Why is it that God seems to answer some people’s prayers, but not others? A close cousin to this question is another which asks, “why me?” These two questions are closely related, but yet require two different comments. Therefore, I will address one at a time.
WHY IS IT THAT GOD SEEMS TO ANSWER SOME PEOPLE’S PRAYERS, BUT NOT OTHERS?
This question needs to be brought down to a more personal level. So let us ask instead, “Why won’t you answer my prayers God?”
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” (Matthew 7:7)
“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19)
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”(Matthew 21:22)
“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Luke 11:9)
“But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” (John 11:22)
The five verses above seem to state very clearly that if we ask anything of God, He will provide it. So how can it be that our prayers sometimes seem to go unanswered? Let us look at the next three verses to see if we can get any closer to the answer.
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” (John 16:23)
“Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)
The keys in these three verses are “ask in my name”, “that the Father may be glorified in the Son”, and “that your joy may be full”. Our prayers should be parallel to God the Father’s desire, and He be glorified in the Son. Our prayers are often physically directed instead of spiritually directed. That isn’t to say that God is not interested in our physical needs, but our needs must coincide with His will. God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts thanyour thoughts.” I went through an intense period in my own life where I wrestled with this. For several years, I could not understand why nothing seemed to go the way I thought it should. Why did He seem to linger in giving me the answers I wanted? I “claimed” these verses, but nothing happened. He then began drawing me to the following verse: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed bothto be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:12) I slowly realized He wanted me to trust Him in every situation, and provide for me the answers I needed. I say with all honesty that the latter years of my life have been the best. My joy is full.
I learned that life isn’t all about me and my wants. It is about His Son, Jesus Christ. When I got my eyes off me and on Jesus, then He was ready to show me what an awesome God He is. Does that mean that all my problems are solved? No, but many have been. Does that mean I’ll not have any more problems? Of course not. Everyone has problems. I do, and I will have more to come, but the difference is my attitude. If you would pause your reading of this article at this point and read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, I believe the Apostle Paul explains it much better than I.
Let’s take a look at four more verses.
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 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.” (James 1:5-6)
“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3)
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” (1 John 3:22)
I see nine points in these verses that we need to consider before we can expect an answer to our prayers, as Christians.
1. We must abide in Him.
2. His Words must abide in us.
3. We need to ask for wisdom.
4. We must exercise the faith He has given us.
5. We must not waver.
6. We must not ask amiss.
7. We must not ask on behalf of our own lusts.
8. We must keep His commandments.
9. We must do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Couple these points with what I have already said, and then let us look at one last verse. In Luke 22:42 Jesus is just hours from the cross. He is praying to the Father, just as you and I would do. This is what He says, “…Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”(Luke 22:42)
Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. As the second Adam, He was perfection in the flesh. The cross that was looming ahead had to be excruciatingly frightening, but even more frightening and repulsive was having your and my sins laid upon His absolute holiness. If there were any way to avoid this hellish trauma, He would have loved to do so, and He could have if He chose. But what did He say at the end of the verse … “not my will, but thine, be done”?
Since we are not God, as Jesus is, we do not have the understanding that He does. He has given us the answer though in His own prayer to the Father …“not my will, but thine, be done”. God has His own reasons for allowing some things to happen and often not changing the course of those events. We just need to trust Him. That may sound too simple, but it makes all the sense in the world when you understand it. The bottom line is … go to Him as a child to a loving parent and just trust Him to do what is best for you, and accept His decision. You will not be disappointed.
It is sad when tragedy strikes anyone, whether small or great. The question, “why me?” has probably been asked thousands upon thousands of times over the centuries. How many times have each of us heard someone ask that mournful question? Maybe we too have asked, “why me?” I could bring to remembrance the line about the man who felt sorry for himself because he had no shoes until he met a man who had no feet. Would that make us feel any better? Perhaps it would, but maybe not. I suppose it might depend on the person and the problem. We all can look around us and see those who suffer, and there are many ways to suffer. We can understand that there is always someone worse off than we are, but nothing sharpens the painful awareness of suffering like having it come to us personally. If a dear friend is told by their doctor that they have terminal cancer, we agonize for them and pray with them, but what if the same message comes to us? Would not the reality of it be even sharper in our minds? Why me?
Jesus said that every man is appointed to die and after that the judgment. God’s Word has made it clear that sin has made a perfect world imperfect. From the moment we are born, we begin to die. Everything around us is in the same boat; trees, plants, animals, buildings, machinery, etcetera.
Many things happen in our lives due to natural causes. They are just part of living. Sometimes they happen because of decisions we have made. God may allow suffering to help us draw closer to Him. He may use suffering to wake us up from our lethargy. Suffering may even be used for discipline.
The real problem though is sin, the sin introduced to us by Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and their succumbing to it. Due to our disobedience of God in the Garden of Eden we all now suffer.
It is hard for our minds to understand the suffering that God endured in His redeeming act to bring mankind back to Him. The Father suffered mightily while watching His Son pay the price of our sins upon the cross and having to turn His back upon Him. The Son suffered in ways we cannot imagine when carrying out His Father’s plan of redemption. The Holy Spirit suffered as He watched the Son carry out the redemption plan, preparing the way for the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church. Having said this, we must understand and believe that God did not create this mess, and He does not cause the problems in our lives. Our problems come upon us due to our sinful state (original sin).
There is something else we must consider. If I am suffering, perhaps for no fault of my own, am I better than everyone else? Can I continue to say, “why me”, when I am no better than the next person? Do not take what I am going to say next as flippant, but maybe I should say, “why not”. Would I rather wish my calamity off on someone else? I don’t like suffering any more than the next person, but God can teach us, as He did the Apostle Paul, “I know both how tobe abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”(Philippians 4:12)
One very important verse for a child of God to remember is Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. When trials and tribulations come upon us, we should actually take it as an opportunity to allow God to work through us in bringing praise to the name of Jesus Christ.
There is a third question that comes to mind, and that is found in Psalms 73, along with the answer. The question is, “why do the wicked prosper”? Take a moment and read what the psalmist had to say about this.
These three questions, (1) Why won’t God answer my prayers?, (2) Why did this happen to me?, and (3) Why does it seem that the wicked prosper”, are all legitimate questions. God is not going to be mad at you for asking them, and there isn’t always going to be a pat answer, at least in our minds. The key verses again are, Luke 22:42, Philippians 4:12 and Psalms 73. Get well acquainted with the passages. I really believe they will bring peace to your soul.