Why Do So Many Prayers Seem to Go Unanswered?

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Why Do So Many Prayers Seem to Go Unanswered?

Why Do So Many Prayers Seem to Go Unanswered even the pray so diligently?

Sometimes God answers our requests by saying no. God has also promised to give us the grace to accept any answer that he gives us. Not everything we pray for is granted. The Apostle Paul said of his experience:

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to Me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8,9).

In this case the prayer of the Apostle Paul was answered but it was answered differently than he expected.

Saying No Is For Our Benefit

Christians have to remember that God only has the believers best interest in mind. When He says no to our prayers He does it for our best. The Apostle Paul wrote about God answering no to one of his prayers:

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).


Oftentimes God does not give us a yes or no answer but rather says for us to wait. A delayed answer is not necessarily a no answer. A case in point can be found in Scripture with Zacharias-the father of John the Baptist. God delayed the answer to the prayer of he and his wife to have a child. The reason is that God had something in mind that was better than they ever dreamed. Their child was to be the forerunner of the Messiah. Yet they had to wait until they were very old before they saw the birth of this child because of God’s timing. They wanted a son but got a prophet instead.

Can Have Bad Result

There are occasions when the granting of our requests can have detrimental result. An example of this would be Hezekiah. When the prophet Isaiah informed Hezekiah that he was about to die he prayed to God to prolong his life. God granted his request and gave him fifteen extra years to live. However in those fifteen years two things occurred that had terrible consequences on the future of his people. Hezekiah showed the Babylonians the great treasures of the Temple. One hundred years later these same Babylonians plundered the Temple and its treasures.

Evil Son

He also conceived a son in those fifteen years who became one of the worst kings in the nation’s history. His name was Manasseh. Manasseh led the people into all types of idolatry and idol worship and caused the nations to stray away from the service of the Lord.

The Bible says:

So He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them (Psalm 106:15).


The Bible indicates that sin can hinder our prayers being answered in an affirmative manner. The psalmist wrote:

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear (Psalm 66:18).

Honor With Their Mouths

The prophet Isaiah records the Lord as saying:

Inasmuch as these people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but they have removed their hearts far from Me (Isaiah 29:13).

Marital Problems

Marital problems can hinder the granting of prayer requests:

Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Lack Of Faith

Sometimes a lack of faith can keep our prayers from being answered:

But let the person ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that person suppose that they will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6,7).

Not Remaining In Christ

Our prayers will be answered if we remaining in Christ.

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you (John 15:7).

To remain in Christ means to keep His commandments:

and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him (1 John 3:22).

Not According To His Will

Often times our prayers are answered with a no because it is not according to His will.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1 John 5:14).


There are several reasons why prayers seem to go unanswered though all prayers are indeed answered. One of the answers that God gives is, No. God also may answer with, Wait. Whatever the case may be, God does answer all the prayers of believers.

God is very approachable. Just as a loving father is glad to have his children speak freely with him, Jehovah God welcomes our prayers. At the same time, like any wise father, God has good reasons for not answering some requests. Are his reasons mysterious, or does he reveal something about them in the Bible?

The apostle John explains: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Our requests must be in harmony with God’s will. Some pray for things that are clearly not God’s will​—to win the lottery, for example, or to win a bet. Others pray with improper motives. The disciple James warns against such abuse of prayer, saying: “You do ask, and yet you do not receive, because you are asking for a wrong purpose, that you may expend it upon your cravings for sensual pleasure.”​—James 4:3.

Imagine, for example, that both sides in a soccer game pray to win. God can hardly be expected to respond to such conflicting prayers. The same can be said about modern-day warfare when opposing sides pray for victory.

Those who show contempt for God’s law pray in vain. Jehovah once felt compelled to say to hypocritical worshippers: “Even though you make many prayers, I am not listening; with bloodshed your very hands have become filled.” (Isaiah 1:15) The Bible says: “He that is turning his ear away from hearing the law​—even his prayer is something detestable.”​—Proverbs 28:9.

On the other hand, Jehovah will always listen to the sincere prayers of worshippers who are doing their best to serve him according to his will. Does that mean, though, that he will grant their every request? No. Consider some Scriptural examples.

Moses had an exceptionally close relationship with God; yet, he too had to ask “according to [God’s] will.” Contrary to God’s stated purpose, Moses begged for permission to enter the land of Canaan: “Let me pass over, please, and see the good land that is across the Jordan.” But previously, because of his sin, Moses was told that he would not enter that land. So now, instead of granting Moses’ request, Jehovah told him: “That is enough of you! Never speak to me further on this matter.”​—Deuteronomy 3:25, 26; 32:51.

The apostle Paul prayed for relief from what he called his “thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12:7) This “thorn” may refer to a chronic eye affliction or to the constant harassment of opposers and “false brothers.” (2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 4:14, 15) Paul wrote: “I three times entreated the Lord that it might depart from me.” However, God knew that if Paul continued preaching despite this nagging “thorn in the flesh,” it would clearly demonstrate God’s power and Paul’s implicit trust in Him. So rather than grant Paul’s request, God told him: “My power is being made perfect in weakness.”​—2 Corinthians 12:8, 9.

Yes, God knows better than we do whether granting certain requests is in our best interests. Jehovah always responds for our good, in harmony with his loving purposes recorded in the Bible.

Despite his nation being in dire need, the Lord specifically told Jeremiah that he would refuse to answer his prayers:

Jeremiah 7:16 Therefore don’t pray for this people, neither lift up a cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me; for I will not hear you. (Emphasis mine – Jeremiah 11:14 and 14:11-12 are similar.)

The Lord also said that the prayers of Moses and Samuel would likewise go unheeded:

Jeremiah 15:1 . . . Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people . . .

This principle is reiterated in Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 14:13-16 Son of man, when a land sins against me by committing a trespass, and I stretch out my hand on it, and break the staff of its bread, and send famine on it, and cut off from it man and animal; though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, says the Lord. If I cause evil animals to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it is made desolate, so that no man may pass through because of the animals; though these three men were in it, as I live, says the Lord, they should deliver neither sons nor daughters . . .

“The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11) in a way that he spoke to no other prophet (Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10). David was so close to God that the Lord said he was “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). They each had such sway with God that their intercession halted God’s judgment on the entire nation (Deuteronomy 9:13-14,18-19; 2 Samuel 24:25). Nevertheless, both prayed passionately for something dear to their heart and were denied. Moses longed to enter the Promised Land. David pleaded desperately for the life of his baby.

Deuteronomy 3:23-26 I begged the Lord at that time, saying, “Lord, you have begun to show your servant your greatness, and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or in earth that can do works like yours, and mighty acts like yours? Please let me go over and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that fine mountain, and Lebanon.” But the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, and didn’t listen to me. The Lord said to me, “Let this satisfy you. Speak no more to me of this matter. . . .”

2 Samuel 12:16-18 David therefore begged God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his house arose beside him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, and he didn’t eat bread with them. On the seventh day, the child died. . . .

Both instances were marred by sin but despite their repentance and God’s forgiveness (from an eternal perspective) God refused to give them what they asked for.

King David had yet another longing that God denied. He “it was in the heart of David” (2 Chronicles 6:7) but the Lord said that this must be done by his son (1 Chronicles 17:1-4; 1 Chronicles 28:2-3). Scripture does not specify whether God intervened before David had time to formulate his longing into a prayer but regardless of the specifics it was certainly close to a prayer.

People repeatedly asked Jesus for a sign and received only a rebuke (Matthew 12:38-39; 16:1,4; John 6:30).

“Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” pleaded Philip and he, too, was rebuked instead of receiving what he had hoped for (John 14:8).

Among even the twelve apostles, Peter, James and John had a uniquely close relationship with Jesus (Mark 5:37; 9:2 13:3; 14:33; Galatians 2:9).

‘One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved’ (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20), who reclined closest to Jesus’ heart during the last supper (John 13:23) is almost universally believed to be John. He, and his brother James, asked Jesus for a special place of privilege and power the age to come. Perhaps hoping to further pressure Jesus, their mother even added her voice to the request (Matthew 20:20-21). Their request was denied. “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “ . . .to sit at my right hand and at my left hand is not mine to give, but for whom it has been prepared.” (Mark 10:38,40).

Another time, John and James approached Jesus about calling down fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that rejected them. Instead of responding positively, Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:54-55).

All the disciples joined forces in asking him to send the Canaanite woman away but their Lord ended up doing the exact opposite (Matthew 15:23, 28).

  1. Sin in our lives.
    Confess and repent!
    The psalmist wrote, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the LORD would not have listened” (Ps. 66:18). Not that God is unable to hear, for He is omniscient, but that He maintains His distance when we allow sin to be a wall between us.
    Major disobedience sets us up for long-term unanswered prayer: When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day." (l Sam. 8:18)

A loving God is in control!
2. To say yes would bring us harm we don’t foresee.
B.M. Palmer in Theology of Prayer, tells of a woman who had spent the summer away from her children, and was quite anxious to get back to them. When she learned that all the rooms on a certain steamer were taken, she wept bitterly. Because she couldn’t get a passage on any other ship, she was detained two weeks in NYC. But the sorrow of being delayed was turned into thanksgiving when, within a few days, she learned that the vessel that denied her passage was buried at the bottom of the Atlantic. She didn’t see the “no” as a wonderful answer to prayer until the whole story unfolded.

A loving God is in control!
3. God has something far greater in store for us.
Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal Lazarus, but He had resurrection in mind.
We ask for health, but often sickness and suffering or something less than wealth is the best way to produce holiness and maturity in us.
Our premature daughter Becky, who only lived nine days: God’s plan was our growth plus full lives of ministry—taking care of a severely disabled child would have seriously restricted us. Plus raising two active boys who were born later!

A loving God is in control!
4. We pray at cross purposes with other believers.
• Two Christians on opposing teams, praying for their team to win.
• Two Christians applying for the same job or to get their child in the same preschool spot.
God has to say “no” to one to say “yes” to the other.

A loving God is in control!
5. We pray for things where a “yes” is impossible.
• That a child be found alive when they’ve been murdered.
• We pray for lost things that are not found.

A carpenter was building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to an orphanage in China. On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone. He remembered putting them there that morning, so he drove back to the church. His search proved fruitless. When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what happened. The glasses had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed shut. His brand new glasses were heading for China!

The Great Depression was at its height, and the man had six children. He had spent twenty dollars for those glasses that very morning. “It’s not fair,” he told God as he drove home in frustration. “I’ve been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this.”

Several months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in the United States. He wanted to visit all the churches that supported him in China, so he came to speak one Sunday night at this small church in Chicago. The carpenter and his family sat in their customary seats among the sparse congregation.

The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage.

“But most of all,” he said, "I must thank you for the glasses you sent last year. You see, the Communists had just swept through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses. I was desperate.

“Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this. Then your crates arrived. When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top.”

The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued: “Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom-made just for me! I want to thank you for being a part of that.”

The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent overseas.

But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary way.

A loving God is in control!
6. We pray for things that are already determined.
• Praying for a boy or girl that’s already been conceived.
• Praying for the salvation of someone who’s already dead.

A loving God is in control!
7. We get discouraged in prayer by thinking God has said no when in fact He’s said nothing at all.
“Wait” is an answer. Delay is not denial.
God often delays His answer to cultivate patience and persistence, and build our faith.
Or to bring our will around to conform to His own.

A loving God is in control!
8. God’s “No” is not rejection, but redirection
Close a door—open a window? No!
God’s “no” to one thing is a “yes” to another.
2 Sam 7 - God said “no” to David’s desire to build a temple.
I asked to marry several guys in college. God said “no” to these requests so He could say “yes” in giving me Ray.
He said “No” to healing of my polio so He could say “yes” to ministering the gospel and encouragement to 15,000+ women as a speaker.

A loving God is in control!
9. God’s “no” isn’t punishment, it’s preparation
Rom 5:2a-5 - "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

God is preparing us to be His Son’s bride. We will reign with Him; we must be made into a bride worthy of our position. He develops perseverance, character, and hope as we trust Him in prayer. Prayer and spiritual warfare is His means of preparing us for bridehood.

A loving God is in control!
10. God’s “No” will sometimes bring greater glory to God.
Joni Eareckson Tada. (A Zondervan publishing rep: Joni is the only successful Christian writer he knows who has stayed the same person after gaining fame.)
Focus on the Family : A pastor’s throat/voice was healed while being recorded. The tape was aired on Focus; he has now written a book.

A loving God is in control!
11. God’s “No” opens the door to an adventure with God.
Elijah, 1 Kings 19. He prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors.” God said “no” because He had an adventure planned for Elijah!

2 Kings 2:11, “Suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out. ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ And Elisha saw him no more.”

I prayed that God would keep me off a jury. He had an adventure planned: two weeks on a trial where I ended up addressing the plaintiff from the jury box, urging him to forgive the man who killed his son.

A loving God is in control!

Throughout my Christian walk of faith I learned a lot about unanswered prayers. In my life I personally remember God using unanswered prayers to make me more like Christ and to build spiritual growth. Some prayers He answered at the last minute to build my faith and trust in Him.

My advice to you is to keep on praying. Sometimes we get discouraged becomes He doesn’t answer right away, but continually knock on His door. God knows what is best. Never lose hope and always seek God’s will and not your own.

  1. Not God’s will: We must always seek God’s will. It’s all about Him and the advancement of His kingdom not you.

1 John 5:14-15 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.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

  1. Wrong motives and ungodly prayers.

James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Proverbs 16:2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.

Proverbs 21:2 A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.

  1. Unconfessed sin

Psalm 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

  1. Rebellion: Living a continuous life of sin.

Proverbs 28:9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.

John 9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.

Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

1 Peter 3:12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.

  1. Closing your ears to the needy.

Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

  1. You are not having fellowship with the Lord. Your prayer life is non-existent and you never spend time in His Word.

John 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

  1. The Lord could be protecting you from danger that you do not see coming.

Psalm 121:7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life.

Psalm 91:10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

  1. Doubting

James 1:6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Matthew 21:22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.

Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

  1. God didn’t answer so you can grow in humility.

James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

  1. God didn’t answer because of your pride.

Proverbs 29:23 One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

  1. Hypocritical prayer for attention.

Matthew 6:5 When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.

  1. Giving up: Just when you give up that is when God answers. You must persevere.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

  1. Lack of faith.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

  1. You won’t forgive others.

Mark 11:25-26 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

  1. Sometimes when God says no or not yet it is to bring greater glory to Himself.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

  1. God is making you rely and trust in Him more.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

  1. Our awesome Lord is in control and God has something better for you.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

  1. You didn’t ask.

James 4:2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

  1. Treating your spouse badly.

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

  1. Not yet: We must wait for God’s timing.

Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.