As a communicator to youth, it is not uncommon to have a parent ask me to pray for their children. Parenting, on its best day, is a daunting task. As a result, all parents should seek Divine guidance for their children. They should pray for them and with them and model for them what prayer is and how it is to be done (Matthew 6:9-13). Good parenting is a most difficult task and acquiring the prayers of many on your behalf can only benefit everyone. And yet, in spite of all the prayers I have heard many sincere Christian parents pray, I have sometimes wondered why these prayers so often seem to go unanswered. If God commands us to pray (I Thessalonians 5:17) and tells us to bring all our cares to Him (I Peter 5:7) – then why does it seem that with our most sincere prayers about our most precious cares (our children) our many petitions seem to be ignored? Scripture reveals at least ten reasons why God does not answer our prayers:
1) We do not ask.
- How often does God not answer our prayers simply because we have not asked Him to? If we cannot motivate or humble ourselves to approach His throne and pray the prayers, why would God be motivated to answer on our behalf? If we do not care enough to ask, we are showing God just how un-important that request really is to us.
- “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
- “You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)
2) Our prayers lack faith.
- When you pray, do you really believe God will answer? We must believe that God not only can – but will – answer our prayers according to His will.
- “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22)
- “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8)
3) We pray with wrong motives.
- Think through your prayers and their motive. God is just as concerned about our requests as He is with the heart of our requests.
- “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. ” And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:5, 7)
- “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” (Matthew 23:14)
- “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
4) Our requests are inappropriate.
- “James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” (Mark 10:35-37)
5) Our requests are not within His will.
- “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
- ”Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” (John 16:23)
- “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (I John 5:14-15)
6) Our timing is different from His.
- The story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection reveals to us that our timing is not God’s timing in regards to the answering of our prayers. (John 11:1-45)
7) A “NO” is in our spiritual best interest, whether we recognize that or not.
- ”Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me–to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:7-10)
- Would Paul have learned to be “well content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions or difficulties” had the Lord honored his request to remove the thorn? It was the thorn (the very thing he prayed to remove) that taught him about Christ’s strength in his weakness.
8) He is testing our hearts.
- I have learned that the quickest way for me to access the condition of my children’s heart is for me to say “No” to them. How children respond to the “No’s” we give them reveals much more about their heart than one thousand “Yes’s”. In the same way, God may often say “No” to us, simply to see if we trust Him, His way or His timing. How do you respond to the “No’s” God gives you? (Read Job chapter 1-2 for a biblical example on this).
9) Our sin gets in the way.
- Parent, what sins are keeping your prayers from being heard? Just as you will not bless your children while they disobey you, so God will not answer your prayers if you have un-confessed sin in your life.
- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)
10) We sabotage our own prayers.
- Do not pray for your child’s wayward, disobedient heart and then shield them from (or remove altogether!) the weight of the consequences of their sin. Too many parents (in the name of mercy, child-pleasing, etc) allow their children to escape the punishment of their sins which works against your prayers.
- “and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 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. 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. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
- Perhaps the peaceful fruit of righteousness is missing from your children because you have blocked the Lord’s discipline in their lives?
One day, I had a parent call me about her wayward, teenage son. She spent the majority of the time telling me how her son has little interest in spiritual things, doesn’t read his Bible and he never goes to church or youth group, though she encourages him to do so. After 30 minutes of listening to this loving mother talk about her desires and prayers for her child, she made an interesting confession. She does not read her Bible or attend church either. Like mother, like son. The fruit, as they say, does not fall far from the tree.
We should pray for our kids and then make sure we are living out those prayers in our own life. Parenting is more caught than taught and though our prayers are important, our example can work against the most sincerely worded prayer. Prayers are with our lips. Practice is with our life. Both need to match as our children tend to follow our ways over our words.