Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Is He even real or listening?
Growing up, my parents always taught me the importance of learning what it means to depend on God. It was a struggle for me then and even now to completely understand what “depending on God” would look like. I knew that one of the many facets of “depending on God” was prayer. But why doesn’t God answer my prayers?
As someone who grew up in a Christian household, praying was part of a family tradition, and up till this day, it is something that my family holds onto as an important practice we keep. During a big event that we knew we couldn’t control as individuals (for example, I remember praying for safe travels with my family before every plane ride we took to visit our relatives overseas), that’s when we start to pray or as it is defined “earnestly beg” to God to help us.
While many things in life are within our control, there are also many things that we cannot control. Prayer is thus something that many people, religious or not, utilize to help reassure themselves that while things aren’t fully within their control, the hope is that some force, or higher being out there would be watching over and guiding us through the invisible forces that shape our path in life.
How to Pray Effectively
In the Bible, there are many instances where we see prayers being lifted to God, no matter whether rich or poor, strong or weak. Even Jesus Christ himself prayed. He knew that by his strength, he could not achieve much. From the moment his public life of faith started to the cross he had to bear, Jesus drew strength from God through prayer (Heb 5:7).
Not only did he pray for the sake of the work he had to do, but he prayed also for the work that the disciples and the believers that were to come after were to carry out and that they be protected from the evil one (Jn 17:6-26). Surely enough, it resulted as such as we trace the story of the gospels being spread in the rest of the New Testament.
The Process of Effective Prayer
Cultivating a Heartfelt Connection
- Begin by centering yourself, focusing on the heart, and cultivating a sense of gratitude. This connection is the foundation of effective prayer.
Communicating with the Divine
- Speak honestly and openly, as if conversing with a close friend. Express your thoughts, worries, and wishes. Remember, it’s the authenticity that counts, not the eloquence.
Listening for Guidance
- Prayer is a two-way conversation. Spend time in silence, listening for insights or feelings that may arise. This guidance can often be subtle but profound.
Overcoming Challenges in Prayer
Dealing with Distractions
- Distractions are natural. When your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your prayer without judgment.
Navigating Dry Spells
- There will be times when prayer feels empty or unfulfilling. Persist through these phases. The dry spells can deepen your faith and understanding of prayer.
Prayers in the Bible
Despite the many ‘successful’ requests that we see characters in the Bible have with their prayers, sometimes, the success rates aren’t necessarily equivalent to our experiences today. Due to such, many people conclude that this higher being that one prays to either doesn’t exist or doesn’t care about our livelihoods or the requests we have. But to challenge such a way of thought, have we ever wondered if the problem is not God himself, but perhaps the person sending the request?
This is something worth thinking about because, in the Bible, the problem and the reason for religion’s existence did not stem from the problem being God himself, but it exists due to people and their response to certain situations. While it may be easier to point the finger at others, or in this case, God, have we self-examined ourselves to check where we stand? Have we ever stopped to think that maybe we are the problem and not God? Do we have our standard of what prayers should look like and accomplish rather than verifying it against God who fulfills those requests?
This realization beckons us to a deeper form of spiritual humility, where we acknowledge that the problem isn’t God’s silence but our inability to listen, to understand, and to accept that the answers we seek may come in forms vastly different from our expectations. It’s a call to examine the foundations of our faith, to question not the divine’s willingness to respond but our readiness to hear and embrace the responses given, no matter how unexpected they may be.
In this sacred space of questioning and reflection, we’re invited to redefine our understanding of prayer. It becomes a dialogue—a beautiful, complex, and sometimes challenging conversation that transcends mere requests and encompasses a deeper communion with the Divine. It’s about aligning our hearts with God’s will and understanding that the essence of prayer is not about changing God’s mind but allowing ourselves to be transformed in the process.
Fact or Fiction: Ask and it will be Given?
It’s like this — a child asks for a brand new expensive PlayStation 4 from his parents. Would all parents just easily give such an expensive game console to their kid? Not necessarily. Oftentimes, in the world, to gain something, there are often terms and guidelines that one has to keep before something is given or awarded to the individual. Likewise, have we considered that perhaps the way of thinking applies to our prayers that we live up to God?
While many may claim that one can simply “ask and it will be given”, if one examines the scriptures more in-depth, the scriptures say otherwise. In the Bible, to lift a prayer that God can acknowledge would require more than just “asking.” In the case of the example of the child who wants a brand new PlayStation 4 from his parents, under what terms and conditions would a parent probably reward the child by fulfilling his request?
Firstly, the intention behind the request plays a critical role. If the child desires the PlayStation as a means to escape his responsibilities or as a form of greed, the parents might hesitate. Similarly, when we approach God with requests, the purity of our intentions is paramount. Are we seeking something for personal gain, or are our desires rooted in something greater, something that aligns with our growth, well-being, and the well-being of others?
Secondly, the child’s behavior and the effort he puts into his development such as his attentiveness to his studies, respect towards others, and the responsibilities he holds within the family would significantly impact the parents’ decision. This mirrors the spiritual principle that our actions, our efforts to live according to divine guidance, and our commitment to personal growth and contributing positively to the world around us, are all factors that influence the outcome of our prayers.
Thus, while “ask and it will be given” captures the hope and faith we place in our prayers, it’s the depth of our intention, the quality of our actions, the patience with divine timing, and the strength of our relationship with the Divine that truly shape the answers to our prayers. Like the child and his parents, our requests are nestled within a complex web of relationships, intentions, and spiritual laws that guide the flow of grace and blessings in our lives.
My Parents’ Point of View
From my parents’ point of view, it might be some sort of academic achievement, or maybe not. Regardless, what I do know, know, and understand is that a child’s heart must align with her parents. If it was the parents’ heart, that PlayStation 4 would be within the child’s reach. In the same way, what is essential is having the word of God, and having God’s heart within oneself. Then you’ll be able to lift a prayer that God can acknowledge (Prv 28:9, Jn 15:7, 1 Jn 5:14).
While it may be difficult to grasp that there is a condition attached to praying in a way one can be acknowledged by God, it shouldn’t be too great of a surprise to us. Jesus, the one who had his prayers acknowledged by the Father, had the word in him (Jn 17:7-8) and hence, was able to depend on God and receive God’s protection as he requested.
Drawing from Jesus’ example, we are reminded that prayer, at its core, is not a transactional exchange but a relational one. It’s about reaching a state of dependence on God that mirrors Jesus’ reliance, where every request is steeped in trust and a surrender to divine wisdom. This level of connection requires us to embed the word so deeply within our hearts that it becomes the very foundation of our thoughts, actions, and desires. It’s about allowing the divine teachings to mold us, guide us, and shape our understanding of what it means to truly depend on God.
The notion of having the word in us as a condition for acknowledged prayers invites us to explore a more intimate and profound path of faith. It challenges us to move beyond superficial engagement with our beliefs to a place where our prayers are reflections of our deepest alignment with divine purpose. It is in this sacred space of unity with God that our prayers gain the power to transcend, touching the heart of the Divine and opening us up to the fullness of God’s protection, guidance, and love.
Jesus’ relationship with the Father serves as a beacon, illuminating the path to a prayer life marked by depth, sincerity, and a profound reliance on God. It encourages us to seek a deeper infusion of the Word into our being, fostering a reliance on God that is complete and unwavering. This journey towards a prayer life enriched by the word within us is not just about seeking divine acknowledgment but about cultivating a heart and spirit so attuned to God that our prayers become a natural extension of our connection with the Divine.
In embracing this path, we are invited to experience prayer not as a mere act of speaking but as an act of becoming, more aligned, more attuned, and more deeply connected to the heart of God. It’s a journey that transforms not only our prayers but our entire being, drawing us closer to the essence of divine love and the true purpose of our spiritual journey.
Addressing “Why Doesn’t God Answer my Prayers?”
Before I asked, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” But now, the question we need to ask ourselves should be “Do I have the word within me?” The term “having the word in me” probably does not only mean just knowing a verse or two, because if that was the case we would have easily checked it off and our prayers would have been foolproof. Then what does it entail to “have the word within” oneself?
This introspective query invites us to delve deeper than the surface-level familiarity with scripture, beyond merely reciting verses from memory. Having the word within us transcends the act of rote memorization or superficial acquaintance with sacred texts. It’s not a checkbox on the spiritual journey, a simple task that, once completed, guarantees our prayers will be answered as we wish. If it were, our spiritual paths would be devoid of growth, challenge, and the profound transformation that comes from truly engaging with the divine.
To “have the word within” oneself is to let the sacred teachings permeate our very being, influencing our thoughts, actions, and the essence of our character. It means that the principles, values, and divine wisdom contained within scripture are so deeply ingrained in us that they shape how we live, love, and interact with the world around us. It’s about embodying the word, allowing it to transform us from the inside out, guiding us to live in alignment with divine will, and fostering a profound, intimate relationship with the Divine.
Throughout the Bible, God stresses the value and importance of the word it has for His people. God speaks of the importance of the word being impressed upon the people’s hearts and minds (Deut 6:6-9, Heb 8:10-12). As God’s people today, the believers, are we able to uphold ourselves to that standard placed in God’s word? Uphold ourselves to uplift a prayer that God can acknowledge and answer. Or are we expecting things to be fulfilled according to our standards? Something to think about. But more importantly, how do I know if the word that is within me is sufficient to uplift a prayer God can acknowledge?