UNANSWERED PRAYER: WHY? "Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss..." James 4:2, 3 © 1976, 1977, 1997 by Diane S. Dew I. Jesus said whatever we ask in prayer will be done for us. Mark 11:22-24; John 15:7 II. Why then do many prayers remain unanswered?A. A faulty petition. 1. Unbelief. James 1:6, 7 "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." 2. A wrong motive. James 4:3 "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your own lusts." B. Sin or disobedience. Psalms 66:18 "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Proverbs 15:29 "The Lord is far from the wicked; but he heareth the prayer of the righteous." Proverbs 28:9 "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." Isaiah 59:1, 2 "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." Jeremiah 5:25 "Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you." John 9:31 "Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." 1. Selfishness. Proverbs 21:13 "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard." 2. Pride. Hosea 5:5-7 "And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore ... they shall ...seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them." 3. Unforgiveness. Mark 11:25, 26 "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." 4. Disharmony in the home. Matthew 5:23, 24 "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." 1 Peter 3:7 "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them ... giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." 5. Religious hypocrisy. Isaiah 1:11-15, esp. v. 15 "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the Lord: ... your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." Matthew 23:5, 14, 27, 28 "But all their works they do for to be seen of men; they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments ... Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.... for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." 6. Rebellion against hearing God's word. Proverbs 1:24, 25, 28-30 "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.... Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me... They would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof" Zechariah 7:11-13 "But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law ...therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not heart; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts." 7. Idolatry. Ezekiel 14:1-8 "...these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them? ... hey are all estranged from me through their idols. ..." 8. Deceit; injustice. Jeremiah 5:25-31 "Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you... they overpass the deeds of the wicked; they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless ... and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things? Saith the Lord..." C. An effective prayer life is conditional upon our personal walk and relationship with Jesus Christ.1. Obedience. 1 John 3:22 "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." Psalms 34:15, 17 "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.... The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles." Proverbs 15:8 "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight." Proverbs 15:29 "The Lord is far from the wicked; but he heareth the prayer of the righteous." James 5:16 "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." 2. Righteousness. Psalms 34:15, 17 Proverbs 15:8, 29 James 5:16 3. Humility. 2 Chronicles 7:14, 15 "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attentive unto the prayer that is made in this place." Psalms 9:12 "... he forgetteth not the cry of the humble." Psalms 10:17 "Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble... thou wilt cause thine ear to hear." Psalms 102:17 "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer." Matthew 23:5, 14, 27, 28 Luke 18:13, 14 "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.... for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." 4. Faith. Matthew 21:22 1 John 5:13-15 "These things have I written unto you that believe ... and this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." 5. The fear of the Lord. Psalms 145:19 "He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them." 6. Abiding in Christ. Psalms 91:1, 14, 15 John 15:7 "If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you." D. A Satanic hindrance withheld the answer to Daniel's prayer for 21 days. Daniel chapter 10, esp. vv. 12, 13 (Cp. Ephesians 6:12). III. Sometimes God chooses to delay the answer to our prayers. Jeremiah 42:2-4, 7 "Pray for us ... that the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray ... [and] whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it ... And it came to pass after 10 days, that the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah." Luke 18:7 "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?"A. This may be with the intention of working into our character a specific quality desirable in His sight. 1. Patience. James 5:11 "Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job..." 2. Obedience. Hebrews 5:8 "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." 3. Humility. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; etc. "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh ... For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness...." B. Though Job was "perfect and upright" in the sight of God (see Job 1:1, 8; 2:3), God allowed him to suffer tremendously – but not without purpose. Job 23:10 "He knoweth the way that I take. When he hath tried me, I shall come foth as gold." IV. God answers prayer according to His time and will (Psa 40:1). But we must be persistent in seeking Him for answers to our requests. Genesis 32:26-29 "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me ... And He blessed him there." Song of Songs 3:1-4; 5:2-6 Isaiah 62:6-7 "... keep not silence, and give Him no rest...." Lamentations 2:18-19 ".... day and night: give thyself no rest..." Matthew 7:7 "Keep on asking ... keep on seeking ... keep on..." (The Greek tense denotes continual action.) Matthew 15:22-28 (Note verb tense: she "kept praying") Luke 11:5-13, esp. v. 8 "Because of his importunity" Luke 18:1-8 "By her continual coming"