The Problem of Unanswered Prayer

— Why does God sometimes not seem to hear us?

sermons index at

  • Andrew Fountain — June 26th, 2011

A Frequent Cry from God’s People

  • Psalm 10:1-2
  • Psalm 13:1-3 (these Psalms usually end in praise)
  • Psalm 22:1-8 (groaning all night)
  • Psalm 55:1-2 (moaning) v.6 (ever felt this?)
  • Psalm 77:2-3 (same idea of moaning)

The Problem of Prayer

  • Why does God sometimes not seem to hear us?
  1. We are praying for the wrong thing
  2. We are demanding, trying to bully God, not trusting
  3. God has a better plan
  4. God has different timing

1. We are praying for the wrong thing

  • James identifies two problems with their prayers: (James 4:2-3)
  1. “You do not have because you do not ask;
  2. you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.”

John 15:7-12

  1. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
  2. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
  3. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

John 15:7-12 cont’d

  1. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
  2. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
  3. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

2. Demanding Prayer

  • Prayer that is angry with God or tries to force him
  • Job was guilty of this to start with—he demanded that God would explain why bad things had happened
  • God showed Job his glory and Job repended of his arrogance
  • example of Rosalind Goforth
  • Much of our prayer will be about our needs—he wants us to bring all our needs to him

3. God has a better plan

  • This is probably the most common reason
  • Jesus prayed in Matthew 26
  1. 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.”

4. God has different timing—Habakkuk 1

  1. The following is the message which God revealed to Habakkuk the prophet:
  2. How long, Lord, must I cry for help?
    But you do not listen!
    I call out to you, “Violence!”
    But you do not intervene!
  3. Why do you force me to witness injustice?
    Why do you put up with wrongdoing?
    Destruction and violence confront me;
    conflict is present and one must endure strife.

Habakkuk 1 cont’d

  1. For this reason the law lacks power,
    and justice is never carried out.
    Indeed, the wicked intimidate the innocent.
    For this reason justice is perverted.

Habakkuk 2—God answeres

  1. I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.
  2. And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.
  3. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
  4. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his life of faith.

John Newton

John Newton

John Newton’s Mother

  • Prayed faithfully for him
  • Died when he was almost 7 years old.
  • He became a sailor, his level of evil and depravity even shocked hardened sailors
  • 32 years later during a violent storm he was saved
  • All of her prayers were answered, even that he should become a pastor
  • He could not have written “Amazing Grace” if he had not experienced it

John Newton’s Dream

In my dream—the scene presented to my imagination was the harbor of Venice, where we had lately been. I thought it was night, and my turn for ‘watch’ upon the deck; and that, as I was walking to and fro by myself, a person came to me (I do not remember from whence) and brought me a ring, with an express charge to keep it carefully; assuring me, that, while I preserved that ring, I would be happy and successful; but, if I lost or parted with it, I must expect nothing but trouble and misery. I accepted the present and the terms willingly, not in the least doubting my own care to preserve it, and highly satisfied to have my happiness in my own keeping.

I was engaged in these thoughts, when a second person came to me, and, observing the ring on my finger, took occasion to ask me some questions concerning it. I readily told him its virtues; and his answer expressed a surprise at my weakness, in expecting such effects from a mere ring! He reasoned with me some time, upon the impossibility of the thing; and at length urged me, in direct terms, to throw it away. At first I was shocked at the proposal; but his insinuations prevailed. I began to reason and doubt, and at last plucked the ring off my finger, and dropped it over the ship’s side into the water, which it had no sooner touched, than I saw, at the same instant, a terrible fire burst out from a range of mountains (a part of the Alps) which appeared at some distance behind the city of Venice. I saw the hills as distinct as if awake, and that they were all in flames!

I perceived, too late, my folly; and my tempter, with an air of insult, informed me, that all the mercy which God had in reserve for me—was comprised in that ring, which I had willfully thrown away! I understood that I must now go with him to the burning mountains, and that all the flames which I saw, were kindled on my account. I trembled, and was in a great agony; so that it was surprising that I did not then awake; but my dream continued. And, when I thought myself upon me point of a constrained departure for the fiery mountains, and stood self-condemned, without plea or hope, suddenly, either a third person, or perhaps the same who brought the ring at first (I am not certain which), came to me, and demanded the cause of my grief. I told him the plain case, confessing that I had ruined myself willfully—and deserved no pity. He blamed my rashness, and asked if I would be wiser, supposing I had my ring again. I could hardly answer to this, for I thought it was gone beyond recall. I believe, indeed, I had not time to answer, before I saw this unexpected friend dive down under the water, just in the spot where I had dropped it; and he soon returned, bringing the ring with him! The moment that he came on board, the flames in the mountains were extinguished, and my seducer left me! Then was the prey taken from the hand of the mighty, and the lawful captive delivered. My fears were at an end, and with joy and gratitude I approached my kind deliverer to receive the ring again. But he refused to return it, and spoke to this effect: ‘If you should be entrusted with this ring again, you would very soon bring yourself into the same distress; you are not able to keep it; but I will preserve it for you, and, whenever it is needful, will produce it in your behalf. Upon this I awoke, in a state of mind not to be described; I could hardly eat, or sleep, or transact my necessary business, for two or three days. But the impression of my dream soon wore off, and in a little time I totally forgot it; and I think it hardly occurred to my mind again until several years afterwards.

Prayer is a law of nature

  • You need to believe in God hearing prayer even like electricity
  • God hears immediately!
  • Daniel 10:
  1. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.”

Updated on 2011-07-03 by Andrew Fountain