We read the Bible and wonder why our prayers don’t get answered like the people we read about in Scripture. Elijah called down fire from heaven. Hezekiah rose from his deathbed. Paul raised Eutychus from the dead. Man, if only…
But not every prayer was answered. The Bible itself makes that clear. Here are four questions to ask yourself if your prayers aren’t being answered.
1) Have I asked—or just wished?
A wish isn’t a prayer. James wrote to early Christians, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2, NIV). Well, duh. But how often have I wanted God to do something but haven’t really made that “something” a subject of prayer? More often than I care to admit.
2) Have I asked according to God’s will?
The author of the Bible book of 1 John wrote, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15, NIV). Even Jesus submitted His requests to the Father’s will (see Matthew 26:39, 42). So, it’s worth asking myself whether I’m praying according to my agenda—or God’s.
3) Have I asked from selfish motives?
James also wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3, NIV). Holy moly, this is a loaded question. What percentage of my prayers are motivated by my own desire—demand, even—for pleasure and comfort? Chances are, the higher that percentage, the lesser my experience of answered prayer is likely to be.
4) Have I considered that God may have something better in mind?
Elijah—the great champion of God, the great man of faith, the great prophet of Israel, prayed, “Take my life” (1 Kings 19:4, NIV). Mary and Martha, grieving the recent death of their brother, Lazarus, each said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32, NIV). In each case, the petitioner was disappointed—for a time, at least. Elijah eventually went to heaven in a chariot of fire, and Mary and Martha saw God’s resurrection power displayed before their very eyes. God’s ways are not our ways, He says (see Isaiah 55:8-9), so it shouldn’t surprise us too much if our prayers sometimes go unanswered because He has a better idea.
These are not the only reasons our prayers go unanswered (see this post for a few more), but they do provide us with good questions to ask ourselves anytime we pray.
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