3 Reasons Your Prayers May Go Unheard

Prayer is as easy as 1-2-3. Ask for what you want. Say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Walk away, burden lifted.

Of course, it may seem that God doesn’t answer your prayer, but that’s not the case. Sometimes he says “yes,” sometimes “no,” and sometimes “wait.” But he always hears, and he always answers in one way or another.

Well, I’m not sure where we get these ideas, but we don’t find them in the Bible.

prayer

In Peter’s first letter alone, we find a few instances in which prayers may actually not be answered at all. Because God may have never heard them.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 3:7

What happens when a prayer is “hindered”? Well, Peter uses this word only once, but in the ten other New Testament mentions, the idea is translated something like “cut off” {as in Matt 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off”}.

Is it possible that some prayers could simply fail to reach God’s ears because of a particular sinful action or attitude?

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 3:12

Here, Peter references Psalm 34 where the “prayer” expressed is more like a “cry.” By implication, this verse indicates that God’s ears are closed to the evildoer’s “cry.”

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 4:7

While Peter doesn’t specifically indicate how our prayers are affected here, he’s certainly listing some actions that make a difference.

Since when does something we do directly impact the effectiveness of our prayers? I don’t know about you, but I try to pray with faith and expectation. I’ve never really wondered if God is listening.

And so my list of “prayer” questions continues to grow.

Why pray when God has sovereignly ordained everything from the beginning of time?

How can prayer possibly change God’s mind?

Does the act of praying do something for me? Should it?

Why does prayer feel meaningless?

Is God’s answer even partially dependent on me?

Does God ever simply refuse to listen?

If God knows and hears everything, how can he possibly . . . not . . . listen?

Okay, so prayer isn’t as easy as 1-2-3 . . .

 [image credit: pixabay.com]


25 thoughts on “3 Reasons Your Prayers May Go Unheard

  1. My whole idea on prayer changed when I read a book that showed me with Scripture after Scripture that prayer was about being in communion with God, about seeking His company. If you read through the Psalms, what Jesus also prays from, you see this so clearly…it’s David (and Jesus) pouring out their hearts to their Heavenly Father and Him leading them forward, through their fears, despair and struggles, into their calling to His Glory. But how can we be in true communion if we choose to do evil and remain unrepentant, all the while asking God for things?

    I noticed in reading Jeremiah that God also asks Jeremiah to refrain from praying for His people because of their wickedness. This really caught my attention too. It seemed really harsh when I first read it. But then, I thought about how God sees people’s hearts, he knows if they truly intend to turn to Him or not and rather than allow evil to continue, He chooses to let evil be quashed and the persecuted (widows and orphans are mentioned) to be set free.

    Interesting question if prayer is dependent on us. We’re led to pray in the Spirit of God..but then we are only led if we submit to the Spirit. And we only submit if we seek God. And we only seek God if He opens our hearts. But we still have the choice to respond to this invitation…so I guess that means we do. For it is our choice to respond to, seek, submit to and follow the Spirit’s prompting…hope this is making sense!

    BTW my Mum was an avid pray-er and so many of her prayers have been powerfully answered.

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    1. Great thoughts here! Love that final explanation of how prayer is dependent on us. As for your thoughts about prayer being a communion with God, I totally agree. I think the struggle for me is it doesn’t seem like communion. As much as I try to talk with God and spend time with him in that way, I feel like I’m doing something wrong because I don’t really sense his presence at all. I feel like I’m talking to the wall! I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong or what. I think my heart is in the right place. I’m seeking to be true to Scripture in how I go about praying and how I understand prayer. But it seems pretty pointless and not at all like communion! Anyway, I think you’re right in your comments…I just struggle a lot in this area!

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      1. Lydia, I’d say let go of trying to do it the “right” way and just talk to Jesus as if He was sitting next to you. Whenever you feel sad, happy, frustrated, angry, excited, fearful…talk to Him about it. I pray most when I go running, when I’m biking my girls to and from school, when I’m doing the dishes, or when I’m lying in bed at night. I also ask Him to guide me in who to pray for and to give me verses or something to share to encourage friends who are struggling…and it’s always astounded me how He gives me things that speak right into their situation. He’s also put someone on my mind at times throughout my day and so I’ll send them a note of encouragement, only to find out they had really been struggling and needed that little piece of encouragement so badly. You see, it’s not me.

        But when I keep myself busy or try to be “formal” about prayer I feel a wall…my heart you see, isn’t in it. I need to be still and listen first…which is why being outside and being active helps a lot…or getting up early before anyone else and sitting in silence. But I’d say try out praying at different times throughout your day and see what you feel most comfortable doing. When your heart is at rest, then the Spirit can lead you.

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  2. I have struggled with guilt before over my lack of prayer, until I realized God so often just wants me to trust Him in most daily things. He gives me so many good things I have never ask for. Just as I know something that will bless my children and grandchildren hearts i will give it to them. They are not praying for that blessings but I want to bless them because I love them. How much more does God love us. I don’t mean to not pray, yes we should pray, have a relationship with Him that is so strong we just automatically spend time with Him over the issues of life. These are not on your knees prayer but walking in faith prayers. There is times for on your knees prayer, when a need is so affecting my life or others lives that I must unload it at the throne because it is too heavy for me to carry. I have been in prayer meetings when I felt like there was less praying going on because someone praying share their request then continues to talk about it after the prayer. It’s like they take it to the throne and then run back and grab it to carry around for all to hear about. I have been in prayer meetings when guilt has been laid on others if they do not feel the same about prayer. There is strength in when two or three are gather together to pray but it seems to me those times I meet with God alone are what shapes my faith in Him. I am more open with Him alone then in a room full of women sharing their prayer needs. I meet with a small group of women every week to pray for our kids,mostly our adult children, it’s been a powerful time but also a time of learning of Him and how we view Him as we pray. Prayer is all about Him, not our request even though there is no better place to place our request then at His feet. God loves does not change for us if we don’t attend a prayer meeting or pray very often. I have said before, God does not need our prayers, He already knows all but we need to pray, to commune with Him. He will work His will and way with us even if we do not bend our knee because He is God and nothing shall seperate us from Him, even our lack of prayer. When I meet a trusting woman of God who I know has much to pray over and she has peace about her prayer needs I know she is a praying woman. There are times I don’t feel led to pray but to just sit in silence and trust Him for the deep things in my heart. This was a very good post, thought provoking and greatly needed.

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    1. Oh, thank you so much! You express your thoughts so well, and these were so helpful. I think you have a healthy perspective on prayer. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts. Blessings, friend!

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  3. Yes, Lydia praying seem simple yet making that conscious contact with God often feels distant. It’s easy asking God for specific needs, but it’s more challenging to ask for knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out. But Christ answered the question of acceptable prayers receptive to God ‘s ears (Matthew 6:5-15). And once we follow that command then we begin to connect with God’s will. Another excellent command on praying that Christ showed is asking Him directly (John 14:12-14). Since our way to God is Jesus then by following our Savoir’s commands we will be sure of receiving answers because Christ is our intercessor. Thanks for an encouraging, contemplating and heartfelt post. God bless you, your family and friends!

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  4. I respect your interpretation that there were times in the Bible when God did not hear people’s prayers. I personally do not agree with this. 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” I know in my heart He hears us and knows where our hearts are coming from when we pray. I believe He honors our prayers in many different ways, when we truly seek His will…which is not always easy to do. We stumble. We fall. We are selfish and stubborn. But He is full of grace towards us…He won’t ignore us just because we mess up. I believe when He doesn’t answer right away, there are many reasons…one being that He wants us to put our full trust in Him…also, not always easy to do. There are many unanswered questions I have had about prayer, but this one I feel very confident of. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Blessings, Ann

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! Glad you brought up 1 John 5:14. Notice it does say, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” So there’s still a condition placed upon it. And I would say, that passage doesn’t negate the ones I’ve quoted from 1 Peter. Sure, it’s difficult to understand how all of these verses work together. But I think they’re all true!

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  5. I believe God hears every prayer because God knows everything about us even before we think or speak. Whether or not He answers is up to Him. I believe He always answers the prayers from believers whether it be yes or no or wait, but we may not always perceive His answers if we are not in a right relationship with Him. These are really good questions you have brought up and I think they deserve a lot of attention. So many times we just take things for granted and just accept what others have told us. But I think God want us to ask the hard questions, even about prayer, so that we will continue to seek Him and continue to search the scriptures. Some answers are hard to find. Thanks for sharing this thought provoking post! Blessings to you and I pray we do find the answers we are looking for regarding prayer and other areas of life. I’m your neighbor at #SmallWonder.

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      1. It may be too simplistic, but all I meant about God “hearing” every prayer was that since God is God and is aware of everything that goes on, He can’t help but “hear” it in that sense. He doesn’t have to regard it. Where the verse says God’s “…face is against those who do evil,” it doesn’t say he can’t hear them. He can be against them and still “hear” what they say because He is God. (I certainly haven’t done a thorough study on that verse and its context, so I’m just kind of thinking it out… I’m open to hearing what others think.)

        Another thought – Before we knew God, we were still in our sin, yet He loved us, heard our prayer and made us His children. But, I guess that prayer would definitely be according to His will.

        You have raised some very good questions. I think it would make a good study to take all these verses in their context and in the context of the whole Bible and continue asking God questions about prayer and how He hears and answers.

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        1. I see what you mean. I agree that “…face is against those who do evil” doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t hear them. I was mostly referring to the first part of that verse where it says his ear is open to the righteous. It would seem to imply that his ear is not open to the unrighteous.
          Love your last paragraph. I haven’t really come to any strong conclusions on this topic, and totally agree that we should keep studying and asking God for discernment! Thanks again for your thoughts!

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  6. Hey Lydia … it’s interesting how we sometimes don’t see God’s ‘wait’ or His ‘no” as answered prayers. It’s like we just want the goodies, like we only crave His ‘yes.’

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  7. It seems that the effectiveness of our prayer can be affected by the condition of our hearts. If our hearts are hard, our prayers are less effective. But there is hope. God has provided a way through Jesus where we can directly walk into his presence and be heard. We only need to confess and ask for forgiveness. God has made it as easy as 1, 2, 3.

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  8. What a great post! It is wonderful to hear the passion of your faith in your writing. Prayer is constant, and it is only in His timing do we get an answer. Thanks so much for sharing with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope to see you link up again this week 🙂

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  9. A couple more verses you could add to your list would be Isaiah 58:9, and another really similar passage, Zechariah 7:13. Both passages indicate that the heart behind your fasting will affect whether God listens to you or not. I appreciated your thoughts! They are helpful, especially since I have been thinking a whole lot about prayer lately.

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