When Prayers Seem Unanswered

given to prayer series title

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Given to Prayer Series | Part 2

When Prayers Seem Unanswered

Psalm 25, particularly vv4-6




Prayer of David

Adversity is on every side

  1. Because of sin
  2. Because of his short-comings
  3. Because of his surroundings – he is sensitive to the troubles that are around him (personal troubles, family troubles, work, people of God)

And so David cries out to the Lord in prayer

  • Prayer of self-examination
  • Prayer of surrender to the Lord
  • Prayer for deliverance
  • Prayer for direction


Illustration: NASCAR Head-sets

During the early decades of NASCAR stock car racing, the driver and pit crew relied on visual signals to communicate. Each crew had a large “pit board,” onto which they would chalk instructions and information so the driver could look for it whenever he came back around pit row. The driver could only communicate with hand signals as he raced around the track. For example, he might reach around the windshield and tap the hood if he wanted to come in for a pit stop. Needless to say, communication was tough – spotty at best. And as they were going around the track, drivers were on their own.


Somewhere around 1950, the first radio communication between the driver and the crew chief was pioneered with a couple surplus WWII walkie-talkies. But it wasn’t until 1960 that NASCAR legalized their use so that drivers could communicate with their crew chiefs.


When they came to the ruling, how many drivers do you think took advantage of the opportunity to be in consistent communication with their crew chief? –ALL OF THEM.[i]


The crew chief was on their team. The crew chief had their best interests in mind. And the crew chief had more data and a better vantage point. The crew chief could see the big picture.


God is the only One who can see the big picture

God is the only one who is BEFORE now, AFTER now, and RIGHT now all at the same time — OMNIPRESENT

When we pray to the LORD, it is like being on that headset, depending on Him to show us the way and lead us in the way.

>>>Ps 25:4-6

When we pray to the God, it is like being on that headset, depending on Jesus to show us the way and lead us in the way. (We just have to get out of the way)


What do you do when it seems like God is not listening?

What do you do when you’re running your race and it seems like God is not in your headset?

What do we do when it seems like God is not answering our prayer?


First, I want you to realize…

God answers EVERY prayer

Often unanswered prayers are answered, just not in the way we want


If the request is wrong, God says, “No.”

If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.”

If you are wrong, God says, “Grow.”

But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, “Go!”[ii]


When there seems to be an unanswered prayer, what do we do?

Most of the time, the fall out of unanswered prayer

  • We become DEMORALIZED in our prayer life.. we stop praying
  • We get DISCOURAGED with God
  • We begin to DOUBT God

And if we ignore the check in our spirit

  • We will begin to DENOUNCE (blame) God
    • move Him from the throne to the witness stand – we try to put God on trial
    • What pride and arrogance! (Elihu, Job) We are stained by sin.
    • God is unstained. He is perfect: righteousness, love, wisdom, ways
    • Job 38-40


So when your prayers seem to go unanswered, it is NOT a time to…

When prayers seem unanswered…

IT IS a time to DEPEND on God to show you His ways

Isa 55:8-9

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”


Unanswered prayer should drive you to humbly depend on God to show you His ways.


To cry out to God as David does in Ps 139:23-24

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.


If we humbly depend on God to show us His ways, we will look closely at our prayer requests:

Has God said “No” because the request is wrong?



Has God said “Slow” because the timing is wrong?



Has God said, “Grow” because you are wrong?



Has God said “No” because the request is wrong?

  • Mt 17:1-8 — Peter, James, John, Jesus, Moses, Elijah on the mountain top. Let’s build a couple tents. We can’t stay on the mountain top.
  • Mt 16:22-23 — Peter rebuked. “Get behind me Satan”


  • Mt 20:20-23 — James, John, Mom asking to reserve the two best seats in heaven for themselves
  • Is your request self-serving?
  • Would it help you to grow more like Jesus?
  • Would it help other people know God?
  • Would it advance His kingdom or yours?
  • If God granted your request, would it bring glory to Him or to you?


  • (Isa 42:8) “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another…”


  • (James 3:13-4:3) James doesn’t mince words.. calls to the carpet those who operate with selfish ambition.. ties these selfish attitudes directly to the absence of the presence God in their life and in the church: You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.




Has God said “Slow” because the timing is wrong?

Illustration: “Not yet” is just about as bad as “No”

Parents know this. You’re leaving on a five-hundred-mile trip in the car. You’re fifteen miles from home. Voices from the back seat ask, “Are we there yet?” “Not yet,” you say, and the groans and complaints begin.


“My birthday’s tomorrow. Can I open my presents tonight? It’s close enough.”

 “Now that I’m fourteen, will you teach me to drive?”


Children hate to hear the answer “Not yet.” And there’s an impatient child in all of us, a child who wants God to meet every need, grant every request, move every mountain right now, if not before then.[iii]

God’s delays are not necessarily denials.


3 Good Reasons for God’s “Not yets”


Do we think of him as a celestial vending machine that we should kick if we don’t get an instant response, or will we instead choose to relate with him as a loving Father who will give us what we need when we need it



Maybe the original request wasn’t quite legitimate and we learn that we need to change our prayer to make it more in line with God’s will.


  1. FOR OUR SANCTIFICATION that comes only when we wait patiently and trust in his timing

(e.g.) endurance, trust, patience and submission[iv]


For the Child of God this is the category I put SUFFERING Into

Because healing will come. Because relief will come. Because righteousness will be vindicated. It may not happen as soon as I would have wanted, but it will come.

In the meantime, God help me to be mindful of your faithfulness and pour in your grace that I might suffer for your glory

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (key on v9)

  • If healing was a function of faith, then Paul would not have a thorn in his flesh.
  • So why would God allow Paul to suffer?
  • God desires us to abandon ourselves / self-reliance
  • God brings us to a point of utter weakness and total reliance on Him
  • God’s grace is always sufficient for the circumstance
  • God’s grace disables the destructive potential of tragedy and great difficulty
  • God’s grace replaces our weakness with His power
  • God takes our suffering and uses them for our sanctification
    • 1 Peter 1:6-7

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;


  • Hebrews 12:10–11

10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.


  • 2 Corinthians 1:8–9

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;


  • James 1:2–4

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.




Has God said, “Grow” because you are wrong?

  1. Do you have an UNCARING ATTITUDE?
  • (Proverbs 21:13) He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.
  • “God is committed to developing a people who will reflect his character in this world, and his character always expresses concern and compassion for the afflicted.”[v]


  • (Matthew 5:23-24) 23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
  • (1 Peter 3:7) extends this principle to the family: You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
  • We underestimate how committed God is to building and maintaining a loving family and a loving faith family.
  • God adopts us into His family. In the same way He relates to us, God wants us to relate to each other
  • God will listen when you confess the sins that drove you and the other person apart and attempt to mend the relationship – family member, a faith family member, a coworker, a neighbor or a friend
  • It is not always possible to make amends, but as far as we are able we must try to reconcile[vi]
    • (Romans 12:10, 17-18) 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor… 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.


  1. Do you have UNCONFESSED SIN you are harboring in your life?
  • Unconfessed cuts off our communication with the Father
    • (Isaiah 59:1-2) 1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. 2But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
  • “It’s just a little sin”
  • Even a little sin will contaminate your prayers
  • Illustration: computer processor chip

Computer chips go through many different processes to prepare it to act as a conduit for millions of computations that make it possible to calculate the acceleration of a rocket booster in space, email your Nana, or watch a kitten video on YouTube.


Computer processor chips are manufactured in a state-of-the-art clean room because even a little contamination (single dust particle from your hair) can ruin one of these CPUs


Similarly if you let a little sin into your heart, it will contaminate your prayers


  • If you are tolerating sin in your life, don’t waste your breath praying until you pray a prayer of confession
  • Ps 25:7, 11, 18, 20





Is your prayer life hurting, It’s time to visit the E.R.


“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)


“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)


Evidence of repentance is the desire to change:

4 Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. 5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. (Ps 25:4-5)



[i] http://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-racing/nascar/jobs/nascar-driver-communicate1.htm and Hybels, Bill (2009-08-20). Too Busy Not to Pray (p. 128). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[ii] As quoted in Hybels, Bill (2009-08-20). Too Busy Not to Pray (p. 86). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Ibid, 92.

[iv] Ibid, 93.

[v] Ibid, 104.

[vi] Ibid, 101-102.