List: Popular Reasons for Unanswered Prayer

Prayer is one of the most confusing topics for Christians and non-Christians. At the heart of the confusion is unanswered prayer. Billy Graham is quoted as saying (with his fingers crossed no doubt):

“The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.”

So unless you are Billy Graham you have heard or believed one of the following reasons for unanswered prayer.

This list accompanies the lesson taught on Prayer Confusion.

  1. You have secret sin – Lam 3:44; Psalm 66:18, 90:8; 1Peter 3:12
  2. You are not tithing – Malachi 3:10
  3. You are not fasting – Mark 9:29
  4. You are not asking in faith, believing – James 1:6; Mark 11:24
  5. You are not reading the Bible regularly – Romans 10:17
  6. You are not in fellowship with God – John 15:7
  7. You pray after your own lust – James 4:3
  8. You do not pray with spiritual authority in Jesus’ name – John 14:13-14
  9. You are not praying loud enough: don’t whisper, speak audibly – Matthew 16:19
  10. You are too greedy: be more thankful – Philippians 4:6
  11. You don’t ask – James 4:2
  12. Your prayers are not big enough, don’t be petty – Mark 11:23
  13. Your prayers are too vague, be specific – Matthew 7:9-10, 21:22
  14. You presume God will answer your prayer your way – Isaiah 55:8
  15. You are not praying in accordance with God’s will – 1John 5:14
  16. You are impatient: it will be answered in God’s time – Matthew 6:7-8
  17. You are not persistent, pray until it is answered – 1Thessalonians 5:17
  18. Your prayer is already answered, you just don’t know it yet – Daniel 10:12-13
  19. Your prayers are too long – Matthew 23:14
  20. You don’t spend enough time in prayer – Luke 6:12
  21. You doubt and harbor unbelief – Mark 9:23; 1 Timothy 2:8
  22. You are not helping God answer the prayer – 2Thessalonians 3:10
  23. You are not praying the right way (prayer formula) – Luke 11:1
  24. You are holding a grudge with someone else: forgive – Matthew 5:23-24
  25. You do not have the proper environment to focus – Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35
  26. You’ve rejected God’s counsel -1John 3:22
  27. You are not praying in the Spirit – 1Corinthians 14:15; Jude 1:20
  28. You need to pray in agreement with another – Matthew 18:19-20
  29. Your prayers are too public; pray in secret – Matthew 6:6
  30. God did answer; his answer was ‘No’. – 2Corinthians 12:9
Notice most of the reasons start with ‘You’. When the prayer promises were given to Israel it was with covenantal strings attached. If they behaved, then God would bless them (and answer their prayer).

Today Christians are not under the Old or the New Covenant and so prayers are not restricted because we broke a covenant or behaved badly. Neither is God obligated to answer our requests because of good behavior. Most of the listed reasons are not true for prayer under grace.

Prayer can be confusing if you do not rightly divide covenant prayer from prayer under grace. God promises us spiritual not physical blessings in this dispensation:

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. ” – Phil 4:19

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: ” – 2 Cor 9:8

Prayer is not a way to manipulate God for our own ends. It is a way to speak to him. We pray not because he answers every request but because he can do abundantly above all that we request (Eph 3:20).

Pray without ceasing. Alway rejoice in the Lord!

See our Prayer section for more resources on prayer.