View Full Version : Why Only Some Prayers Answered?

12-19-2009, 07:37 PM
I am really confused why God answers some prayers in the way we desire, but does not answer others especially when the prayer seems like a good prayer, and appears to be in line with His will. Why does He heal some people but choices to allow others to die. Why does He grant some marraiges happiness, while others He allows issues to become unbearable, leading to divorce? I believe that I am most confused about the following verse because it says nothing about God answering prayers as long as it is according to HIs will.

"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him." (Matthew 11:23)

Does this mountain refer to the obstacles in our life that seperate ourselves from God (essentially our sin)? Because prior to this verse Jesus talks about a fig tree that dies, not producing fruit. I am beginning to wonder if this verse has anything to do with our prayer life, but with the sin in our life that seperates. Because:

"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)

"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)

12-19-2009, 09:04 PM
This is one of the most asked question I think, and there is no concrete answer for each situation. It would take a volume to cover every scriptural facet of this one topic. Along with "Why does god answer some prayers and not others?" is equally as popular as "Why does God allow suffering?" Both are crucibles in battle between logic and faith.

I think one of the most neglected attributes of prayer is understanding it as a principle verses some mystical discipline. Although the interfacing and results are spiritually endowed, the practice is more about discipline and practice grounded in the passion of the heart. I think I have another thread that goes into the exposition of how prayer is the means by which the corporal being interfaces with the spiritual realm. Not only to communicate with it, but also to tap into it. The allegiance of our hearts will define the results of the outcome and source of the power. A Satanist or voodoo priestess can pray equally as effective as a Muslim or a Christian. In our narrowness of thinking, Christians sometimes falsely perceive prayer as some spiritual appliance dedicated only to the Christian experience. However, it is correct to surmise that prayer unto the Creator through Christ Jesus is the proper conduit.

What then is the purpose of prayer? Most Christians have a difficult time answering these questions in light of scripture. This is partly due to our struggle with harmonizing the idea of God's sovereignty and immutability, coupled with His Word, that we should pray and our prayers will be answered. We might conclude that since God answers our prayers, this means that our prayer changes things. But while it is true that prayer changes things, the question is, exactly what does it really change? Does it work to change the minds and heart of those who pray, or does it actually change the mind of God? God is quite clearly omniscient, infallible and immutable. Yet prayers are declared in scripture to be answered if properly deployed. For if God knows all, and He is infallible and perfect in all His judgments, how can He change His mind in accordance with the will of our prayers?

First and foremost we should establish that the scriptures are abundantly clear that the mind of God is to do His will, not ours. Thus, any answered prayer must be considered in the light of that first principle. And perfect judgments are not judgments that will be countermanded. "But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desires, even that he does." (Job 23:13)

Whatever is His will, He does! Clearly God's counsels are immutable, and there are no earthly interests or counselors by whom God may be persuaded to turn away from His ordained purposes and will. However, when petitioning for His mercy as Abraham did as intercession for Sodom (Genesis 18:19) God might divert His discipline in favor of our prayers. But we should understand, if we pray for a blessing, and we receive it, it is not that we altered the course of things. It is that we prayed for what was in the purpose of God. i.e., God had always intended for us to petition Him (for our own sakes) for what was in His will to give us. In other words, His counsel stood sure and didn't change, it was just that we didn't know His counsel, and asked according to His foreknowledge and will.

"But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her." (1 Samuel 1:5-6)

"Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him." (1 Samuel 1:19-20)

God shut up Hannah's womb, and she prayed and petitioned the Lord for a son, and God indeed answered her prayer. But there is a big difference between God answering prayer, and God having a change of mind because of prayer. This is what seems to confuse some people. The point being, the Lord had always ordained and intended to raise up Hannah's son Samuel as a great prophet, but He answered her prayer that she might be an example of how God uses us, granting us participation in His glorious salvation program. Just as Jesus said when he raised Lazarus, that it was to reveal God's glory. (John 11:4-6) As a result of this scripture notation, Hanna is a role model of promise, a continuing witness to all of us who come after, of the power of prayer concerning God's people.

The objection to this might be raised stating, "Why then do we have to pray, if God is Sovereign and will do according to His will anyway?" Because Jesus taught us to pray to the father for what we need. God is all knowing and infinite, we know only in part and are finite. Thus we don't have to understand His counsel, but we do have to be obedient to it. God knows, He instructs, we obey without question, because we are servants not counselors.

Additionally, it is because we are not only growing ourselves by prayer, but we are the tools that God uses to achieve His work on earth. Whether God intends that work of prayer to be in us, or in others whom we pray for, He ordained prayer to change things. Thus the prayer of the elect is always meaningful and effectual because it is our petition that His will be done. And it brings about intangible, internal, spiritual benefits and growth for the petitioner, even when the petition is denied. All the good that we receive from God have their source from beyond human agency. And as the vessels of mercy that God before has prepared unto glory, our prayer is part of that preparation in our walk in this world. Our prayer in repentance in seeking Him, or in petitioning on behalf of others, produces change in us as we submit to accept the outcome. For benevolence and prayer go hand in hand, even as Love of God aligns with love of our neighbors even as ourselves (Galatians 5:14).

Does God answer prayer and does prayer change things? We all know benevolent prayer is righteous, but God's will supersedes our sometimes vain will. Does God answer selfish prayer in the sense that our present monetary situation, a desired relationship, our physical condition, or the condition of others will be changed by our petition? No, not always. Maybe not even a majority of the time. Because it's not always God's will that one be made physically well, or that one be made financially set, or that we might have enemies removed from our life. But prayer does change things in that it changes the trust we have in ourselves, wherein we transition to recognize and accept our full dependence and trust upon God. Indeed, in times of doubt, trouble or despair, that is when "we" need our prayers the most. It is a conduit to our Lord God, and it strengthens us. Even when some may not feel God is listening, prayer is working because it is in human weakness that the perfection of God is realized. We find that strength in the Spirit, as it brings our prayers perfectly to the throne of God. He will not close His ears to the prayer of the believer, even though it may appear so.

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

What the apostle Paul asked God to take away his physical trial, God did not take away. But He took away so much more than the ailing thorn in the flesh. The unyielding trial buffeted his pride which would have made his ministry ineffective. And God added to the spirit of Paul so much more than worldly peace or a lack of tribulation. He added to him the knowledge that in our weakness we see revealed God's helping power. The rejuvenation of the soul is often accomplished through our prayers. For in our weakness, we are made strong in the Lord, our faith. In our humanity, we may desire gain, life, relief, but His grace is sufficient and far better than any gain or worldly relief we might pray for. So in the final analysis, we must trust and leave it up to God to determine the matter. Our prayers are the basic declarations of our need, and they are answered through faith in God’s provision, according to His will. Prayer maintains our personal relationship with God. It nourishes our trust so that we may find God-given strength in our dependence upon Him. So when we pray, we should seek the eternal things of the kingdom, not the temporal things that profit little.

The difference prayer makes is in us and in those around us, not in God. Prayer is for our benefit, for it is through prayer that the believer is learning more about them self through their relationship with God. Through this spiritual conduit of power, we can better understand that the Lord is our only protector, foundation, strength and fortress. For it is by the discipline of prayer to God, that His will is revealed to His servants. It is how we consciously petition and receive power from on high, that we may live the life that God intends for us. The practice of petitionary prayer is very Biblical, and the truth of its efficacy is deeply rooted in the scriptures. God desires us to petition Him that we may grow in grace and communion with God, by our identification with Him.

In reflection of your example of marriage in trial. In all things, we must first count the cost and carefully examine each step against the precepts of God. In contrast, we typically rush into a situation without weighing our choices, and later regret the hastiness of our decision. Then, while in the midst of the conflict, petition God to change the problem when all the while our choices lead us into that valley. Unforeseen to us, but now a real problem to contend. Certainly, our loving Father will assist us in any way possible, but it may be that we are bound to that conflict less having to compromise our own integrity to escape it. While rare couples may jump into a relationship, lacking any proper prayer or careful evaluation, but have fortune (luck) to have choose a viable mate that works well. It is unfortunate that some marriages / relationships appear sublime while others are trials without end.

This thought refers back to the earlier question of reputation "Why Does God Allow Suffering." It is not a choice or preference on God's part that somehow one might suffer more than another, but rather the unfortunate lot in life in some cases. Sometimes by our own choices, but others simply due to residing in a depreciating and sin ridden sphere. It is the call of the Christian to change for the better what we can though his power, seek serenity in any given situation, make peace with our limitations and situations that can't be changed, accept it, take responsibility for it and strive unceasingly for the Lord to take dominion of everything.

Christ prayed that the cup of suffering pass from him, but said, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:36)

12-19-2009, 10:12 PM
Why ask God for anything? Why don’t we simply listen to Him? God does not need anything from us but to love him with our whole hearts, minds, soul and our neighbors as well. Because we are all made in His image and likeness, nothing could happen to us unless we choose to place our needs above those of God.

Sorry, sometimes I just have to simplify. Much of our life is complicated by our personal choice, whereas following His Way can serve to uncomplicated our life. I do believe that challenges are the best part of life. God loves us so much that He wants us to always come closer to Him with any challenge that we involve ourselves in. We all still need to pray, ask forgiveness for sins, do good and avoid evil, and always keep the goal in our heart. Love and peace to all who struggle with life’s challenges. That would be everyone! We all need to listen to the voice crying out in the desert.

12-19-2009, 10:47 PM
Provoking thoughts Joe. The scripture that comes immediately to mind is:
"In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” (John 16:23-24)

We are reminded of this joy in many places in Scripture. The Psalms tell us, "Delight yourselves in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart" (37:4). Such an exhortation pictures the believer finding his greatest treasure to be the Lord. The whole of scripture is a culmination of saints petitioning the Creator, and the Creator responding, sometimes in excess of our seeking as was in the case of Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:10). We learn the Son of Man spent an enormous amounts of time in petition of the Father, in accordance to His will. In doing so, it is an act of worship and a reflection of dependence upon the Father.

God takes joy when we entreat Him for personal needs and those of others. It gives the Father great pleasure to provide for his children. Just as a earthly father takes joy in meeting the needs of his children. It becomes a passive relationship to only listen without petition. It is an essential of human relationships, both sides must communicate for a healthy dynamic. Equal similarities are provided throughout scripture as the template for our relationship with him. The perfect model for prayer provided by Christ was primarily petition for self needs found in the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13).

God actually invites us to ask him for things: Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” It’s also the model Jesus sets for us. Jesus himself is God yet he still prayed to the Father, and asked him for things (e.g. Mark 14:36), showing us that prayer is part of a relationship. So the fact that God knows better than us what we need, what we want, and what’s good for us, shouldn’t actually stop us from talking with him about those things. When we do ask God for things we’re also expressing our dependence on him, acknowledging that he is in control of all of the details of our lives, and we need his involvement.

As we look at the prayers of people like Jesus and the Apostle Paul in the Bible (e.g. Col 1:3-14, Eph 1:15-19, 3:14-19, Phil 1:3-11), we can see they pray with priorities that reflect God’s. This models for us that when we ask God for things, while we’re free to pray about anything, it’s best to pray for things we know God wants and are good for us and other people. This is less asking for ‘favors’ (like winning a sweepstakes) and more asking for God’s will to be done. Such as growing in faith and godliness, persevering in adversity, relief from suffering, spread of the gospel, etc. We should enjoy our freedom to ask God for things, trusting and thanking him as the good God he is!

12-21-2009, 06:09 PM
As a response to Chris,

I’ve always taken the mountain as being a literal mountain. You being able to “not doubt” has a direct correlation to God’s will. If God wants the mountain moved, and he has “told” you to command it to move – no force on this earth will keep it in place. Of course, most mountains are where God placed them and He does not need them thrown around wily-nilly by us just because we said, “In Jesus name.”

The other aspect of this is when God moves a mountain literal (or metaphorical) and we think it does not count as being moved because we wanted something different. Example: Man prays to overcome (the mountain of) alcohol addiction. Man considers God did not answer his prayer because God did never removed the desire for liquor. What God actually provided was a friend who tried to get him enrolled in AA. God wanted the man to learn self-control (fruit of the spirit). So the mountain is moved slowly and in a manner that we did not expect. Look at the example of Naaman. He was actually offended at the way God chose to remove his leprosy. Good thing he had a wise servant.

This is the same with your observation on marriage. God grants – yes, but it is through His word and His principles that a good marriage is granted. Even non-believers that apply (unknowingly) these principles have good marriages. Like gravity, God’s principles work whether we “know” them or not. Also, like gravity, even if we know, and ignore them, we are heading for a fall. If we choose to be “unequally yoked” and expect God to remove all the problems that go with it because we prayed, we are being a tad naive. God will remove those problems (mountains), but brother, it will take a lot of work, because those mountains will be moved as the two move closer and closer to being “equally yoked”. That takes a lot of time, patience and love on the part of the Christian.

“God change the heart of my wife.” Sounds like a good prayer. Why wouldn’t God answer that with an Almighty “YES!” Maybe, God wants the man to repent of placing his will over the will of God in marrying her (non-believer) in the first place. Maybe the man needs to learn to be submissive to Christ before God uses him to help change the heart of his wife. If we’re not careful what we are realy praying, though we dress it up nice, is, “God my wife needs to be submissive, but I don’t.” God, of There are many facets to God answering our prayers. This is why understanding His will is so important. We can spend lots of time asking God for things that He will never grant without violating His own divine nature.

This is the truly beautiful aspect of prayer. It is communication. God has made His will known through the scriptures and will use these and (praise God) His indwelling Spirit to reveal how we should pray about specific things. Why does the prayer of a righteous man avail much? A truly righteous man has a better understanding of God’s will. Not through his own righteousness, like he earned a special place by God’s ear, but because he putting into practice the very principles that we need to know in order to understand what is within God’s will.

Many times we are all guilty of praying “God, I’m going here. Please, bless me!” (No communication - just a request) What we should pray is, “God, where would you like me to go?” <Pause for answer – just like in a “real” conversation> This is communication. If we are doing God’s will we won’t need to worry about being blessed.

God, in many ways is treated like a big invisible genie, and if we say the right words, or pray the right prayer, He must do our bidding. How far from the truth. I have children, but their thoughts and wants have very little impact on how the family is run or what direction it will take. Why, then do I listen to my children? Because I love them. I want to hear their hopes, their dreams, their fears. I even the impractical ones, that I know will never happen, and the ones that I will help them to achieve. Why? I already know most of them. Because there is a beauty in the relationship that would be lacking if they would not speak to me or I would not listen to them. I speak to them for that same reason. Another reason is so I can explain to them what I am doing and I can instruct them what they should truly desire. (He will give them the desires of their heart) This allows for a better relationship, a oneness, if you will, that is beyond our understanding. How amazing that Jesus asked the Father to allow us to share that oneness. (John 17:21) We miss this if we look at prayer as simply “rubbing the lamp”.

If you have ever had a sleepy child sitting in your lap telling you all the events of their day, I think God has given you a glimpse of Himself responding His children. What trust and security the child has in knowing that they are in the arms of a loving Father who is listening, responding and holding them for no other reason than He loves the child. All analogy is suspect, and this obviously does not cover all prayer situations, but it speaks to the communication that is so necessary to any true relationship. Do you wonder that Jesus was so scornful of repetitious and long winded prayers? Ultimately, this is what it means to pray – our being able to personally communicate with our heavenly Father.

Yours in Christ,