Why isn’t my prayer working?
Updated: Jan 30
Perhaps, you’re like me. You’ve prayed for someone’s healing for many times and yet, the person passed. Or maybe you’re always praying for protection against this Covid virus, and yet you still got it. Maybe you spent some time praying for a place, then after God answered, you found out this is not what you really expected. Friends, you might be wondering “why isn’t my prayer working?” It’s good to ask this question because it prompts us to search for answers. So, today I want to share with you some biblical reasons why our prayer seems not to be working. The first reason is that we’re sending it to an…
1. Unknown recipient.
“9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Matthew 6:9.
· Here in Canada, if the mail is delivered to the right address but to the wrong person, as the original holder of the address has moved somewhere, we write on the mail, “unknown” and mail it back.
· Jesus was saying, having the right address (heaven), and right Person (God) are very important in prayer.
· God is a person because he has a mind, a will, and emotions. See Psalm 139:17; Psalm 7:6; Exodus 20:5; John 3:16
· Timothy Keller says, “Our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture.”
· The Scriptures teaches not only about God but a way of life that affects how we communicate with God.
· But God isn’t just our Creator, through Jesus, we have a supernatural relationship with God, He is our Father.
· We don’t pray to created things, we pray directly to God in heaven.
2. Unrighteous motive.
“7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8.
· Prayer is not so much about us as it is everything about God.
· Prayer is an encounter with the magnificent all-knowing and all-powerful God. Those thoughtless words we say do not please Him.
· His answer to our prayers must bring glory to Him. “10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
· If we ask from a vengeful heart, God will say no. If we ask from a hateful motive or self-absorbed way, God will say no.
3. Unconfessed sins.
“12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:12-14.
· God may say no to our prayers because we hold sin close to our heart. Unforgiveness is a favorite sin of many believers.
· God may say “own up and grow up” before He grants our prayer.
4. Unspecified request.
“11 Give us today our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11.
· Sometimes God does not answer because there were no specific requests in your prayers.
· Jesus taught his disciples to ask in specific terms because it allows us to see what we really need.
· Specifying our requests teaches us the importance of thinking about God the whole day.
· It also creates an atmosphere of expectancy – God answers according to what we need.
5. Unfulfilled roles
“15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15.
· Jesus highlighted the importance of human relationship in prayer.
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words, by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives… 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” 1 Peter 3:1-2;7
· God may say no, own up and grow, if we have unfulfilled roles.
· God is concerned about how relationships function according to His design.
· This is not limited to husband-and-wife relationship as Jesus said,
“23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24.
Questions for Bible study discussion:
1. How is your prayer life doing? Are you just going through the motion? Is prayer part of your checklist? Is there any passion and excitement in your prayer life? Why or why not?
2. How can Matthew 6:5-14 help you improve your prayer life and the way you pray?
3. To whom do you address your prayer? Why?
4. What are your thoughts about Matthew 6:7-8? What is the difference between repetitive words in prayer and persistent prayer? See Luke 11:5-8.
5. What is your usual motive in prayer? Is it for God’s glory? How can God’s answer to your prayer glorify His name? How can your prayer reflect the sovereign will of God?
6. What have you been asking for? Have you included “the kingdom of God to come and His will be done”? Have you prayed for others to know Jesus?
7. Do you regularly confess your sins to God? Have you forgiven those who have offended you? Have you prayed for their blessings?
8. Do you make specific requests in your prayers? What happened later? Did God grant some of them?
9. With regards to prayer, why is God interested in human relationships? Why does having a right relationship with others an important aspect of effective prayer?
10. What usually happens when you pray with others? Do you think God is honored when you pray with people? Why?
 Timothy Keller, Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, pg. 55