We have all experienced times when God does not seem to answer us when we call. This is not unique to you alone, but has happened to us all at one time or another. In fact, it has probably happened to all true saints down through the centuries. Let's look at some passages of Scripture about this.
Habakkuk said, "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, 'Violence!' but you do not save?" (Hab 1:2, NIV). God responded to the prophet by telling him that He had raised up the Babylonians to execute judgment and to punish His people Israel.
In his second complaint, Habakkuk prayed to God and asked, "Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Hab 1:13b, NIV). Then the Lord replied:
“Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay." (Hab 2:2-3, NIV).
The Lord was teaching the prophet that the vision He was giving to him of the ultimate destruction of the wicked was to take place at the end of the age. He was teaching him that even though it took a long time to happen, it would certainly come at the appointed time and not prove false. It would not delay forever, but would one day come to pass. The Lord assured him that one day the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Hab 2:14). We must be patient and wait for the Lord.
As the Lord told David, "A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity." (Ps 37:10-11, NIV).
Yet there were times when David felt like the Lord was just watching what people were doing to him and not doing anything to stop it. He prayed things like, "How long, Lord, will you look on?" (Ps 35:17a, NIV). And "Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense!" (Ps 35:22-23a, NIV). And "My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest." (Ps 22:2, NIV).
Yet David had faith that "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles." (Ps 34:17, NIV). There are times in life when we may feel totally overwhelmed by troubles, and our prayers seem to go unanswered. But David said, "The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." (Ps 34:19-20, NIV).
Like David and Habakkuk, Job also experienced his prayers seemingly going unanswered. He said, “Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice." (Job 19:7, NIV). He prayed, “I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me." (Job 30:20 , NIV). Yet look at what God really thought of Job. He said that Job was blameless and upright, a man who feared God and shunned evil, and that there was no one else on earth like him (Job 1:8). In the end, after the Lord had tried Job, he blessed him even more than he did before his trials.
The Persistent Widow
Jesus taught us to pray and not give up. "Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, 'In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, "Give me legal protection from my opponent." For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out."'"
"And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'" (Luk 18:1-8)
Hindrances to Prayer
If your prayers are not being answered, it's best to ask the Lord to show you if something is hindering them. There are several possible ways your prayers can be hindered.
The first and most obvious one is sin. The blind man who received his sight said, "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will." (Jn 9:31, NIV). The psalmist said, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." (Ps 66:18, NIV). Another version says, "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear" me (NASB). Therefore, before you can expect God to hear your prayers, you must repent of all sin and turn away from iniquity. Ask the Lord to forgive you and cleanse you from all sin, and the Bible promises us that He will. The apostle John wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 Jn 1:9, NIV).
The second hindrance to getting your prayers answered is doubting. James wrote, "But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (Jas 1:6-8). Although you only need a mustard seed of faith to move mountains, you must be sure and remove all doubt, because if you have any doubts that God will answer you, then you should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Therefore, get rid of all doubt.
A third hindrance to prayer is idolatry. The nation of Israel fell into this sin, even sacrificing their own children to idols, and here is what God said to them. "When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away." (Is 57:13, NIV). Don't expect God to answer your prayers, if you are engaged in idolatry of any kind. He will not listen to you. For more on this, please see my article, Modern Day Idols.
A fourth hindrance to prayer is rebellion. The Lord told the sinful nation of Israel as they continued in rebellion that their offerings had become worthless, and he had had enough of them (Is 1:4-5,11). He said their incense had become an abomination to Him (Is 1:13). He promised not to listen to their prayers until they washed themselves and made themselves clean, removed their evil deeds from His sight and ceased to do evil (Is 1:16). He said, “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood." (Is 1:15, NIV).
Likewise in the first proverb, God sets us straight by saying that He won't tolerate rebellion. He says,“Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof...Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me." (Pr 1:24-25,28, NIV). There are plenty of warnings against rebellion that assure us He will not listen to us in that state until we repent. Scripture tells us, "He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination." (Pr 28:9).
One sin that I would like to point out specifically is unforgiveness, because it is so common. You must be careful, because the Lord taught that if you do not forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you of your sins (Mt 6:15).
A man named Daniel Ekechukwu, whom I wrote about in Nigerian Pastor Raised from the Dead, had an automobile accident in November 2001 and died. There had been a misunderstanding between him and his wife that led to a disagreement, and the matter was not resolved before Daniel died. After arriving at the hospital by ambulance, he was repenting of his sins, but after he died an angel told him that the Lord did not listen to his prayers of repentance, since he was still holding unforgiveness in his heart toward his wife, even though she had tried to reconcile with him the morning of his fatal accident.
As Jesus said, God will not forgive us our sins unless we forgive others. Then the angel took him to hell and showed him that terrible place. He said that if his record was for him to be called to that place, then he would surely be thrown into hell. But the Lord chose to give him a second chance on life, and almost two full days after he had died, he was raised from the dead publicly in a large church. Don't let unforgiveness hinder your prayers and keep you from heaven.
Another sin that I will call attention to, which will hinder you prayers, is treating your wife in an inconsiderate and disrespectful way. The apostle Peter warned us, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Pe 3:7, NIV). Be sure to keep that relationship in good condition, if you want your prayers to be answered.
Asking with Wrong Motives
Another hindrance to prayer is asking with wrong motives. James wrote, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (Js 4:3, NIV). Be sure you are asking with pure motives when you pray, if you want your prayers to be answered.
Not Asking in the Will of God
Another hindrance to prayer that I will mention, which is related to the previous one I have just covered, is asking outside the will of God. You cannot have any confidence that God will answer your prayers, if you pray for something that is not His will. On the other hand, if you ask according to God's will, you can be sure He will answer you. The apostle John said, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." (1 Jn 5:14, NIV).
Sometimes a delay in getting prayer answered can be due to spiritual warfare. This is probably more common than we realize. Remember the time that the prophet Daniel prayed and fasted for twenty-one days before his prayers were answered. An angel then appeared to him and told him that the Lord had heard his prayers from the first day he began praying, and the Lord had dispatched him to go to Daniel in response, but there was an evil principality resisting the angel that delayed his arrival. He said, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia." (Dan 10:12-13, NIV).
Therefore, if God does not seem to answer your prayers, then check to be sure there is nothing hindering them. Ask the Lord to reveal to you anything that is hidden that must go. If there are any hindrances, then deal with those accordingly. However, as long as you know there is nothing within your control that is hindering your prayers, then take heart and learn a lesson from the persistent widow and the saints of old. Your situation and mine are not unique to us. If you feel like God is not answering your prayers, remember His promises. Remember His faithfulness. Don't forget what He told Habakkuk and David, and what He ultimately did for them and for Job. Keep on praying and do not lose heart. Though the answer lingers, wait for it. Have faith in God.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture taken from the holy Bible NIV. Other Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. "Prayer Warrior" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.
Author's Note: If you enjoyed this article, you may also like Wait for the Lord (poem), Never Forsaken, Going Through the Valley (poem), Nothing Will Separate (poem), When All Means Fail - Part I, Who Intercedes for Us?, Personal Proclamations of Faith, A.S.K. (poem), Open Line to God (poem), Modern Day Idols, Even if it Doesn't Happen Like We Expect, Crying Out to God Loudly, Lifting Hands in Prayer, Great is His Faithfulness (poem), Speak to the Storm, and Lifting Your Face in Prayer. I also invite you to visit my collection of blogs at Writing for the Master. Now let me ask you a very important question.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.