Devotional: ‘When God Doesn’t Answer Our Prayers’


Throughout the Bible we find much encouragement to pray. Paul wrote – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” [1] Jesus said – “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” [2] And James tells us- “You do not have, because you do not ask.” [3] Jesus said that our heavenly Father already knows everything we need and He is simply waiting for us to come to Him and ask.[4] 

God desires to meet our needs; however, God is not obligated to gratify our greed. James tells us that the reason God sometimes doesn’t answer our prayers is because they are selfishly motivated.

James 4:2 …You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? 

We learn from the book of Galatians that inside each of us there is a battle between our flesh and the Holy Spirit. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other…” (Galatians 5:17) The Spirit’s desire is that we glorify God. The flesh’s desire is that we gratify self. James tells us that whenever we pray in order to gratify ourselves, God is not obligated to hear or respond.

To take it even further, James also tells us that such selfishness can actually put us to be at war with God.

“God opposes the proud…” [5]James tells us. The word ‘oppose’ is a military term meaning – {to set ourselves in battle against someone.} God not only refuses to listen to a self-centered prayer, He also opposes it.

Though God resists the prideful prayer, He pours out His grace upon the prayers that are humble. “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6) The word ‘humble’ literally means to not rise far from the ground.

Rather than putting ourselves upon a pedestal and demanding God to gratify what comes from our greed, we should humble ourselves before Him and ask Him to provide for our needs.

[1] Philippians 4:6

[2] Matthew 7:7-8

[3] James 4:2

[4] Matthew 6:8

[5] James 4:6; see also 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 3:34

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