By Scott T. Sharp,
Pastor First Baptist Church Nashville
I mentioned last week that people often times share with me that they find it hard to pray, so we looked at a very simple acronym a person can use as they pray, the acronym ACTS (Adoration/Acknowledgment, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). It serves as a reminder of things we can pray for and about. This week, I want to deal with another question people have asked me concerning why it is that God doesn’t always answer their prayers.
One of the main principles of scripture is that God blesses obedience, but never blesses disobedience, and one of the first places this principle shows up is in a person’s prayer life. God does not answer the prayers of a disobedient person, one who is unrepentant and has un-confessed sin in their life. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished iniquity (sin) in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Disobedience to God’s word and an unrepentant heart are reasons God doesn’t hear and answer prayer.
Scripture also tells us that the Lord will not answer a person’s prayers when their life is tainted with hypocrisy and pride. This principle is clearly spelled out for us in James 4:
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (hypocrites).” Pride and hypocrisy in a person’s life are reasons God doesn’t answer prayer.
God also says no to a person’s prayer when their request is permeated with doubt. Again, it is James who clearly spells out this truth. James 1: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.”
So whose prayer does God answer? God answers the prayer of the righteous person – the person who is obedient to His word. We know this is true from what we read in James 5: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” The real question then becomes, “How do we become righteous so that God will answer our prayers? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And in Philippians 3 we read, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, but righteousness which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Righteousness is the product of faith in Christ, and answered prayer is the product of a righteous life.