Most prayers are unanswered because those who pray are not living in consistent obedience and love.
"Essentials for Answered Prayers"
"And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." 1 Jn. 3:22
R. A. Torrey got my attention on this verse by writing on obeying and praying in his book, How to Pray.
First of all, observe the conditions that must exist for our prayers to be heard: keeping the commandments AND doing those things which are pleasing in God’s sight. John states that if we meet both conditions, we shall receive whatever we ask for.
This verse goes a long way toward answering the question, "Why are there so many unanswered prayers?"
As you may well know, the problem of unanswered prayers is generally attributed to three categories: God, Satan and man. It is either that God is not willing, the devil is fighting, or man is not right with God when praying. We can find biblical support for all of these.
If something is not in the will of God, God has no interest in bringing it to pass. If something is in the will of God, the devil will fight it. If man is not right with God when praying, nothing much will be accomplished, even if it is God’s will. God, in His infinite wisdom, has made His actions dependent on the prayers of His people. He has, as the Revelation tells us, "made us unto our God kings and priests..." (5:10). This is not to say that God is not capable of overruling His self-imposed dependency on us, but rather it is to say that generally speaking, He has chosen not to do so in reference to His work amongst men.
Getting back to the notion of kings and priests, I would point out that kings speak of government, authority, and power, while priests speak of intercession, intermediaries, and bridge builders. The Christian is born again to be a royal priest, or a priestly king. He can never be a king without being a priest, and he will never be a priest without being a king.
Whatever your textual interpretation of Revelation 5:10, you must agree with me on the contextual truth of the king-priest office as set into the context of the whole of the written revelation of God.
We do govern, but we govern by prayer only. It is the prayers of saints (and our praises), and not our church statistics, that ascend to the throne of God (Re. 8:3-4). Jesus said, "whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Ma. 16:19). Jesus gave His disciples power to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, and power over the demons and the devil (see Ma. 10).
Yes, I know our Lord said that "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," but as the previous verses indicate, He has chosen to share His power with us, and since His power is infinite, that means His power has not been and cannot be depleted by sharing it with others. Glory to God!
CHRIST, as royal priest, exercises His power before the throne, and He "ever liveth to make intercession" for us (He. 7:25).
Jesus has given us power to change things. We are a royal priesthood. We are here to act in His behalf for the advancement of His kingdom.
Why then do we have so many unanswered prayers when we pray in His behalf? The answer to that is simple, my friend: TO PRAY IN GOD’S WILL REQUIRES THAT WE LIVE IN GOD’S WILL. It is to not only keep His commandments, but ALSO to do that which is pleasing in His sight.
You may pray for a sick son. It may be God’s will to heal that sick son. But, it is much more in God’s will for you to live in God’s will 24 hours a day than for that son to be healed! When you have a petition, God wants you to come to him from the position of a royal priesta godly person who keeps the commandments and does all that pleases God. God wants you to come to him as a person walking with God and not as a backslider, a lukewarm Christian or a part-time Christian. God has absolutely no obligation to hear the prayers of people who are not all for God. He may, in His mercy, act upon such requests, but he is not obligated to do so.
There is your answer for most unanswered prayers. If you don’t keep the commandments, and if you don’t do that which is pleasing in His sight, the "whatsoever you ask, you receive of Him" is cancelled. Such being the case, there is no magic in just praying in Jesus’ name anymore. He who does not live in Jesus’ name cannot rightfully pray in Jesus’ name.
God heard all of Jesus’ prayers, not because He is the Son of God, but because He always did that which was "pleasing in his sight." Only those who always do that which is pleasing in His sight can know what His will is and, thus, what to request. Those who keep the commandments and do that which is pleasing in His sight will not ask for a son to be healed when they discern that petition not to be in the will of God. Jesus went in and out of the temple to teach many times. Most likely, He knew about and had seen the lame man at the gate Beautifulbut yet, He discerned that it was not God’s will for him to pray for the man’s healing. That miracle was reserved for Peter and John (Ac. 3). At another time Jesus discerned that it was not God’s will for Lazarus to be healedbut to die! Likewise, it was not God’s will for the blind man of John 9 to be healed until he had come to adulthood, nor was it God’s will for Paul to be delivered from his thorn in the flesh.
People who neither keep the commandments, nor do that which pleases God, are not in a place of authority to have their prayers heard. They do not have God’s interest at heart, but their own. When they pray for healing, they have their own interests in mind. When they pray for finance, they have their own interests in mind. When they pray for sanctification, or spiritual gifts, or even for their marriage to be restored or for their children or spouse to be saved, they have their own interests in mind. It is their own happiness that is vital to them, as well as the happiness of those about them. Their interest is to have a better, an easier, a less troublesome life, instead of seeking first the Kingdom of God. Otherwise, they would already do all his commandments and do that which is pleasing in His sight! Not to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness is to most always pray selfishly, unwisely or amiss.
Let us now consider another matter: the distinction between keeping the commandments and doing that which is pleasing in his sight. The former speaks of law, the latter of love.
You may keep all the laws of God, but not do that which is pleasing in his sight. You may not kill, you may not commit adultery, you may keep the Sabbath holy, you may honor your father and mother; YET, you may watch television programs that have violence, adultery, nakedness or foolishness in them. You may watch programs that bring leanness to your soulprograms that are not pleasing in his sight. If you do so, you may take yourself out of 1 John 3:22, and have to settle for a lot of unanswered prayers.
I can hardly say this all without losing some friends and making others mad, but I must do so to give an answer for the many unanswered prayers. We get no credit for doing our duty or for keeping the law. Our credit comes when we go beyond law and our fixed responsibilities, and we allow our love to God and man to unfold itself in pleasing service (Lu. 17:10). We must keep one eye on the commandments, but the other on the heart of God so as not to grieve Him.
The words of Jesus, "Thou hearest Me always" are rooted in His words, "I do always those things that please him." (Jn. 11:42; 8:29). There is no different standard for us to be heard always! We may pray two hours each day, read sixty chapters of the Bible each week, be at every church service and triple tithe, but if we let things come apart at a New Year’s Eve party or on our days off, it is not "always," and we are on the way to unanswered prayers.
"Why," you say, "Pastor Schultze, you spoil all our fun. We all need a time off from our vocational responsibilities." Yes, there is a time to play, or to go on a restful journey, or to engage in an avocation. But we must be sure that whatever we do pleases God. We must never take time off from God. It is in Him that all saints live, move and have their being (Ac. 17:28). If you take time off from that which pleases God, your fun has the seeds of death in it. You cancel hundreds of answers to prayer and therewith invite hundreds of miseries to be multiplied in generations to come. The greatest "fun" is to let the Holy Spirit lead, to please the Father always.
If "The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy" (He. 14:17), why would anyone in his right mind leave that divine joy to enter into some cheap fun by abandoning that which the Holy Spirit can smile upon?
To have the assurance that your prayers are heard, you need law and love. Law without love is hard, abrasive and cutting. Love without law is dirty and oblivious to obedience. The Pharisees and scribes studied the laws. Their concept of right and wrong came from that which was written on tables of stone. But David and the Prophets received their knowledge of good and evil from knowing the heart of God. That knowledge encompassed the law and exceeded its bounds to guide them in every situation of life. This knowledge of the Holy, of the character of Godthis sensitivity to the Holy Spiritdoes not come except through much prayer and praise and following.
Hence, my friend, when it comes to prayer, let us first live in the will of God always. Let us abide in him. The knowledge of His perfect will comes to the abiding heart as it waits before God. Then secondly, once we know His will, we can have boldness toward God. If you want to see more answers to your prayers, obey God consistently, do only that which pleases the Holy Spirit, and you will cease praying outside of God’s will and begin praying within God’s will. That makes the total difference!
What did you learn from reading this Call To Obedience?
What conditions have to exist before prayer can be heard?
Why are there so many unanswered prayers?
Are we a royal priesthood?
What changes do I need to make?