Q: I’ve been told that prayer is a sure thing—that when I pray, God will answer. Why then do some of my prayers seem to go unanswered?
A: Each of us has experienced disappointment when things didn’t work out the way we wanted them to, and if we had prayed for that outcome that didn’t happen, we were doubly disappointed—first because we didn’t get what we wanted, and second because it seemed God had failed us.
Even when there are obvious, logical reasons why something didn’t go our way, we wonder why God didn’t make it happen anyway. After all, if He’s God, He can do anything, and if He loves us as much as the Bible says He does, why didn’t He? At times like that, it’s easy to hold it against God for not answering prayer.
Of course, it’s not right to question God in that accusing sort of way, as though we know better than He does. It is good to ask Him where things went wrong, however, because that will help get better results next time.
The first thing to bear in mind is that God never fails to do what’s best for everyone involved, and He never goes back on the promises He has given in the Bible. We, on the other hand, can and do fail sometimes. Also, because He’s given us free will, God is often limited in how He can answer our prayers by the choices we or others make.
When prayers seem to go unanswered, some good questions to ask yourself are:
- Was my request motivated by unselfish love and concern for everyone involved?
- Did I believe and claim promises from God’s Word?
- Did I put feet to my faith by doing all I could to bring about the desired result?
- Was God unable to do what I asked because of the choices of others?
- Was it perhaps not yet God’s time to answer, or not His plan for me?
- Is it possible that God’s “other” answer will prove better in the long run?
God’s Delays Are Not Denials
God always answers our prayers, but not always right away or in just the way we expect Him to. Sometimes He says yes, sometimes He says no, and sometimes He says wait. There are a number of factors that affect the process, including you and your situation, God and His will, and the situations of others involved. You don’t control the outcome completely, others don’t control it completely, and God has specifically limited Himself not to control it completely, which is, of course, one reason why prayers don’t always get answered right away. But when the conditions are right for the result God knows is best, He will answer. So never doubt for a moment that God is going to answer. Trust Him and thank Him for the answer—even if you don’t see it immediately!
—David Brandt Berg
Troubles just tumbled about me,
And heavier came each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”
I tried to come into God’s presence.
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“Why, child, you didn’t knock.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I called on the Lord for the reason—
He said, “You didn’t seek.”
I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.
—Grace L. Naessens