Usually when someone makes a statement like, “Why should I keep praying? God doesn’t answer anyway,” what they really mean is “I didn’t get what I asked for, so why should I keep praying?”
What is prayer?
To give an intelligent reply to this question, we must first look at another question: What is prayer? The shortest definition of prayer is “talking with God.” Notice I said “with” and not “to.” We spend many hours throughout our day talking to others. We give reports, make comments and give advice.
Speaking with someone implies something different. It is a give and take, with both sides participating. This type of conversation with God cannot happen unless we have a relationship with him that opens the door to 2-way communication. So the first step in having God answer your prayers is to make sure God knows who you are.
The Bible says God wants to include us in his family. He has provided a means of making us his adopted children through the work of his only true son, Jesus. But we have a part in that process, too, and there is no communication if we don’t take the proper steps to open the door.
The one prayer to which God always answers “Yes”
If you just believe this message and ask him to accept you into the family, that is one prayer you can be assured God will answer the way you want. Jeremiah 29:12 is God’s promise about this: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (NIV)
Once you have become a member of God’s family, you can rest assured that he hears you when you pray. Like any parent, God is eager to hear from his kids. My children live several states away, and I don’t get to visit them very often. When one of them calls, you can be sure I drop everything and stay on the line as long as they want. My children matter to me because I love them. God is no different.
Who you pray to matters
But with all the conflicting statements about God swirling around you today, also need to be sure that you are praying to the real God, and not some fantasy image you have “created” from your own ideas of what God is like. Throughout human history you can see evidence of “gods” shaped in the image of the people who worshiped them.
In Isaiah 45:20b the true God warns that it is futile to pray to anyone but Him. “Only people who do not know anything would carry around gods that are made out of wood. They pray to gods that can’t save them.” (NIRV)
So, if your prayers aren’t being answered, consider who you are praying to and why. Check it out, do some research, compare the Bible with other “religious books” and learn about the true God who calls himself “love.” (1 John 4:16) He is waiting to hear from you, and he truly wants to answer your prayers. “So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” (From Hebrews 4:16 in The Message translation.)
Sometimes answers aren’t what you expect
God doesn’t always say “yes” to a request any more than friends, spouses or family members would. Sometimes you get a firm “no” and other times you need to wait for an eventual answer. It has often been my experience that God answers in ways I never expected (see my article “Does God Provide for His Children?” for an example) and sometimes I miss the answer completely.
By the very definition of God we know that he is a much more intelligent and powerful being than we will ever be. God himself stresses this in Isaiah 55:8: “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (NLT)
Is it any wonder, then, that what we expect to happen in response to our prayers may be far different from what he actually does?
You should keep praying, despite feeling you have not received an answer, because God wants those conversations with you, and because it will make a difference in your life.
The Holy Bible in the following versions: New International Version (NIV), New International Readers Version (NIRV), The Message (MSG), New Living Translation (NLT) all of which can be seen at: http://www.biblestudytools.com/