Why Our Prayers Are Not Answered

We wonder many times, why our prayers are not answered! The reason can be one of these…

There are times in our life when we pray but don’t seem to get an answer. When prayers don’t get answered we are disturbed, anxious, worried, afraid, and lose hope. There can be many reasons why our prayers may not be answered.

Faith
Lack of faith is a reason why prayers are not answered. We read how Jesus stills the storm in Mt. 8:23-27. The disciples woke up Jesus saying that they are perishing. Jesus questions them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” May be Jesus is asking us the same question. When praying for the sick, James 5:15 is so clear, “The prayer of faith will save the sick.” One way of building faith is to get to know the Lord. The more we get to know Him, the more we shall trust Him. Trusting the Lord involves complete surrender. Praying the Apostles’ Creed repeatedly will also build our faith.

Righteousness
Righteous people are those who are right before God, those who do the Will of God. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles (Ps 34:17). For “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers” (1 Pet 3:12). “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (Jas. 5:16).

Perseverance in Prayer
Many times in our life we would pray once or twice for a particular need and then give up. We would then ask others to pray thinking God will hear their prayers and not ours. The parable in Luke 18:1-7 taught me a beautiful lesson. The parable begins by Jesus telling the disciples about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. The parable narrates how a widow goes to an unjust judge to seek justice. The widow kept bothering the unjust judge for justice. The widow was persistent in her request and in the end the unjust judge grants her justice. Jesus ends the parable with a question and the answer. “Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long in helping them? I tell you, He will quickly grant justice to them” (Lk 18:7-8). Romans 12:12 says ‘Persevere in payer’. It is when we learn to wait in prayer that we will be able to develop the fruit of patience.

Humility
The Lord delights in the humble. “The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds and it will not rest until it reaches its goal” (Sir 35:21).

Obedience
In Luke 5:4-8 there is a beautiful lesson on obedience. After Jesus taught the crowds, He said to Simon Peter, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch”. Simon Peter was a fisherman and he knew where to catch fish and he tried the whole night to fish but caught nothing. Simon answered the Lord, “Master we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets”. When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. There is blessing when we obey. In 1 Sam 28 we read that Saul had a big obstacle ahead of him. The army of the philistines gathered against Israel and Saul saw it and was afraid. In verse 6 we see Saul inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him. Saul goes to a medium to inquire of her.

This is a sad plight we see around. When some Christians do not receive answers to their prayers, they go to soothsayers, palmists, and fortune tellers for consultation. To remove obstacles in their life they would go for witchcraft, voodoo, black magic and so on. Some go ahead with games such as tarot cards and the Ouija board. The Church in her teaching is very clear. All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future (CCC 2116). Deut. 18:12 says, “Whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord.” Those involved in such practices should repent, cleanse themselves and dedicate themselves to the Lord. In moments of suffering when it seems that God is not answering we must learn to be patient.

Avoid Sin
In Jn 9:31 we read ‘God does not listen to sinners’. We need to reject sin and diabolical temptations for God to hear our prayers. Sin not confessed can be a barrier between God and us. We must confess our sin and receive absolution. “So if one fasts for his sins, and goes again and does the same things, who will listen to his prayer? And what has he gained by humbling himself?” (Sir 34:31). “When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Is. 1:15-17).

Fathers will
Our prayers should be in accordance with Abba’s will and not petitions based on selfish desires (Js. 4:3). 1 Jn 5:14 says “And this is the boldness we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prays for Abba’s will in the most trying situation of His life. Many of our petitions are based on the temporary needs of this life. Abba looks at eternity when answering our prayers. Abba will give us only what is good. ‘God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what He is prepared to give’ – St. Augustine.

Unforgiveness
God will withhold His mercy if we do not forgive (Mt 6:14). Sirach 28:2-4 says “forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does anyone harbour anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord? If one has no mercy towards another like himself, can he then seek pardon for his sins?” We must root out all bitterness, resentment and hatred before we expect our prayers to be answered. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, it is meaningful only if we are free from bitterness, hatred and resentment.

Helping the Needy
The poor have no one to defend their cause. God will answer our prayers if we give ear to their desperate needs. Is. 58:7-9 says, “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be rear your guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and He will say, here I am.” If God’s word abides in us, our prayers will be answered (Jn. 15:7).

- – – written by Patrick Horne


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