James 4:3, “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss”
One of the greatest benefits afforded to every believer in Christ Jesus is the privilege of answered prayers. In the Bible, Jesus made this tremendous promise, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22). However, despite the Lord’s willingness to answer prayer, it is obvious that some prayers have gone unanswered. Maybe you are experiencing unanswered prayer this very minute? Does God turn a deaf ear to some of your desperate pleas for healing, for finances, or protection? We all experience irritation when our best efforts to communicate result in an unsatisfactory response — or worse, no response at all. We wonder, “Did God ever receive my message?” When we pray, we often equate the lack of immediate tangible results with God rejecting our prayers. In James 5:13-16 we are urged to pray earnestly with the promise of “powerful and wonderful results.” Why would God emphasize the importance of prayer and then choose not to respond with an answer?
By way of illustration … Pastor William E. Sangster told of an experience in his youth when he went on a vacation with some friends. When he had spent all the funds given him for the trip, he wrote home for more. His father, thinking he should teach his son the value of money, did not respond to the request. Sangster’s companions wondered why he had been turned down, but William said to them, “I’ll wait till I get home, and he’ll tell me himself”. Thus, as believers and servants of Jesus Christ … we should have that kind of attitude toward our heavenly Father. Life holds many unanswered questions for us. However, we know that God is sovereign and that He is working out everything according to His plan and will (Ephesians 1:11). The Lord has said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). That’s why we cannot comprehend all that He is doing in our lives. We will have to wait until we get to heaven for an explanation for many of the problems that confront us, the trials through which we pass, and the wounds that bring such hurt. Although God does not need to explain His dealings with us, someday He will help us to understand. For now we have to ask the Lord, to help us to trust Him more each day, and to teach us to wait patiently for the final answer, whether here on earth or in heaven.
If our prayers go unanswered, the fault may lie in the petition itself. Unbelief (James 1:6, 7) or wrong motive (James 4:3). Sin or disobedience may be the hindrance. (Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 15:29; 28:9; Isaiah 59:1, 2; John 9:31). Or it could be selfishness (Proverbs 21:13), pride (Hosea 5:5-7), unforgiveness (Mark 11:25, 26), disharmony in the home (Matthew 5:23, 24; 1 Peter 3:7), covetousness; idolatry (Ezekiel 14:1; Colossians 3:5). Additionally, an effective prayer life is conditional upon a personal walk and relationship with Jesus in the area of obedience (1 John 3:22), righteousness (Psalm 34:15, 17; Proverbs 15:8, 29; James 5:16), humility (Matthew 23:5, 14, 27, 28; Luke 18:13, 14), faith (1 John 5:13-15). A Satanic hindrance withheld the answer to Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 10:12, 13). Or it may be with the intention of working into our character a specific quality desirable in his sight such as patience (James 5:11), obedience (Hebrews 5:8), humility, (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). God answers prayer according to His time and will (Psalm 40:1).
However, we must be persistent in seeking Him for answers to our requests (Matthew 7:7; 15:22-28; Luke 18:1-8). Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart”; Lamentations 2:19 puts it this way, “Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord” and Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” Probably the greatest reason that some prayers go unanswered is because His children go through the day without uttering a single prayer or many just give up praying and believing before they receive their answer. My brethren always remember that God takes pleasure in hearing from His children. Proverbs 15:8 says, “The prayer of the upright is His delight.” So, as long as we have the promise of God’s Word, be patient and be persistent … keep believing, and don’t quit, no matter how long it takes! God has a “due season” when He will bring the answer to pass.
The keynote of every prayer should be, “God’s will be done”