God does not answer all prayer.
In fact, some prayers likely offend Him.
Many times I have heard that God always answers. The answer may be Yes, No, or Wait, but He always answers. “Every cry of the heart and every request reaches His ear,” I’m told, but 2 Chronicles 7:14 might suggest otherwise.
“If My people, who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
If…then. It’s a conditional statement. If this, then that. If not this, then not that. Simple enough.
Scripture is replete with examples of unanswered prayer.
If we pray to false gods, YHWH does not make concessions. He is unimpressed by prayers to statues, wood blocks, or gods of other names. If our prayers are to impress others, they likely go nowhere (Lk 18:11). If we embrace wickedness, it impacts our prayer (Job 27:1-9; Matt 7:21-23). If we treat others dishonorably, it hinders our prayers (1 Pet 3:7).
God is not the genie in the bottle. He refuses to hear prayer that is mere performance or grounded in pride. Perfunctory prayer is better not uttered. It won’t be answered.
But if we will humble ourselves, seek Him, and pursue righteousness then He will hear, forgive, and heal.
On this National Day of Prayer here in the United States, we would do well to recall that repentance supercedes eloquence and that humility exceeds intensity. Authentic prayer is, after all, first a matter of the heart, long before it is a speech delivered by the lips.
The little wall plaque states “Prayer Changes Things.” James tweaks that common saying and reminds us that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (Js 5:16).
How’s your prayer life today? Feel like your prayers are bouncing back? No one at the other end? Perhaps our struggle with prayer has less to do with the hearer and more to do with our heart. Just something to ponder.