And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. - Matthew 21:22
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. - John 15:7
If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. - John 14:14
At first glance, it seems that the Bible is saying that if I want something, all I need to do is ask God for it, and I'll have it. Let's give that I try. I want a million dollars in my bank account. I want an enormous slice of chocolate cake. I want perfect health, effective immediately. Hmm. Nothing happened, so does that mean that the Bible isn't true? Has God failed to keep His promises?
Unfortunately, that's the first conclusion many jump to. They claim, "Well, I asked God for this, and He didn't give it to me, so I guess He can't be trusted after all." Admittedly, I've found myself wondering about it a few times. But what we must understand is that when we study the Bible, we must study it as a whole. It is vital that we compare Scripture with Scripture. So what does the Bible, as a whole, have to say about why our prayers sometimes seem to go unanswered?
1.) We don't ask. James 4:2 says, "Ye have not, because ye ask not." Yes, God is omniscient. He knows what we need and what we desire. Still, He longs for us to ask. Why else would He have commanded it so many times? I think sometimes we're afraid to ask God for things because we don't want to set ourselves up for disappointment if it doesn't happen. But God longs for us to ask and leave the rest up to Him.
2.) We're not specific. God does answer our prayers, but often we don't realize it because we didn't pray specifically. For example, when I pray for God to help us financially, I may be thinking about a bigger paycheck, an unexpected monetary gift, extraordinary book sales or something along those lines. So, when none of those things occur, I assume God didn't answer my prayer. However, God may have answered that request by making the tires on my vehicle last longer or by having meals provided by others at a gathering. Didn't those things save me money? Sure, it just wasn't what I was expected. If we want something specific, we should pray for something specific.
3.) We don't believe. James 1:5-7 says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." I'm not one of those people who thinks that if you believe in something enough, you can heal the sick, cast out demons, perform miracles, etc. If God wants you to, sure, but I don't believe it works that way. On the other hand, faith plays an important part in our prayers. How many times in the gospels did Jesus commend someone for their faith? Of the many people Jesus healed, He often commented, "Your faith has made you whole." After all, if we don't believe God can give us what we want or need, why are we asking for it in the first place?
4.) We ask for the wrong things. James 4:3 says, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss." Sometimes God doesn't give us what we ask for because He knows it's not a good thing for us to have. Some things are just not in His will. If we want God to give us the things we ask for, we need to learn to ask for the things He wants to give. To do that, we need to heed Psalm 37:4 which says, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." That doesn't mean that He'll give us what we desire but rather that He will teach us what to desire.
God still answers prayer. It may not be in the way or at the time that we expect, but He will fulfill His promises. Remember, He is a loving Father and a faithful Friend. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to live fulfilling lives, and He'll give us everything we need to do that. The rest is up to us.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20