Why doesn't God hear my Prayer?
10th December 2011, hej
This Article: (3 Pages)
1) Praying to a Powerful God
Though prayer may seem not to be answered, perhaps wisdom may be prayed for.
The Bible gives many accounts of God's personal relationships with faithful people. It gives many accounts of answered prayer (see prayer). Generally mis-conceptions and lack of faith come from a lack of prayerful familiarity with the Bible. Reading books about the Bible, or this article will not replace reading the Bible. This article will point out a few ideas to begin your search in the Bible as to why your prayers were not answered, and to find how to make your prayer powerful.
The first misconception is that the world ought to be the way we think is good. We were told it was created very good (Gen 1:31), but then it was made subject to curse (Gen 3:17). Curiously there seems in Biblical Hebrew to be no equivalent word for the English ideal of an infinite 'perfection'. In Eden there was a serpent that was made cunning, and who was made able to talk.
The second mis-conception (indeed a myth-conception) is that God is there to give us things we want, or that we think good. These things we think good might be very altruistic. Our society in general has this idea that God ought to be 'Good' and evil comes from somewhere else. It seems the failure to understand what the Hebrew word 'satan' means, has caused this myth.
In Genesis, in Eden, Adam and Eve seem not to have prayed. Rather it seems at the time of the cool breeze of the evening they could hear directly the words of the Yahweh Elohim, and they could converse with him. The first specific form of prayer is recorded at the time of the birth of Enos.
And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. (Genesis 4:26)
Calling on the name of Yahweh “He who will be”, is to call on his purpose. At the birth of Seth's first male son, Enos, a new situation emerged. Cain's seed was appointed to destruction. Enos would grow up and be able to make a choice. Enos' father Seth was the 'appointed seed' to replace Cain and his grandparents were Adam and Eve. By calling on the Name, or purpose, they seem to be asking that Enos be 'the seed of the woman' who would fulfil God's word that Eve's 'seed' would bruise the head of the serpent's 'seed'. The seed of Seth and Enos became the seed of Abraham (Romans 9:7). The Apostle Paul explains it,
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Gal 3:16)
This would be their deliverance. As Enos might fail, as Cain had done, they would have prayed at his birth that in him God would establish his word. It seems likely prayer began specifically to ask that God establish his word, in the life of a specific person.
2) Job and Prayer
The book of Job seems to fit with the era preceding the time of Abraham. In that era God spoke directly to people, and they could speak to him. From this we might understand who God listens to, and how to address God, and what God might think of our words. Job is introduced with an introduction we would all desire,
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect (undefiled) and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. (Job 1:1)
This is how God viewed Job, before he was tried. This is shown in that Yahweh asked the adversary to consider Job as an example servant (Job 1:8). Job is called “my servant.” We see that God does not first talk to Job, but to his adversary. In the same way God reasoned with Cain. We see that Job suffered loss, but
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. (Job 1:22)
Then, despite Job being undefiled in his service to God, God listens to the very valid point that the adversary makes. What if Job was in pain he knew came from God, would he still serve God? Notice the adversary asks Yahweh to 'touch' Job's 'bone and flesh'. It was to be a terrible and painful sickness in bones and flesh of the type the adversary wanted, but not life threatening (Job 2:6).
We can see in this how God answered the adversary's prayer. The purpose of God in answering the plea was to show to a servant who needed to improve, that he ought to follow Job's example. In the following events Job establishes something amazing. When it first happens he says to his wife,
Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaks. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (Job 2:10)
We see how similar Job's wife's idea is to the adversaries. It is not uncommon to think that people smitten by God would not serve him. It is often even today given as a reason people don't wish to serve God. But Job was a dutiful and undefiled servant. His illness meant he could no longer serve God in the way he had. He was defiled by the skin complaint. But he knew for sure that even though he had done the best he could have done, that his God had afflicted him with terrible pain and defilement. In his grief, when he knows by experience that he is going to have to endure he asks
Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God has hedged in? (Job 3:23)
He knew God had afflicted him. Then his friends afflict him more by saying that it was brought on by sin. Job knew he had not sinned in such a way as they said. He knew he was not afflicted for his sin. The curious thing is that knowing he was afflicted by God, he did not ask for release. He merely gave God the glory by, in many words, saying how powerful God was, and that there was none who could plead for him. There is a critical point in the argument,
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me: Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me. (Job 9:32-35)
Job's words prefigure Christ as mediator. This shows how it was that Job accepted his situation, and would not pray or beseech, or plead. Job was absolutely remarkable. We might make judgements based on the record of scripture we have, but Job did not have this. He did not have the words that we may come boldly to the throne of grace. We might think we know better, but how many of us would be worthy of God's commendation to start with? James summarised the record of the book of Job for us,
Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11)
But yet despite the commendation for this patience, Job, who was so upright, was the one and only person who could pray for his own deliverance. He had prayed for his sons and daughters and been heard, as Ezekiel pointed out,
Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. (Ezekiel 14:20)
When Yahweh finally does speak,
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. (Job 38:1-3)
Because his patience is commended, this rebuke cannot simply be interpreted as Yahweh being unhappy with Job. The arguments might rather reinforce Job's willingness to accept his God's power. They also show that Job could rely on the power of the Mighty One, and ask for healing. Job repents that he did not ask,
I know that thou can do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. (Job 42:2)
Then we can note Job then after the rebuke finally does ask, in fact he says he demands of his God knowledge,
Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees thee.
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:3-6)
We can see how Job as an upright servant, as a teacher, yet lacked one thing, that he could also, because he was upright, speak and demand things of God. Job's righteousness meant he could pray and ask for things. He admits he served as one who hears and does the will of God obediently, but he had not before 'seen' the face, or the power of God as an active thing in his life. We know Job can pray for others after this, as he prays for the deliverance of his friends who had sinned,
Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. (Job 42:8)
We might understand the subtleties of this. The adversaries request was answered because it was useful in the life of a most precious servant. Because of the events Job could rightly speak of the need for a mediator (which was given in Christ) and learn that because he was upright, he might pray for others (as a pattern of Christ). The incredible thing and the great lesson for us is that Job was accepting of and thinking he would endure (not without some relevant complaint) a disease that would seem a terrible and painful, but not fatal, lifelong affliction from his God! No wonder he was so highly regarded by his God. From Job's example we can see how, if we seek to do the will of God, we may as servants of God, pray for healing. Job was also commended for patience.
There is a curious point that the adversary in Job was among the servants of God, as his words were heard.
It is a principle that the words of those who are evil and who have no relationship with God, are not heard.
The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he has opened mine eyes. Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and does his will, him he hears. (John 9:30-31)
3) Putting away sin to be heard
The history of Israel illustrates many points when prayer was not heard. One is striking, Jeremiah is told,
And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. (Jeremiah 7:15-16)
We can see that prayer to be answered must fit the will of God. At that time it was his will as it was his plan to try them and refine them through captivity at that time. Jermeiah is told three times, not to pray for his people. The last explains,
Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. (Jeremiah 14:10-11)
It is no good to pray to God when you are not a servant who honours him. It might rather work against the person,
For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourns in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself: And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 14:7-8)
There will be an answer to such a prayer but it won't be good.
There is no harm in seeking a right way before God before seeking him to ask him for something. Jacob when he fled to Bethel told all his mixed household to put away the strange Gods, and wash themselves (Gen 35:2). There is a specific promise that if the people of Israel sought to do well their prayers would be heard,
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. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:15-18)
It might be fashionable today to see the God of Israel as tolerant, but the Apostle Peter says the same as Isaiah was told,
For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. (1Pe 3:10-12)
This says that every servant who strives in honesty to live an upright life, will be heard. Whether their prayer is answered directly or not, is a different matter. John qualifies this.
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us: (1John 5:14)
John writes this, having also written the words of Y'shua (Jesus)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23-24)
John implies that
to ask in Jesus' name ~ ask according to his will
Calling on the name seems to equate to calling on the purpose of God, and that purpose is embodied in Christ, the name by which all are saved. Note how John records,
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)
Prayer in the time of the apostles was to glorify the Father and establish the role of the son. Healing was not for the sake of healing itself, but to show that the witness was true. We might be wary that James points out that prayer other than that for the glory of the Father might not be answered,
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:1-4)
If you are sure you have sought with the best of your ability to be a faithful servant, to know and understand God's will and do it, and have sought only for the glory of God in prayer and there is still no answer. It may be that it might require a patient wait and persistence. This is Christ's advice
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:1-8)
Christ's recommendation to not faint is equated to faith. Faith is confidence and conviction, which is based on knowledge and evidence. The greater the knowledge and the greater the evidence in the service of an obedient life, the greater the faith.
The future that is promised, is one where there will be much more open communication. Those who are refined will be heard immediately,
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24)
And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. (Zechariah 13:9)
Before the question is asked, has God heard and done something about our requests, we might ask ourselves have we heard God and his requests? Have we read, and valued and sought to do every word from his mouth? For in the time of blessing that Isaiah speaks of when people are answered immediately, and there is no more weeping, at that time, they shall hear clearly the voice of God and walk perfectly in the way of Yahweh Elohim,
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shall weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:19-21)
If you have not read it already, the first part of this article is Prayer