Have you ever had somebody come up to you and say, “I have been praying for a long time about 'this thing', and God just doesn't answer my prayers.”
Maybe they’ve come to a point where they feel like God doesn't answer any prayers. Most of us, unfortunately, have no idea what it means to be fervent in prayer. We pray about things once, maybe twice, and then get caught up in other things; we then draw the erroneous conclusion that somehow God has failed to listen to our plea. Now if that's not you, good for you! That kind of tenacity is no longer the norm in our church culture.
Does God answer prayer? Absolutely! It is the Lord’s delight to give us what we ask of Him in prayer.
Like David, we should all pray, “O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth” (Psalm 54:2). If we don't believe in the efficacy of prayer, there would be no reason for us to ask God for anything. He is the One who tells us we can have confidence our prayers are heard personally by Him. “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14,15). While as Christians, we pay lip-service to the superlatives in that sentence (“whatever” and “anything”), how often do we really believe it?
So, if God hears us and is willing to answer, then why do we often feel He is not answering our prayers?
We all need to remember that we are finite and not infinite. God's ways are not our ways! When Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he said:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).
Too often, we go about our prayer lives, whether corporate or personal, like we’re giving direct counsel to God on how He should be running the universe. Think about that for just a moment and let it sink down deep into your soul. You and I, the direct creations of an Almighty God, have the arrogant audacity to tell our Creator how to do things. Then, when He doesn't do something the way we think He should, we figure that heaven has gone out of business, closed up shop and just disappeared. Come on! We’re the ones who are fickle, and God is the One who is faithful! What does God owe us? The answer, nothing!
As a loving Father, who is overjoyed to dote upon His children, He wants to bestow upon us the answers to our prayers and our requests.
Yet, our requests must meet the perfect standard of His character, His eternal and complete plans for us, and for those for whom we’re praying.
When I was a kid, how many times did I ask my dad to let me play with his pocketknife? Hundreds. Now let me be clear, I didn’t just ask politely. I begged, cried and threw temper tantrums in the dirt by the campfire. It was ugly. How many times did he graciously and lovingly say, 'No?' The same amount of times. Do you know why? Because he knew, if I played with a pocketknife, it was going to be a bloodbath.
Our heavenly Father is very much the same. He wants us to experience life and have great blessings, but He knows better than to give us something we really want, which could quickly turn into a trip to the emergency room, resulting in stitches for us or our friends and family. That's why, sometimes, it seems as if God is not answering our prayers. His lack of action (from our perspective) is, in fact, quite the opposite. He is holding back the tide of disaster, waiting for us on the other side of the things that we’re not ready for or cleansing us of desires birthed from selfishness, envy or pride.