This is probably the million dollar question when it comes to following Christ. Why does God answer some prayers, and not others? I know that I have personally struggled with this, and others have as well I’m sure. It can be frustrating and disheartening when you pray for something or someone, and you don’t get an answer to prayer.
I have prayed for provision, wisdom, healing relief from hardship in my own life and for others in my years of following Christ. There are countless times that I have seen Christ do an amazing work. I witnessed my still born nephew be raised to life. I’ve had things written and spoken in secret, brought to light by people I did not know. I have seen miraculous provision in my own life and that of others. But, on the contrary I have also sat and seen “no response” to prayers. It has led to pain, suffering, heartache, and even anger at times for myself or those that I had prayed for.
This can lead us to a number of questions:
– Did I not have enough faith?
– Does Jesus not love me?
– Did I do something wrong?
– Did I not pray the right prayer?
These and others are surely questions that run through the mind of believers when God seems to not answer a prayer.
So why does this happen? How? Why does God answer some prayers and not others?
Scriptures for confidence in prayer
Throughout the scriptures we have numerous verses that provide us with the confidence to go before God with our prayer requests. This confidence and reassurance is what leads us to pray for those things again, and again.
Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. – John 14:13-14
Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. – Mark 11:24
And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” – Matthew 21:22
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. – 1 John 5:14-15
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16
In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. – John 16:23-24
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7 (some translations say, “cast all your cares on him…”)
Jesus Even Prayed
We read throughout the Gospel narratives that even Jesus himself prayed. While he would speak over food to bless and multiply it and over those that he was healing, he would continually remove himself to go pray. He spent considerable amounts of time in prayer. He even tells us that in everything that he did, he could only do it because he saw the Father doing it. (John 5:19)
He taught us to pray in this way,
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
He tells us to pray your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We know that in heaven there will be no poverty, lack, sickness, disease, or heartache. Jesus was telling us to pray that heaven would be made manifest on earth. But, why would he tell us to pray this way to only have those things answered some times?
So Why Does God Answer Some Prayers, And Not Others?
I have struggled with this question since I started following Christ at age 13. I chalked it up to that’s just God’s will. While at times that was intensely hard to accept, I just accepted it as that.
But, I heard an explanation from Frank Viola that put my heart, my mind, and my soul at rest.
The kingdom is here, but not yet.
What the heck does that mean? It means that the Kingdom of God is here, but not in fullness yet. In his prayer, “the Lord’s prayer,” Jesus tells us to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Upon Jesus’ arrival, ministry, and death he initiated the entrance of the kingdom of God into the earthly realm. In Matthew 4:17 we read,
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
He was saying that the Kingdom of God is literally at arms reach. It’s so close…but, yet so far. There is an already present aspect of the Kingdom as we read in Matthew 12:28 and Luke 17:20-21:
But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. – Matthew 12:28
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you. – Luke 17:20-21
The kingdom is currently present. It is present within you, but only in partialness. The kingdom is represented to the world through the body of believers, but Christ is its fulfillment. It will be fulfilled at a later time. We can read later in Luke 22:18
For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes
He is not being ambiguous with his terminology or wording. What he is saying here is that while the initiation of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth has begun, it is not yet fulfilled. We can understand that the kingdom of God will come to fullness in a future reality. While the kingdom of God is at hand, the fulfillment of God’s kingdom on earth is still a coming future reality.
It is here, but not yet.
Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians 13:9-12,
For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
Paul tells us that we will understand the fullness of love and God’s kingdom at a later time. Notice where I have italicized above. He says we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when the perfect comes the partial will be done away. We only see the kingdom partly, but when the perfect comes the partial will be put away and we will know the fullness.
He says we now see in a mirror dimly, or some translations say a mirror darkly. Imagine yourself attempting to look at your reflection in the bathroom mirror after you have just taken a hot shower with the door closed.
You can make out your outline, but you do not see yourself as clearly as if the mirror was clear. You see your reflection partly, but not the whole detail of it. He goes on to tell us but then. This but then statement tells us that there will be a later occurrence when we will know fully. The mirror darkly will be cleared for us, when the kingdom of God comes in fullness.
Does this give us the fullness in understanding about the Kingdom of God and its present and future realities? No. But it does help us to understand the present and future roles pertaining to the Kingdom. It is not simply someplace we go when we die, i.e. heaven. It is much grander than that.
Through the believer, heaven and earth intersect in partialness, coming to fruition at a later time when heaven will come to earth in fullness. Does this mean that we should stop praying for heaven to come to earth? By no means, as Paul would say. Jesus himself taught us to pray that way. We should continually contend for heaven’s reality to be made known on earth, but now we understand why it may seem that a prayer is unanswered.
And, until that time when the kingdom of God is presented before us in fullness, we can rest assured in the words of Paul,
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
No matter the situation, no matter the outcome of the prayer you presented, you don’t have to wonder why does God answer some prayers, and not others, because we know that in the end he works it all out for good.