Have you ever wondered why some prayers are answered and some aren’t?
Personally, I believe all prayers are answered, just not always according to our preconceptions. There are times when we think our prayers have not been answered, but we just didn’t realize that the answer was, “No,” or something different from what we were expecting.
Other times, what we think is prayer is actually just worrying, telling God all our problems, or the exercise of our own self-will, and doesn’t even come close to Jesus’s prayer for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
You may be “praying” for something that is good and right. But if it’s based on your human opinion about what is right or you trying to get your way, it’s not actually prayer. So, of course, it fails. But you can’t really say this prayer failed because it wasn’t prayer in the first place.
Jesus’s prayers like a light switch
Jesus’s prayers never failed to heal when someone asked for help. He never wondered if it was God’s will for someone to be healed. He never told anyone God was testing them or wanted them to learn from their suffering. He knew God would heal them. Because he saw that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
In this kingdom of heaven at hand, Jesus could see people as whole and pure. Sickness, sin, disease, and death have no toe-hold in or back door into heaven. They do not and cannot exist there.
Jesus could separate what his five material senses told him from what his inner spiritual vision of the kingdom revealed to him.
His clear vision was like turning on a light switch in a dark room. The minute a switch is flipped, the light comes on and the darkness disappears. The moment Jesus bore witness to what is true in heaven, the natural result was healing.
Jesus never failed to heal someone when they asked.
Why don’t our prayers always heal?
Is it ever God’s will that someone not be healed or a problem not be solved?
Unfortunately, too many Christians have been taught this very thing. I did a couple of episodes on this topic:
- Episode 29: Is it Ever God’s Will You Are NOT Healed when You Pray? and,
- Episode 98: Is it God’s Will for You to Be Healed?
When you have prayed every way you know how and someone is not healed or a challenge lingers, it is all too easy to think, “Well, I prayed for God’s will to be done and they weren’t healed. So, it must be God’s will this person wasn’t healed.”
If you start your prayer with even the unconscious inkling that it might not be God’s will for someone to be healed, you cannot pray with the same authority Jesus did.
Some thoughts on why our prayers aren’t answered
There are various reasons why our prayers aren’t always answered and don’t heal the way Jesus healed. Here are just a few thoughts.
It has to do with our motives, undetected fear or sin, our lack of faith and spiritual vision, and sometimes disbelief and opposition from others.
So what are your motives when you pray?
You may feel like my dear aunt, who was pretty good about getting what she wanted out of life. She confided in me one day when things didn’t go the she wanted, “I just can’t get God to do what I want Him to.”
Self-will is not really prayer. It doesn’t submit to God and His will. It’s trying to get what you want, how and when you want it. You’re not trusting God’s wisdom, generosity, or timing. The book of James says:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3 ESV
What do you pray for?
It’s easy to see that someone praying for a new Ferrari sports car or a million dollars just might be over the line as far as praying with the wrong motives. It’s always easier to see when someone else crosses that line than when we do.
There’s nothing wrong with asking God for a car, if you need one. But even that prayer is assuming that you know a car is the answer. God might have a better solution for you. Maybe someone will be led to pick you up and this will give you needed companionship or you’ll be able to help them in some way.
I have a friend, Dorothy, who has not had a car for many years. On weekends she would take the bus from her work in Boston to her home in Maine. It would have been a lot quicker for her to hop in her car. But she saw the bus ride as her opportunity to minister to mankind. She could tell stories all day about sharing her faith and praying with her seatmates on the bus.
If she had been driving her own car, those opportunities wouldn’t have presented themselves. Her motive was always to bless mankind and not just get where she wanted to go.
What are your motives when you pray?
Why do we even pray in the first place? Again, what are your motives when you pray? Is it to be seen and heard by others, to get their approval and applause? Or is it just asking or telling God what we want?
Or do we pray to humble ourselves in the eyes of God, ask for His help, and seek to do His will?
It’s not always easy to see how our own self-will can be so discreetly entwined in our prayers. Even when we are praying for something good and unselfish.
On more than one occasion, I have realized as I was praying for someone to be healed or some situation to be resolved, I was actually nurturing a selfish little monster in my heart that wanted to get credit for having prayed so well as to bring about a solution. Guess what. There was no healing until God uncovered that sin of pride in my heart and cast it out.
Self-will or God’s will?
Examining your motives is not a one-time event. Every day, and sometimes moment by moment, we need to examine our hearts to see if we are actually submitting to God’s will or still pursuing our own desires.
Sometimes we think our prayers haven’t been answered, but the fact is we are so blinded by our own opinions of how a solution must come, we can’t see God’s answer because we are in the way.
Following God’s will is letting go of the human mind’s force and manipulative tendencies, and relying on God’s power and persuasiveness instead.
It can be a struggle to let go of self-will and seek God’s will. But to dig a little deeper here, let me ask you a question. Why do you think we want to do our will in the first place? What will we get from ramrodding our wishes and desires to fruition?
Do you want glory?
In Bible terms, it’s called glory. We want glory. We want recognition. We want what we want and it gives us great satisfaction when we get it.
If no one else is giving us glory we assume the only way to get any glory at all is to force the situation by manipulating events, forcing our will upon others, and pursuing what we want until we get it.
But honestly, is self-achieved glory actually true glory? Not really. It’s man-made and short lived. And in the end, it doesn’t ever satisfy our heart’s deep desire and need for God’s love.
If you want to pray like Jesus did, you have to have the same mindset he did. You have to pray with the same motives he did.
Jesus’s view of glory
Jesus had a lot to say about seeking your own glory. Here are a few of my favorite zingers:
I do not accept glory from human beings John 5:41 NIV
I am not seeking glory for myself; John 8:50 NIV
If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me. John 8:54 ESV
John also makes a harsh but revealing comment about those who believed on Jesus but did not confess their faith publicly because they were afraid the Pharisees would excommunicate them from the synagogue. Their motive? Plain and simple:
they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” John 12:43 ESV
My simple prayer has often been to glorify God in all my thoughts, words, and deeds. If He wants to glorify me in the process, that’s okay. But I don’t need that glory. And I don’t need any recognition from others. (I may want it at times, but I don’t actually need it. And I have to remind myself of that sometimes).
Sometimes people wrap themselves in the vestments of holiness and humility, whether consciously or unconsciously, to conceal their desire for personal glory. It’s usually easier to realize someone else is doing this than be aware or admit when we do.
Any tendency or attitude, overt or hidden, of seeking our own glory will hinder the effectiveness of our prayers and our ability to see the answers even if they are right under our noses.
Undetected fear and sin
Another reason our prayers are sometimes not effective is because of fear or sinful thoughts hiding deep in our hearts or the heart of the person you’re praying for.
Remember when Jairus asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter? A messenger reported that the little girl was dead. The very first thing Jesus says to Jairus was,
Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well. Luke 8:50 ESV
Jesus’s encouragement to not be afraid apply to you and me as well.
I know, they’re easy words to say. But if Jesus was right next to you walking with the air of assurance that everything is going to be okay, whatever fears you had would start to dissolve pretty fast. Disposing of Jairus’s fears was one of the first parts of the healing.
How to detect hidden fear
Sometimes it’s obvious when you or someone else is afraid. But fear has many masks and is sometimes hard to detect and uncover.
One time a farmer handed his son a leaky bucket and asked him to find the hole. It was so tiny the boy couldn’t see it. The father told him to hold it up to the sunlight. Then the hole was obvious because of where a pin prick of light came through.
This is how we detect any hidden fear, sin, or evil. Whatever you’re praying about, hold it up to the light of God allness. Hold it up to what Jesus called the kingdom of heaven at hand, where there is no fear, or sin, or disease, or pain, or tears. Then you will see clearly what needs to be prayed about.
Does this mean if you’re afraid or done something wrong you can’t pray or that God won’t answer your prayer? Of course not. God can always deliver us from fear. That’s part of His job.
But if we don’t deal with the lurking, hidden fears, which may have caused the problem in the first place or that keep us from putting all our trust in God, our prayers won’t be as focused or effective.
So, what about sin?
Jesus knew that sin and guilt needed to be dealt with as part of the healing process.
When a paralytic man was brought to him for healing he said, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” (See Mark 2:5 below)
The sin and guilt had to be removed before the full healing could take place.
Sin is a mindset of disobedience to God, either conscious or unconscious, which makes it harder to bear witness to the kingdom of heaven at hand, to hear what God is saying, and to pray effectively.
All things are possible to God, regardless of the fears or sins hidden in our hearts. But your prayers will have more Christly authority when you ask and allow God to wash them away.
Lack of faith and spiritual vision
Another reason our prayers are sometimes not effective is because of our lack of faith and spiritual vision.
One time, some of Jesus’s disciples weren’t able to heal an epileptic boy. Jesus rebuked their lack of faith and then healed the fellow. Later, they asked him privately why they hadn’t been able to heal this situation. Jesus said they needed to fast and pray.
It wasn’t that they didn’t have any faith or that they hadn’t prayed, but there was something else needed. (See Matthew 17:19-21 below)
Jesus did not say it was God’s will for the boy to remain unhealed. If Jesus hadn’t come along, I wonder how the disciples might have tried to rationalize why they hadn’t been able to heal him. Isn’t that what we do sometimes?
When your prayers aren’t answered…
The next time you’ve prayed and there hasn’t been clear evidence of your prayers being answered, let the spirit of Christ burst forth upon your heart.
Accept his rebuke that you need more faith. Not necessarily more in quantity, but in the depth and quality of your faith.
Are you praying with an absolute conviction that God will solve the problem, heal the disease, or resolve the situation?
Or are you hesitant to ask God to heal or solve or resolve something because you’re not sure if He is willing or able to?
Do you assume you don’t know how to pray the right way or are not worthy enough to pray with such assurance?
Are you looking at what the five material senses tell you or do you see the kingdom of heaven at hand?
When you pray for someone and they aren’t healed, you have undoubtedly prayed for them the best you knew how, just as Jesus’s disciples prayed for the epileptic. Instead of just deciding it was God’s will that healing did not occur, maybe we need to seek out Christ privately, as the disciples did, and ask why.
We love to hear the words,
Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” Matthew 25:21 ESV
But how willing are we to hear the rebuke of Jesus to his disciples,
O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” Mark 9:19 ESV
Maybe we need to be more open to the possibility there is something else we could have done.
As unpleasant as it may be, I would rather be rebuked by Christ and have the true need and my lack of faith revealed than console myself with an untrue assumption that it must not have been God’s will for healing to take place.
When we pray with the mind of Christ instead of our own mind, we’ll hear everything God tells us and be able to do everything we need to do to witness healing.
Disbelief and opposition
Another reason our prayers are sometimes not as effective as we’d like is because of disbelief and opposition from others.
Remember when Jesus came to heal Jairus’s daughter? People were weeping and wailing and laughing at him for saying the girl was not dead. What was his response to this opposition and disbelief? He “put them all out.” (See Mark 5:40 below)
We need to follow this example, and at least spiritually, and sometimes literally, shut out the thoughts of people who are opposed to God’s healing power.
We cannot ignore the obvious or hidden opposition to the spirituality Jesus wants us to live our lives by. Paul calls it a mind “hostile to God.” (See Romans 8:7 below) That pretty much sums it up. It’s the world’s hatred of the Truth that crucified Jesus, tries to stop us from following him, and opposes our prayers for healing.
If you ever feel like you’ve hit a roadblock and aren’t getting anywhere in your prayers, be more aware of, alert to, and then deal with the disbelief and opposition of the carnal mind.
We don’t need to be surprised or fearful when opposition stares us in the face. When you pray, God will detect and uncover this opposition. It may rear its ugly head and accuse you of its own evil character. It will try to sow seeds of fear, doubt, and unworthiness in your heart. But God reigns supreme and will give you faith and the grace to face down the powers of evil.
It may seem like one or more people are the source of the opposition. But this is just a disguise. It is the spirit of evil which is the enemy and is opposed to and would destroy God’s Christ, but instead is destroyed by Christ.
Your spiritual authority
Jesus give you the spiritual authority to defeat this foe. When the 70 disciples he appointed to preach returned with reports of healing, Jesus told them, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” (Luke 10:19 ESV) When Christ sends you into the world to preach his gospel, you are empowered in the same way. You have authority over all the power of the enemy. You can accept and exercise this authority and reap its blessings.
Take a moment for an honest look at your motives. Surrender to God all your carefully constructed plans for your life, all your preconceptions, personal goals, and aspirations. Just for a moment resign your will to God’s. There’s nothing to fear because God’s will is always good, and so much better than anything we could come up with for ourselves. God will put you in the path that glorifies Him and blesses mankind the most. Be like a little child. Put your hand in God’s and trust Him to guide you.
Hold your life up to the standard Jesus set in the Sermon on the Mount. This is not about beating yourself up because you’re not doing everything perfectly. Always acknowledge how much you’re doing right. But ask God to wash away any fear, uncertainty, or sin that may cloud your clear spiritual prayer-vision.
Quietly but with boldness: acknowledge God’s supremacy over all the lies of Satan; rejoice that God has revealed the remedy for all evil through Christ; claim and exercise the authority, given to you by Christ, over all the power of the enemy.
And your prayers will be effective.
Photo credit: @whoislimos
If you have questions or comments please contact me. I’d love to hear from you..
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
James 4:3 ESV
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
John 5:41 NIV
41 I do not accept glory from human beings
John 8:50 NIV
50 I am not seeking glory for myself;
John 8:54 ESV
54 If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me.
John 12:43 ESV
43 they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
Luke 8:50 ESV
50 Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.
Mark 2:5 NKJV
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
Matthew 17:19-21 NKJV
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; [little faith] for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
21 “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 25:21 ESV
21 Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.
Mark 9:19 ESV
19 O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?”
Matthew 5:40, 41 KJV
40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.
41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
Romans 8:7 NIV
7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Luke 10:19 ESV
19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.