How long, Lord?
8 Reasons Why God May Not Be Answering Your Prayer
Are you feeling frustrated because God isn’t answering your prayer? Perhaps you’ve been wondering why the Lord seems so distant. If so, you are not alone. Many people today find themselves feeling impatient and confused, as did even the greatest saints of old. King David cried out in the Psalms, “How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?” (13:2) while the prophet Habakkuk bewailed, “How Long, O Lord, must I cry for help and you do not listen?” (1:2)
While God certainly does answer prayer, Scripture makes clear that there can and does exist obstacles. In this article, we will look at eight of the most common reasons prayer goes unanswered. As you read through this list, keep the command to “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) in mind. If you do, Jesus promises that “all these things will be provided to you” (6:33). When we put God first, prayers get answered.
As you prayerfully (and humbly!) read over these 8 Reasons Why God May Not Be Answering Your Prayer, remember also that God’s divine will (what He asks of us) often requires change, to turn from our ways and “sin no more” (John 8:11). While this kind of change is difficult, it is always worth it.
8 Reasons Why God May Not Be Answering Your Prayer
Far From God
Prayer makes God accessible to everyone, even sinners. But the Lord also states that “not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 7:21). Jesus warned against false believers and those who cry out to Him only when they need something while living their lives far from Him in word and deed. Being far from God keeps us separated from Him, and in this state He has no obligation to answer our prayer.
The good news is that the desire to pray and be near Him is hardwired into our souls. This desire intensifies as we move closer to Him, seeking His face continually and throughout every day. Once a soul turns toward God and begins to seek His will, answers to prayer follow.
If you have been far from God lately, this could be one of if not the reason your prayer has gone unanswered. While you wait on Him to answer you, take some time to repent of your sin, tell Him how much you love Him and desire to serve Him, and then trust that out of His great love and mercy for you He will answer you. When the answer to your prayer comes, no matter what it is, trust that it’s for your best interest and thank Him.
Saints of the Church have always said that we should pray for God’s will to be done in our lives. Jesus Christ Himself gave us the Lord’s Prayer in which we pray for His divine will to be accomplished. Oftentimes when a prayer is not being answered it is because the request is (or would place us) outside of the will of God.
Think of it this way, we do not know what will happen one hour from now but God knows all things — the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning. He knows without a shadow of a doubt what petitions are good for our lives and which are not. Thanks be to God, we have a loving Father in Heaven who wants the very best for us so if you have been praying for something God knows is not good for you and thus not His will, He will not give it to you no matter how much you want it. Now that is love!
Your Heavenly Father promises you the best so get in the habit of ending every prayer with, “Thy will be done Lord, not mine” and trust that however and whenever He answers you is for the best.
The psalmist wrote, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Ps 66:18). Sin inevitably shapes a negative attitude towards God and ultimately hinders our prayer lives. It is the opposite of loving God because love and respect for the Lord is to “hate evil” and sin (Prov 8:13). Proverbs 28:9 states that the “one who turns his ear from listening to the Law, even his prayer is an abomination.” In other words, lack of obedience towards God’s Word and Commands (sin) will turn our prayers into piles of rubbish.
In a nutshell, sin prevents us from having and enjoying the life God desires to give us. If we are living in sin with no real desire to amend our ways, and thus living apart from His sanctifying grace, we can be sure that our prayers will not be as efficacious as they should be. This is further understood by understanding the Lord’s perfectly just economy.
Within God’s just economy, His first and primary purpose is for all men to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. But we cannot get into the pearly gates of this holy and pure Heaven while dripping in sin and darkness. In light of this, God’s first and primary desire is for us to uproot the sin from our lives and make the way of salvation secure. Even smaller venial sins built up over time creates a barrier between us and God. This is why many theologians refer to less obvious (venial) sins as “pestilences in the soul” … those dangerous little sins that slowly eat away at the life of God within us.
Every time we choose sin, we choose to walk away from God; and every time we do that, fractions occur within the spiritual (prayer) life. Therefore, we must be determined to uproot sin from our lives. Larger mortal sins should especially be targeted first, and then the smaller ones. The more actively we engage in doing this, uprooting sin from our lives, the closer God is able to draw near us and move in our lives.
It’s worth mentioning here that if you have not been to confession in awhile, now is the time. Do not delay. When a soul is cleaned through repentance, God is able to do mighty and powerful things through you!
Ask God today for the grace to overcome and conquer any sin in your life. Make this prayer a priority. Once the sin is being dealt with, the begin to prepare for God’s answer to your prayer. No matter how He answers you, trust that it is for your greater good and eternal benefit.
Lack of Faith
Prayer without faith is not prayer — it’s talking to ourselves. We must not forget that “without faith it is impossible to please [the Lord], for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faithless prayer displeases God immensely and leaves the prayer void of its power. James 1:7-8 states that the doubter “ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Praying to God but doubting He loves you or is able to help you is prayer void of the necessary ingredient to help you. Before every prayer, be mindful of your faith. Make it a point to tell God that you believe in Him and that He is able to do far more than what you can imagine.
As you begin your prayer by affirming your faith, you will also begin to grow in faith. By trusting your Heavenly Father’s promises, your faith will be “stirred up” (see Romans 10:17). You will become strong and courageous, and will genuinely begin to trust Him in all things. Simply put, if you believe God is able to do far more than you can imagine … He will.
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector found in Luke 18:9-14 contrasts two postures one can take towards prayer. The Pharisee strutted around like a spiritual know-it-all, flexing his outward spiritual muscles praying, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, crooked, adulterers, or even like [the] tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get” (v 11-12). In this example, the Pharisee approached God on the basis of how great he thought he was. But this is not the prayer of a humble man, and we are all called to be and remain most humble; rather, this is the prayer of a prideful man and God will not promote or answer pride.
God does not want us to believe that we are better than anyone else because He is a God of no partiality (Rom 2:11). He expects us to keep our eyes on our own lives and conduct, growing in holiness day by day, knowing that we ourselves are in need of His daily grace.
Contrary to the prideful, the humble of heart are vessels that God will use to do great things. Prideful hearts destroy and close themselves off from the powerful workings of God. It is pride after all that cast Satan out of Heaven for all eternity; and it was the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary that made her the the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.
While a prideful prayer will return void, a humble prayer will acquire much. Such was the case of the tax collector when he cried out, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Lk 18:13) In the precious words of Jesus, “[E]veryone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11).
Unforgiveness or unfair treatment of others
If breaking the greatest Commandment by not loving God (see Matt 22:36-38) can hinder prayer, it shouldn’t surprise us that breaking the second great Commandment by not loving others (v 39) can (and will!) as well. When we hold onto unforgiveness towards another person or when we treat others poorly, we in essence hold onto sin in our hearts (see Ps 66:18) … and we now know how sin hinders a life of prayer.
The Bible explicitly identifies the marriage relationship as one place this may happen. First Peter 3:7 says to the husbands to love their wives “in an understanding way … and show her honor … so that your prayers will not be hindered.” God wants to lead all people to repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation (see Matt 5:23-24; Mk 11:25; 1 Tim 2:8), not only to better care for our neighbor but also because forgiveness and charity shows for the glory of God and opens the door to all of His mighty blessings.
If you have been praying about something without an answer from God, ask yourself if you are harboring any ill-will or unforgiveness in your heart toward any person. If so, pray for the grace to forgive. In so doing, God will not only assist you but will listen to all of your other needs as well.
God is saying No
Sometimes an unanswered prayer is as simple as God saying no. This basically boils down to the fact that whatever we have asked for is not the will of God. When the answer is no, we must trust that our Heavenly Father knows what’s best — both here on earth and eternally. By his no, He is protecting us from a pathway that would either hurt us in some way here on earth or hinder our faith journey moving into the future and toward salvation. Either way, you can trust that His no is for your best.
God is saying Not Yet
Another possibility is that God is saying yes but just not yet. This could be for a variety of reasons, things that only God can see into the future. But the good news is, the prayer will be answered … just not right now.
If you have been praying for something and God has not answered, it could be because it is not yet His timing. When His answer is no, we usually know this because the door will slam shut and what we were praying for is no longer an option. But when God is saying not yet, the road will oftentimes appear open but a little foggy. We won’t have clear-cut directions just yet on how to move forward. In these times, practicing patience is key.
Sometimes you will know what God wants you to do, other times you won’t. But if He hasn’t answered yet, it may just not be the right time. Always trust that God knows best and His timing is perfect. In times of a potential “not yet,” the best thing you can do is to be patient and trust in His timing. Patience is often the key to opening these kinds of doors through prayer.
God is good all the time. Knowing God as our Father means that we receive the Father’s loving answer no matter what it is. Sometimes He might answer us, other times He may convict us. But regardless of the answer received, His loving and merciful hand is always upon us desiring the absolute best for our lives. Understanding this fact helps you to join with the Apostles in professing that God has done and is doing great things in your life … even through unanswered prayers!
One Last Thing
There is no such thing as a truly unanswered prayer. Regardless of the Lord’s response to your prayer, remember that He hears all of them. In one way or another, He will answer you. So even when you don’t seem to hear anything, be sure the prayer was heard on high. Because of this, no matter what, when, or how His answer comes it will be perfect … because your Heavenly Father is indeed perfect (Matt 5:48).
God bless you