There are many articles on when to pray, how to pray, and what we should pray. I have not seen any yet on what keeps God from hearing our prayers. Of course, this isn’t a very encouraging topic. You won’t find any cute pillows in your local Christian bookstore with the words, “because you have ignored all my counsel…I will mock when terror strikes you” (Prov 1:25-26). But it is a topic that is imperative to the Christian life. If we find that God is inscrutably silent to our prayers, it would do us well to examine God’s word to see if there is a basis for this reticence.
Calvin said, “It is a general truth taught in Scripture, that the ungodly are not heard by God, but that on the contrary, their sacrifices and prayers are an abomination to him. Hence the door is here closed up against hypocrites, lest they should in contempt of him and rush into his presence.” Calvin was correct in his brief summary, but what about the details? Here is a short list I compiled from Scripture.
When will God not listen to our prayers?
- When our heart condemns us (1 John 3 v19)
- When we disobey his commandments (Pro 28v9)
- When we cherish sin in our heart (Ps 66v18)
- When we ignore God’s counsel and reproof (Pro 1v24-28)
- When we walk in evil (Mic 3v4)
- When we do not love our wife’s as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3v7)
- When we doubt (James 1v5-7)
In conclusion, when we find that our prayers are not being answered, we should be diligent not to blame God for his silence, but to look in our own life to see if He has already told us why he is keeping silent. We should not be surprised that our prayers go unanswered if we live in evil, run from his instruction, or treat our household unfairly. But we must also remember that we serve a God who is loving and full of grace, “who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin”(Ex 34:7).