In grappling with this fair question, we first need to remember that prayer is a privilege. Because of our sin God has every right not to listen to a single word we speak to him. However, because his Son, Jesus Christ, died for us and rose again, God forgives our sins. He has made us his children by faith in Jesus, and has given us the privilege of speaking to him in prayer. Through Jesus we may come to God the Father “with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12).
Our Father in heaven promises to hear and answer our prayers. Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). God’s ears are always attentive to our prayers. He is listening, and answering.
So why does it seem like God does not answer (at least sometimes). Since he promises to answer all our prayers—and he keeps all his promises—the problem might be with us. We need to evaluate ourselves.
Are we praying in faith? We might be approaching God on the basis of our goodness or the deeds we think will lead him to listen. Prayers not offered by faith in Jesus Christ are not answered.
Are we praying with improper motives? If we pray so that we might get something to merely spend on our selfish pleasures, the Lord will not answer. The Bible teaches, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3).
Are we praying according to his will? If our requests are contrary to his will expressed in the Bible, then we will not receive an answer. So with every prayer, we have in mind the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done.”
If we are following what God tells us in the Bible, yet our prayers seem like they are not being answered, then what should we think? We humble ourselves before God with the confidence that he still is listening and will answer. When he does not seem to answer, he still is—probably in ways that we do not yet realize. He is our loving Father, who will bless us in the ways he knows are best. We have that guarantee because he already gave his Son to claim us as his very own. How greatly our heavenly Father loves us to call us his children and give us the privilege to speak to him in prayer!