Prayer is a very powerful element of the Christian faith. It can be used to speak to the Lord, to make a petition, or even a simply cry for strength through various struggles. Perhaps simply to be comforted. Yet within all of this, there may be prayers that go unheard. Sometimes the Lord may ignore them. The question is… what prayers go unanswered?
The Sinners Prayer
While just about everyone seeks the Lord through prayer, even in the darkest times. Outside of a prayer of repentance it is only the Christian who’s prayers are heard.
We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.John 9:31
A man who was just healed of his eyesight was interrogated by the Pharisee. After giving his testimony of his healing he makes the point that his healing was a miracle that only God could do. Affirming that the Lord does not listen to a sinners prayer he is teaching two things.
- The miracle is from God alone.
- He is repented of his own sins. He is a true believer.
This man may have learned this from the Psalms
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.Psalm 66:18
The meaning of iniquity in the Hebrew is used to refer to sorrows, sins, wickedness. the below image is taken from BlueLetterBible and is in regards to this verse.
If we hold any wickedness in our hearts, our prayers will not be heard. We must look within ourselves daily, repenting of our sins and asking the Lord to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
The Deaf Christian
Maybe not the best category title but when I speak of a dead Christian I speak of a believer who has not opened their eyes to their circumstances. The Christian life is not always an easy life. In fact, as believers we will face many different temptations and trials. In some cases, the experiences we are facing may be the Lord trying to get our attention. To call us to repent and walk a different direction.
I remember years ago I had a desire to go one direction with my life and possible career. I was sure of what I wanted to do. While I enjoyed that path I chose, it did not feel complete, I felt like the more I tried, the harder it was to reach the goal.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.Psalm 37:4
The purpose of this passage isn’t that we will get everything we desire, but rather the Lord will place His own desires for our life within us. By delighting in the Lord, our desire will be His desire. After many years of trying, it finally clicked within me what the Lord truly wanted for my life. After changing my direction, the path I found the Lord calling me to became easier and much more desirable. The problem I had was that I didn’t listen to what the Lord had called me into. I was praying for the Lord to be with me through what I wanted and not what He wanted for me. I was going against His will.
We pray selfishly
Continuing from the last point, our prayers go unanswered when we pray according to our will and not the Lords.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.James 4:3
When James speaks of “your passions” this refers to our own selfish desires. Various personal and worldly interests. Interests not aligned with the Lords will.
- We may find ourselves praying for a change in circumstances we are unhappy with when the Lord puts us in a situation to benefit our spiritual maturity.
- We may want the Lord change in another in some area because we don’t like certain characteristics within them. It could be traits the Lord has placed within them. Who He designed them to be.
- We may pray for some sort of prosperity when the Lord has limited such gain so that we learn humility and contentment.
One of my favorite books is called The Valley of Vision. It is a compilation of prayers written down by a number of puritans. Along with the Psalms, this book provides us insight to what and how we should be praying. It all boils down to seeking the Lords righteousness, living our lives to honor Him.
If we truly do honor the Lord, our prayers will show it. As Jesus Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, His humanity knew what He was about to face, just how much suffering He would endure. Through all of this, He still prayed “not my will, but your will be done.
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”Matthew 26:39
If you are having struggles in your prayers, you feel they may not be answered or heard. Take a look within yourself and ask yourself “Is there a sin in my life that needs attention? Is there some selfish motive in my prayer?” Ask the Lord to reveal these things to you and be cleansed of this sin. Turn to the Lords righteousness and His desire, His will.