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The Mystery of Unanswered Prayers

Mark Finley
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Why are some Prayers never answered by God? Pastor Mark Finley explores this question and more as he studies the topic of praying from the Bible.


Mark Finley

Assistant to President for Evangelism at the General Conference



  • September 24, 2021
    7:00 PM
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Prayer indeed is a mystery. Have you ever felt that as you were kneeling and you prayed your prayers, hit the ceiling and kinda bounce back at your feet? Have you ever felt that you've been praying into some dark hole in space? And you've wonder, is there anybody out there? Ah, where indeed is a mystery? Have you ever felt that as you were kneeling and you prayed your prayers, hit the ceiling and kind of bounce back at your feet? Have you ever felt that you've been praying into some dark hole in space and you've wondered, is there anybody out there listening? Now one thing is for certain, the bible is clear on the importance of intercessory prayer. The apostle paul was imprisoned in Rome and he wrote to the church at philip high and he shared with this church his concern, his burden for them. And he says in philippians chapter one, I thank my God, verse 3 upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of my making request for you all with joy, paul says, here I am in a dark, damp, dingy dungeon in Rome. But I'm kneeling here, this dungeon. I'm praying for you. And as I pray for you, I believe my prayers are going up to heaven and I'm praying that god will strengthen you. I'm praying that you will constantly have a greater knowledge of his will. That the eyes of your understanding will be open to know his word and to be sensitive to his spirit. Paul believed in intercessory prayer. When you come to the book of collections, for example of cautions. One verse 3. Now again, paul's praying for the church at co washer. We give thanks to God in father of our lord jesus christ, praying always for you since we heard of your faith. Paul says the church and kaleisha were praying for you. Let's go to the book of ephesians here in ephesians the 1st chapter, just as paul prayed for the church at philip i just as he prayed for the church at co washer. So he's praying for the church at emphasis and he says, and ephesians chapter one, verse 15 and onward. Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord jesus and your love of all the saints do not cease to give things for you making mention of you in my prayers. One thing we notice about the apostle paul and his prayers. They are very, very specific. Paul prayed for the church and philip high. At times paul prayed for specific people. He prayed for the church, it kaleisha again at times he prayed for specific people. And here he prays for the church at emphasis. Now when we pray, does god always answer our prayers? What prayers can we pray that we can have absolute assurance that god will answer? And what prayers might be a little bit if he and what prayers won't answer? That's an important question. Important series of questions actually. So let's go to 1st john chapter 5. I think this is one of the most significant chip chapters in all the bible on prayer. And this passage is certainly one of my favorites on prayer. First, john, that's right before the book, revelation chapter 5, verse 14, an odd word. This is the confidence we have in him. Now, where is our confidence? Is our confidence in our prayers. Not at all is our confidence in our faith, not at all. This is the confidence we have where in him. Now notice if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we desired of him. Is there a qualification in this passage? This is the confidence that we have in him. If we ask what anything according what he is, Will he hears us? Now, what are the things in the bible that we know are according to god's will? We know it's according to the will to forgive our sins. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins 1st john, one verse 9. So if we confess he'll forgive. So when I come to jesus, i my knees are lying there in my bed and say lord, I failed you. I lost my temper. Lord, I wasn't really honest in this instance. Lord, some of the things I watched on television were not in harmony with your will. Lord, forgive me. Do I have to say, oh Jesus, if you will forgive me, not at all. Because we know it's his will to forgive our sins all of the spiritual blessings that he offers us are according to his will. So we don't have to ask him if it is his will for the spiritual blessings of heaven. What are they the forgiveness of sin? We can pray and believe our sins are forgiven. Not because we feel forgiven, but because we trust this word, we may still feel guilty at times. We may still feel the condemning voice of our conscience. But that has little to do with it. We believe that we are forgiven that our guilt is gone. Roman said 1st one, there is no condemnation to those that are in christ jesus. What else we know is according to his will his power to enable us to overcome sin? So when we pray for victory over an evil temper when say, oh God, if at your will give me victory, not at all. When we pray for victory over some habit in our life like alcohol tobacco, we know what his will is. His will. We can claim that victory because he's promised to give it to us. The bible says I can do all things philippians for verse 13. I can do all things through christ that strengthens me. I remember one time I was helping a man quit smoking. And as I was talking to about these great promises of god, this is the confidence that we have in him. If we ask anything, according to his will, he hears us. I asked him, is it god's will for you to quit smoking? Well, Yes. Do believe that you can quit? Well, I'm not sure. Wait a minute here. Not sure. What is god's word say? This is the conference we have where in hand, where is the confidence joe? Is? Is it in your strength? No. Is it in your ability to quit? No. Where's your confidence in him will you place your confidence in him? Will you play sure? Your faith in him? Yes, pastor, i will. Okay, get your get your tobacco. He got his tobacco brought it here. We put it on the floor on pack of cigarettes. We offered up this for our dear lord. We know that is your will. We know at your will to deliver joe. We know that you have power ward in the name of christ deliver him. Now as I was praying, i didn't think much above it about it, but I had my hands over cigarettes. I picked them up and put in my pocket as a 1st time to think of my life ever had cigarettes in my pocket. And as I was left his house with those cigarettes in my pocket, what I didn't know, and his mother told me later, he called his mother. He said, mom, you'll never guess what's, what happened? You'll never guess what's happened. She said, what is it? pastor finley prayed a prayer for the power of god to come out of my life and take away my desire for tobacco and to give me victory over tobacco and pastor. When I, when I opened my eyes, mamma, my cigarettes were gone. The, the angels must have taken them. Well, they were actually in my pocket, i didn't think much about it. He thought the angels took his cigarettes. I never had quite the heart to tell him what actually happened that day. But god did give him the victory and we saw that man go into the water and baptized him and the father, the son, and the holy spirit. You say, what did you ever do with those to those cigarettes? Well, I got rid of them. Of course, if we pray, according to god's will, we can ask god for any of the spiritual blessings that are available to us in christ. In christ, all the spiritual blessings of heaven are available. That includes forgiveness of sin. That includes freedom from guilt. That includes peace of mind, that includes freedom from worry and anxiety, that includes strength in our life that includes power in our life. That includes god's guidance in our life some 32 verse 8 says that I will guide you with mine. I god promises to guide us as a 58 verse 11 says i'll guide you continually. So I don't have to get on my knees as a christian. Oh God, pitcher will guide me. No, he promises. Now what are some of the things that we do not necessarily have as assurance when we pray, let's suppose that it's a beautiful, balmy summer day and you want to go on a picnic, but clouds come over and you begin to pray. Dear lord, dear lord, I want to go on that picnic and ward because I want to go on that picnic award. I know it's not going to rain, but across the street from your house there is a farmer, and it hasn't rain for 3 weeks and he's pray, whole lord, I need rain from my crops please. So the rain you see in those instances, i don't know whether it's best for me to go on that picnic or not. So I pray ward, if it is your will hold back the weather. There was a time that I was a young man in Hartford, connecticut. I was a young pastor, my wife was teaching at a christian school and there was a dear elderly pastor there that was holding a revival week. His name was w. D phrase. He and I learned the power of prayer. Then as we were going to have our meeting that night, many people were coming and we knew that they needed to hear the message, the pastor, for as he was going to preach. But as we looked at the news, dark clouds were gathering. It was supposed to snow very heavily and we knew that that would inhibit the meetings and very few people would come and I shall never forget it. Pastor present, got on his knees and prayed. A simple prayer, dear lord, you know that these people need to hear this message tonight. And I am praying according to your will. You are wiser than we are god. But I'm praying that you would not let it snow over this city and our venue that day. Something very surprising happened. Even the weather men were surprised. It snowed all around the city, snowed in the suburbs, but it did not snow over our meeting. But we prayed in god's will. Now there, are there any things that for example, we might pray at times thinking their god's will, but they're actually not. A good example of that is the apostle paul. Since the apostle paul was blinded and had problems with his eyesight after the damascus road experience, where he saw that bright light, he evidently had some problems there. With his eyesight, he prayed that god would remove that burden from him of dimmed vision. We read about the story here in the book of corinthians, 2nd corinthians and we're looking there at 2nd corinthians chapter 12. There is something more important in life than our healing. When we are afflicted with disease, it could be cancer, heart disease, diabetes, any other significant disease. God invites us to come to pray, the pray for healing to pray for strength. But there are times that god does not always heal because there is something more important to God than our healing. And that is our salvation. And there are times that god allows us to go through very difficult trials in our life, to draws closer to him. In 2nd corinthians chapter 12 we read poor has his thorn in his flesh and that's probably his eyesight is physical problem. Second corinthians 12 verse 7. And last, I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations or thorn in the flesh was given to me a messenger of satan to buffer me. Lest i be exalted above measure. Now who gave paul this thorn in the flesh that we think was the eyesight problem? Who gave paul that he said some messenger satan, if it's a messenger said, wouldn't god necessarily remove it? Now this passage is really helpful because it tells us that god is not the author of sickness suffering, heartache, or death. That's always the message of saying sickness is not something that god afflicts us with. But let's look here at 2nd corinthians 12 verse 8. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord. Now paul says, I'm pleading with the Lord. He's not just casually praying, but he's pleading with what he's earnestly praying. And he doesn't only do it once 3 times that it might depart from me. And he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, most gladly will I rather boast in my infirmities that the power of christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, reproaches needs persecutions, distresses for christ's sake. For when I'm weak that I'm strong. So paul prays 3 times that would be healed. 3 times that the affliction of the disease would be removed. But god says, my grace is sufficient for the my strength is made perfect in weakness. So there are times that god is going to miraculously he'll. I have seen that happen on a number of occasions when i've anointed people. I remember on one occasion i was at a large youth meeting, and one of the youth leaders was afflicted with paralysis. He was taken to the hospital, he, they believed he had had a stroke, paralyzed in one side, could not talk. We anointed him before the anointing. I gathered with the doctors and they said, this is a very difficult case, but we anointed that young man and God worked a miracle of healing. On other instances, i've anointed and people have not been miraculously healed. But here's what we know. If you pray for healing and you're not healed, like the apostle paul was not healed, god will give you the strength to handle the affliction that you have. And his grace and glory will be manifest in your life. So there are times that it takes more faith to trust god in sickness than it does to be healed by god in that of friction. As we trust him in that sickness, we reveal to the doctors and nurses and other others around us, his strength, his power, his glory. When we release our bodies to God, remember, the apostle paul said room is 121 I B C. 2, therefore brethren to present your bodies, a living sacrifice. So when we release our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, we say god, you can do whatever you want with this body. It's yours. You created me, you redeemed it on calvary, it is yours, lord, I love to be healed miraculously. But if you choose not to heal, i want to reveal your grace, your strength and your power. So sometimes god does not answer our prayers the way we want. Why? Because he wants to reveal himself in ways known only to him. He wants to fill our hearts with grace, with strength, with power he wants his glory to be revealed through us. Now there are other reasons why god may not answer prayer. The way we think he ought to because there may be something in our life that is a roadblock. Something in our life that inhibits that answer. We find that principle in psalms 66 in verse 18. The scripture says, if I regard, no, no sward regard, that's cherish. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear, but certainly god has heard me. So david says, if I regard, if I do what regard cherish if there's cherish seen in my life and I pray for a miracle in my life, god will not hear why not? Because if he did, he would be endorsing the sin in my life. So there is something more important than the immediate answer to the prayer that I'm praying. It is the prayer to ask god to help me to overcome the scene in my life that I'm dealing with. So if I regard sin, so if you are praying and you're finding you're not get many answers to your prayers, get on your knees and say god, is there something in my life that is inhibiting those answers? Is there something in my life that's holding back? Those answers is there is something in my life that's keeping me from getting the answers. At times, god uses prayer as a lever to pricing out of our lives. So as we're praying and we find ourselves not getting many answers, we begin asking herself the question, is there something deep in my life that I don't understand? Is there some habit that is not in harmony with god's will that I'm not confronted yet that I'm cherishing? Is there's some attitude in my life that I'm cherishing. So sometimes we don't get answers to our prayers because of some sin in my, our lives. And God leads us to know that since we can deal with it, and we could ask him for power and we don't ask, have to ask if it's god's will we, we ask him to forgive us. We ask for power to overcome that thing. Now there's some other route, there's another reason why we may not get immediate answers to our prayers, and that is found in james the book of james james chapter 3. And here's another reason why we may not always get a media answers to our prayers. We find it here and the bible is very clear. It helps us to work through these issues. James. And we're going to look actually a chapter 4, not 3, but for james chapter 4, where the wars and fights come from among you don't think, come from your desires, your pleasure for pleasure, that ward your members, you lost and do not have you murmur and covet and cannot obtain you fight and war yet you do not have because you do not as you ask and do not receive why? Because you ask miss that you may spend it on your pleasures. So here's what james is saying. He's saying if you ask for selfish reasons, if I'm on my knees saying a horse, i really need a car. But I'd love a mercedes, please send one ward or lord. I would really like a new, a new suit. But is that what's my motive in that is, is my liking the new suit to dress pleasantly for christ to reflect his glory. Because I want to be neat and attractive or is it to satisfy a selfish need? So if we desire, it's like ok hoard. I'm praying, my favorite sports team will win well in the light of the convers between good and evil, in the light of the struggle and the battle between christ and satan. In the light of earthquakes, and famines, and fires, and floods. And Children that is starving in the light of everything that we could ask god, we asking him that our favorite sports team will win. What about the people pray, playing, praying for the other sports team. So if we asked simply to accomplish it and put it on our own was if it's, if it's that kind of asking simply her own pleasure, we may not get answers. Now there are times though that we pray and there is no apparent answer, but god is working out the answer and other words were praying and there may be no apparent answer to our prayers were praying and there may be nothing that we can really see going on but there's a controversy behind the scenes between christ and satan. Do we have an example of that in the bible? We do. Daniel. Daniel knew that the time of jeremiah's captivity, the prophecy jeremiah's captivity was up for the nation of israel. He was praying that his people would be set free from the bondage 1st of babylon, and then me to persia. And as daniel prayed 1st day, No apparent answer to the prayer 2nd day, No answer. 3rd day prayed for a week no apparent answer. 2 weeks, no answer. 3 weeks, no answer. You say, wait, wait a minute. That's like me. That thinks of my prayers. I've been praying and there's not much an answer. But look what happens in daniel chapter 10. Daniel chapter 10, we're looking there and daniels praying. And daniel 10 verse 12. The angel comes down. He said, do not fear daniel from the 1st day that you set your heart to understand and to humble yourself before god your words were heard. And I've come because of your words. Now this is an amazing passage. Daniels prayed for 3 weeks and then eventually this being of dazzling brightness comes down. And daniel faints, who was actually the Lord himself. And then another being taps daniel on the shoulder. It's the angel and he wakes daniel, happening from from the 1st day you prayed. I came in answer to your prayers, but there is a problem. And he explains to daniel, that there is a battle over the mind of cyrus. Satan tried to influence the king not to sign the decree, and as this battle took place back and forth between satan's forces in the forces of heaven. These 2 angelic forces fought and the angelic forces were wanting to beat back the evil forces. The heavenly angels were going to beat back the evil angels. So that cyrus, his mind would be clear and not influenced by evils who had signed the decree that and as daniel prayed and prayed and prayed, those angels kept fighting and battling and find that jesus himself came down and chased away the evil angels. So there are times that we pray you may pray for a son or a daughter. Pause when our wife that doesn't know christ. And as you're praying, there's a great battle between good and evil over their minds. Now something will happen when we pray that wouldn't happen if we didn't pray. Great controversy, a wonderful book says in page 525. God will do an answer to the prayer of faith that which he wouldn't do if we did not thus pray. So god is doing everything he can to reach your son, your daughter, your husband, your wife, your neighbor, your working associated your friend who doesn't know christ. But when we pray, god does more than he would have done otherwise. Why? Because god is limited by their free will and their choice. But when we pray, god looks at satan and he says, mark finley's praying. John is praying. Same as praying, georgia, praying. And when, when we pray, it opens up new avenues of new vistas for god to do something miraculous in the life of the one that we're praying for. So when you pray and you don't get immediate answers, recognize there's a battle between good and evil. There's christ, there's a battle between christ and satan. Sometimes when we go through trials and difficulties and challenges, like we mentioned in health, maybe there won't be an immediate answer, but may be our continued prayer does 2 things. One, it provides us grace and strength to face what we have to face. And secondly, it teaches us persistence in prayer, perseverance in prayer. So when your purse are not immediately answered, begin to examine your heart to see if there's any sin in there that keeps them from being answered. Analyze your motives, why do I want this thing to happen? Is it for the glory of god? Or is it for my own pleasure claim the promises of god, believing indeed, that he will answer recognise for the all the spiritual blessings of heaven we need not ask is Will we simply claim those promises by faith? And remember to how the Lord puts it in psalm 50 verse 15. Jesus loves to have us come to him. He loves to have us neil, it is thrown. He loves have us believe some 50 and verse 15. The scripture says, call upon me in the day of trouble, i will deliver you and you shall glorify me. The purpose of answered prayer is to bring glory to God. He says, call me in the day of trouble. And I'll answer you in. You shall glorify me. I love the way. Jesus puts it in luke chapter 11. He says, if you being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your heavenly father give the holy spirit to those that ask. I love that phrase how much more jesus wants to do much more for you than you can imagine. Jesus long to answer our prayers. He says ass, it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock, and it shall be open unto you. Come to jesus with all your wants, all your needs, all your anxieties. Come with your difficulties and your problems. Come with your sin and your guilt. Come and your weakness and your frailty, but come, come to the one that created heavens and the earth come to the almighty or powerful god. Come to the christ that hung on calvary cross with outstretched hands. Dying for you. Come to the one that redeemed you. Come to the high priest in heaven who is there living for you? whose ear is bent low to hear your every prayer and to meet your every need. Come to the one who's coming again for you. Come with open heart and open mind. Come filled with faith, knowing that he will answer every sincere, honest prayer. Come knowing that the richest blessings of heaven are yours. Let's pray father in heaven. We thank you that the richest blessings of heaven are ours. We thank you. We can come and ask you for forgiveness and power and strength and peace. Thank you that we can come entrust you knowing that sometimes are apparently unanswered prayers are being answered as you battle in this controversy between good and evil and you chase back the forces of l coming. Let us know that even if our personality answered the way we think they ought to be, that you're working to give a strength to handle the situation that we've been praying for. Thank you. That you're a loving god. Thank you that you're a willing god. Thank you, that you invite us to come to receive your strength and power. And thank you that you are a god who does answer our prayers in jesus name. 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