Why doesn't God answer important prayers?

The following question was raised by someone on a Christian BB forum.  My own answer follows...

The Bible says, without qualification:

  • If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. [Matthew 21:22]
  • If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. [John 14:14]
  • Nothing will be impossible to you. [Matthew 17:20]
  • All things are possible to him who believes. [Mark 9:23]
  • For with God nothing will be impossible. [Luke 1:37]

And yet:

  • God never answers the prayers of amputees. If he did, we would see amputated limbs spontaneously regenerating every day.
  • God never moves mountains -- if he did, we would see mountains moving around all the time.
  • God never answers impossible prayers -- if he did, people would be flying through the air like superman on a regular basis.
  • God never answers prayers that break the laws of nature -- if he did, then scientific equations and computer models would have to take God's random antics into account.
  • God doesn't answer prayers that break the laws of probability -- if he did, then every Christian would be rich and Las Vegas could not exist.
  • When two people pray opposite one another, obviously someone's prayer will go unanswered. If a million people pray for the same thing but only one can have it (e.g. - winning a raffle), then by definition 999,999 people will have their prayers unanswered.
  • God doesn't answer medical prayers -- otherwise the U.S. would not need to spend $2 trillion a year on health care.
  • God doesn't answer prayers to avert natural disasters -- if he did, hurricanes would not hit the U.S.
  • And so on...

So why doesn't God answer these prayers? The only prayers I've seen 'answered' could just as easily been 'answered' without divine intervention. And yet none of the really important ones get answered. Some people tell me that this is because "it isn't God's will" or "it would force too many people to believe", but the Bible doesn't say "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it... if I feel like it and nobody is looking."


My answer:

Wed Dec 14, 2005 12:46 am

The Bible does not teach that we can obtain a password that unlocks the omnipotence of God and places it at our immediate disposal. This is not what the particular passages mean that promise that our prayers will be answered. 

Neither is the "strength of our faith" the determining factor in whether any given prayer will be answered. If a child is praying that his mom will be cured of cancer, it is a cruel thing to tell him that he just needs more faith! It is a lie. Though it may be offered in earnest, the one who says it lacks understanding.

Faith in God is an interactive dynamic. It involves ongoing intimate communication between the individual and God himself. You don't get faith merely by agreeing that God is God, or that man is a sinner, or that Christ died for you (though these assents may well be the beginnings of faith).

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. -James 2:19

Shall God be bound to answer the prayers of demons? I think not.

Take a look at the Biblical examples of men who had rather outrageous prayers answered. These examples exist. They are men who had a habit of walking and talking with God. And they are men who had a long personal history of doing whatever God asked them to do. They are relatively few and certainly are rare amongst the people of the earth. I have known a few men who seem to compare to these - almost, but most Christians aren't even close. I myself would never presume to be the kind of man to whom God would pay exceptional attention.

But here's the paradox: He has. God has answered my prayers - many times, and occaisionally in amazing ways. It is amazing to me that in some way I might be counted among God's Faithful - me and my little, small self.

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

If we are truly interested in the answer to why prayers seem to go unanswered, we owe it to ourselves to search the scriptures thoroughly to find the history of what kinds of prayers are answered by God, and why He answers them. I thank God for saying NO to many of my prayers. Had he always given me whatever I wanted, I would not be the man I am today. I would still be a little selfish child, at best.






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