Torrey - Man -14.8- Why many prayers are not answered.

VIII. WHY MANY PRAYERS ARE NOT ANSWERED. James 4:3 RV — "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures."

First Proposition: Prayer is often unanswered because it is offered from a selfish purpose.

The chief purpose in prayer should be that God may be glorified in the answer. If we ask merely that we may receive for use in our pleasures, or for our own gratification in one way or another, we "ask amiss" and need not expect to receive what we ask. Isaiah 59:1-2 — "Behold the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."

Second Proposition: Prayer is unanswered because sin separates between the one who prays and the God to whom he prays. (Compare to Deuteronomy 1:43-45.) If we ask God for anything and do not get it, we should not conclude necessarily that it is not God's will to give the thing we have asked. We should rather ask if there is any sin in our outward or inward lives that is separating us from God and closing His ear to our cry. So long as we hold on to sin or have any controversy with God, we cannot expect Him to heed our prayers. Ezekiel 14:3 RV — "Saying, Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?"

Third Proposition: Prayer is unanswered when the one who prays takes idols into his heart.

Many professedly Christian men and women have idols in their hearts as truly as the ancient Israelites. They do not recognize these things as idols, but they are. Anything upon which we have set our heart and would not give up for Christ's sake is an idol and hinders prayer. God often calls our attention to the fact that we have an idol by not answering our prayer, thus leading us to ask why our prayer is not answered. In this manner we discover the idol, put it away, and God hears our prayer. Mark 11:25-26 — -"And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."

Fourth Proposition: Prayer is unanswered because we do not forgive those who we have something against.

This is one of the most common hindrances to prayer, far more common than we think. Prayer is answered on the basis that our sins are forgiven, but God cannot deal with us on the basis of forgiveness while we are harboring ill-will against those who have wronged us. Anyone who is harboring a grudge against another has fast closed the ear of God against his own cry. James 1:5-7 RV — "But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord."

Fifth Proposition: Prayer is unanswered because of our unbelief, because we question whether we shall receive what God has promised.

God demands that we shall believe His word absolutely. To question it is to make Him a liar. Many do this when they plead his promises, and it is no wonder that their prayers are not answered. 1 Peter 3:6-7 — "Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement, likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Sixth Proposition: The prayers of husbands are hindered because they do not render to their wives that considerate regard which is their due.

It is doubtless also true that the prayers of wives are hindered because of their failure in duty toward their husbands. If husbands and wives should seek diligently for the cause of their unanswered prayers, they would often find it in their relations and actions toward one another as husband and wife.