (easier with some than with others) and therefore knows what is best for us, how do you imagine it feels to Him when we ignore His loving instruction? Would you have much interest in continuing to listen to someone who treated you that way?
Hypocrisy and Insincerity
God knows and also doesn’t like it when our prayers are insincere or smack of hypocrisy. In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah tells of a people who come near to Him with their mouth and honor Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. He recognizes that their worship of Him is based on merely human rules they have been taught. (Isaiah 29:13). Likewise, Malachi speaks of how people are often insincere in their worship or even go so far as to try and deceive God. (Malachi 1: 7-9) Once again, this destroys trust, and with it, our relationship. And our prayers are hindered unless/until we change our ways.
Understanding what we’ve learned thus far, it should not surprise us that God often goes quiet with us when we exhibit prideful hearts and habits. Jesus teaches, in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 11-14) Enough said.
Lack of Faith
Almost as rudimentary as the first point that was made about the importance of having a relationship with God in order that He might hear and answer our prayer is the concept of our having genuine faith in Him; that He indeed has an answer for what we are asking. (Hebrews 11:6) Worse, if we should ever begin to question whether or not He really exists or can really do what we ask because we become impatient, either with the time He takes to respond or that we don’t like the response He provides, then, if we really think about it, we should not be surprised when our prayers are hindered in these circumstances, as well. (James 1:6) Jesus rebuked His Disciples, calling them ‘ye of little faith’, when they doubted that He could calm one of the storms in their lives. (Mathew 8:23-26) Let’s learn from their example and exhibit true faith as we cast our prayers before Him.
While by no means a complete list (the Bible has a lot more to say about hindered prayer), hopefully, this gives each of us a few things to consider as we continue to seek to engage in meaningful conversations with our Heavenly Father.
While it’s true that our own attitudes and actions can hinder our prayers and keep us from receiving or hearing God’s response, other times, God may deny our request in order to, at some point, give us something better than what we even knew to ask for. Recognize also, that you may not always get the answer that you want. And be prepared to follow and be thankful for the answer that you get.
As evangelist and pastor, Greg Laurie teaches, “Sometimes God says, ‘Yes’ and sometimes He says, ‘No.’ Other times He says, ‘Wait’ and still other times He says, ‘Grow.’ Ultimately, God always answers prayer.”
It truly is worth keeping in mind that sometimes we grossly misinterpret what God is up to. For example, it may be that we have not received a “no answer” but that God’s response has been intentionally and purposefully delayed. If an answer doesn’t come quickly, don’t get anxious; rejoice, give thanks and keep praying. (Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19). And as you do so, consider the above list and any changes you can make to help make your prayers more effective.
As I wrap up this post, I believe it’s also worth acknowledging our need to always bear in mind that a supernatural battle is raging behind the scenes. Our enemy, Satan, the devil will also use every tool in his arsenal to try and hinder our prayers and to distort God’s responses.
In spite of this, maintain faith and continue to be encouraged that God hears and answers the prayers of those He loves.
God loves those who love Him as much as He loves His own Son. (John 17:23)
Because you’re loved by God, your prayers are heard in Heaven. Thanks be to God!
Right here with you,