Charlie's Blog: Why Does God Not Answer My Prayers?


Why Does God Not Answer My Prayers?

And in all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.

If you spend any time in prayer, the first thing you will learn is that God does not answer your prayers. You pray for someone to be healed of cancer. They die. You pray that someone else overcomes financial difficulties, but the bank forecloses on their home. You pray that a married couple deliver a healthy baby, but the baby is born with spina bifida. You pray that a relative converts before he dies. He dies unconverted in his sins. You pray for a job and remain unemployed. The simple fact is that you can believe in God. You can pray. Yet, you do not receive the answer to your prayer. The result is discouragement and a test of faith. Why pray to a God who doesn't keep His promises? Why pray to a God who seems indifferent to our needs? Why does God not answer my prayers?

If you seek for satisfying answers to these questions, you will find none. There is a satisfying answer to this problem, but precious few find it. This is because the answer is hidden. It is obscured by false answers, bad theology, and teachers who are not honest. These answers come from people misinformed in their faith or lacking in faith. Yet, when you find the satisfying answer, you will see that it was there all along. You simply lacked the understanding. I pray that you will find this understanding just as I found it.

The Atheist Answer

The atheist response to our question is straightforward. God does not answer your prayers because He does not exist. When you pray, you pray to emptiness. God doesn't care because He just isn't there. If you do get an answer, it is merely a lucky coincidence like praying for rain, and it just happens to rain. But for the real things we pray for like healing from Stage 4 cancer, those answers never come. This is because a non-existent God can't cure cancer.

The deist response to our question is similar to the atheist response except it is colder. God does exist, but He doesn't care. He created the world like a watch, wound it up, and walked away from it. If the watch breaks, it is up to you to fix it. Otherwise, your prayers are a waste of time. You are either praying to a God who doesn't exist or doesn't care. The final result amounts to the same thing.

The refutation to these lies is very easy to find. You merely have to look at your own prayer life to see the many times God did act in your life and do things both ordinary and spectacular. God answers many prayers to a level that you can't dismiss His existence. I can attest that God has done many things in my life and the lives of others. As a former atheist, I am now at a point in my life that I am no longer able to return to that atheism. God has done too many things in my life and shown me so much that I can't be an atheist anymore. It would be like closing my eyes and denying the existence of the sun.

The unbeliever's response to this is that you are deluding yourself. Your life is simply a series of random events for which God gets all of the credit for the good things and none of the blame for the bad things. If you look at the life of an atheist, you will see a similar pattern except the atheist's life is often sweeter and more blessed despite not believing in God. If God really did exist, then the Christian should be living the good life while the atheist suffers.

My response is that the sun still exists even while it is night. You may not see the sun in the darkness, but you can see the reflection of the sun's light from the moon. The Christian points to the light. The atheist points to the darkness. The light exists, but so does the darkness. The Christian says the dawn is coming. The atheist says no dawn is coming. When the moon is dark and does not shine, that is when we think the atheist may be right. But once you've seen the moon, you know it is there as well as the sun even if they are not always visible. Prayer is the same way. You will receive enough answers to prayers to know that you are not wasting your time. God exists, and He cares.

The Prospetarian Answer

The atheist may give the wrong answer to our problem, but at least he is honest in that wrong answer. The atheist believes he is delivering us from a destructive fairy tale. But there are those who would like to have us believe in fairy tales. These would be those lying false teachers that populate the airwaves and Protestant megachurches with the Gospel of Prosperity. I call them the Prospetarians, and they are worse than the atheists in their lies.

The Prospetarian answer to our problem is simple. God does answer prayer. But this is the prayer of faith. God will answer your prayer if you believe. That's what Matthew 21:22 is telling us. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. If you don't receive your request, you did not believe sufficiently. The fault is not with God. The fault is with you and your lack of faith. This means that your daughter that suffered from leukemia died because your prayers and your faith were half-ass. With all of the same comfort that Job's friends gave him, these Prospetarians deliver the bad news that it is all your fault. You are lacking in faith. The way to amend this lack of faith is to make a very large financial donation to their television ministry.

The refutation of the Prospetarian answer is very simple. No one had more faith than Jesus Christ. Christ is the Son of God. He performed miracles. He rose from the dead. Yet, here is His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:
Then Jesus came with them into a country place which is called Gethsemani; and he said to his disciples: Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray.
And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad.
Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me.
And going a little further, he fell upon his face, praying, and saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 
Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering would pass from Him. Here we have the Son of God making a request to His Father. He asks for something. And He doesn't get it. Did Jesus lack faith? Should He have made a sizable financial contribution to the temple?

The Prospetarian will claim that this particular instance was an exception to the rule. Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross to atone for our sins, and it was the only way. Otherwise, God answers those prayers of faith. But St. Paul the Apostle writes this for our benefit:
And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me.
For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me.
And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 
Certainly, St. Paul was a man of profound faith. This was a guy who had seen the risen Lord and had many visions and done stupendous works. Yet, he was given a thorn in the flesh which he prayed would be removed. That request was denied. Did he lack faith? I find that hard to believe.

From these two examples, we can safely draw this conclusion. You will pray for things in faith, and God will not give them to you. In fact, I will go even further and tell you that most of the things you ask for from God will not be granted to you in this life. Like Jesus and St. Paul, you are going to have to do without. And when God does answer these prayers, He often does so in a niggardly fashion while both the atheist and the prospetarian drive by shaking their heads and laughing at how bad you have it in life.

The temptation at this point is to hang it up. Why believe in a God who doesn't answer your prayers and fails to deliver on His promises? Why not come to the conclusion that neither the atheist nor the prospetarian will never offer? Why not say what no one dares to say? I will say it. God is a liar and a trickster and a con artist. He tells you one thing and does another. He puts enough bait in the trap to get you to believe in Him and then He knocks the crap out of you for the rest of your life because of that belief. In short, God portrays Himself as good, but He is actually evil. You should follow the Devil instead.

Do I actually believe this? Of course not. This is nauseating stuff. It is blasphemy. It's like when Job is told to curse God and die. But I must write it because people think it. These troubling thoughts are in their head even if they never put them into words and speak them or write them. These thoughts are darker than those of the atheist who merely denies the existence of God. These thoughts believe that God exists, and He is evil. But these thoughts come from Hell and belong to the Devil. They spring from misunderstanding and confusion. I will now clear this confusion from your mind and give you the satisfying answer you seek.

The Persistent Widow

Jesus gives us many instructions on prayer. He even gives us a prayer in the Our Father. The part about our daily bread can really stick in your throat as you contemplate the many Christians who prayed that prayer and still starved to death such as in the Irish Potato Famine. What do we do when our prayers go unanswered? Jesus gives the answer in the Parable of the Persistent Widow:
And he spoke also a parable to them, that we ought always to pray, and not to faint,
Saying: There was a judge in a certain city, who feared not God, nor regarded man.
And there was a certain widow in that city, and she came to him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary.
 And he would not for a long time. But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God, nor regard man,
Yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her, lest continually coming she weary me.
 And the Lord said: Hear what the unjust judge saith.
 And will not God revenge his elect who cry to him day and night: and will he have patience in their regard?
I say to you, that he will quickly revenge them. But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?
This is a curious story to tell in regards to prayer. Basically, the unjust judge renders justice to the widow to get her off his back. Jesus tells a similar story in Luke 11 about the friend at night reluctant to help a neighbor but does it to also get him off his back. What is the point of these stories?

The gist of these stories is that the widow and the neighbor have more faith in their worldly and indifferent helpers than we have in the Lord who is not indifferent. The widow had no reason to believe that the judge wanted to do what was just, but she knew she could get justice if she never let up on him. Jesus tell us we should be the same way with God. But is God like the unjust judge who does the right thing to get us off his back? The obvious answer is no. A finite creature's demands are no match for an infinite God.

God answers all of our prayers. No prayer goes unanswered. The issue comes down to timing which Jesus alludes to at the end of the parable. When Jesus returns in the Second Coming, will He find faith on the earth? That question is the answer to our question. All prayers are answered in the final answer at the end of time when Jesus has His final triumph.

When a couple prays for their dying infant, they do not pray for eternal life for that infant. They pray that he will mature to adulthood and die at some later time. When that prayer is not answered, they are devastated. It hurts to lose a child, but all children will be lost at some time. Even Lazarus when he was raised from his tomb was only postponed the inevitability of returning to the very tomb that he escaped.

Because death is inevitable, we will all reach a point where our prayers to God for our loved ones or for ourselves will go unanswered. Then, they will be answered finally and forever in the resurrection. And this is why Jesus urges us to continue and persist in our faith until the very end. Our prayers will be answered. Our problem is that we would like them to be answered on this side of the grave while ignoring the other side of the grave. This is because our priorities and sensibilities are all messed up.

God's Economy

God's values and our values are not aligned. God wants to save us from Hell, turn us into saints, and give us eternal bless in Heaven. We want nice houses, new cars, and fancy clothes. St. James alludes to this in his epistle:
From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not hence, from your concupiscences, which war in your members?
You covet, and have not: you kill, and envy, and can not obtain. You contend and war, and you have not, because you ask not.
You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences.
Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God. 
St. James nails it when he writes, "You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss." What does this mean? It should be obvious. People ask for the wrong things in prayer, and God in His mercy and wisdom does not answer these prayers. The entire epistle of James makes this point. Here is what James writes in the first chapter of the epistle:
My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into divers temptations;
Knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.
But if any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men abundantly, 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, which is moved and carried about by the wind.
Therefore let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways.
But let the brother of low condition glory in his exaltation:
And the rich, in his being low; because as the flower of the grass shall he pass away. 
For the sun rose with a burning heat, and parched the grass, and the flower thereof fell off, and the beauty of the shape thereof perished: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive a crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him.
What is James saying here? It's very simple. Your life is in the toilet because God wanted it there. God does not answer your prayers because He wants you to suffer. Not only does God want you to suffer, He wants you to be grateful for this suffering. In fact, you should prefer it to the easy life of the fortunate and prosperous who are destined for Hell. Yet, we are commanded to ask for things. God gives abundantly. But we should revel in our poverty and adversity. How do we make sense of this nonsense?!

God does give abundantly. This abundance is wisdom. But do we ever ask for this? Are we like King Solomon who could have anything he desired but asked instead for the wisdom to rule his people? The sad answer is no. For God, the good things are wisdom, fortitude, temperance, justice, faith, hope, and charity. For us, the good things are Rolex, Armani, Louis Vuitton, BMW, and a vacation home in the Hamptons. As I said, God's values and our values are not aligned, and the fault is with us.

If you ask God for a spiritual good, He will almost always grant that immediately and gratuitously. If He delays in this, it is to perfect us like when He denied spiritual consolation from Saint Teresa of Calcutta. Sometimes, God allows dark nights of the soul to those who are advanced in their holiness and sanctity. These trials always produce good fruit in the life of the saint.

We want material goods from God. We don't want spiritual goods from God. What good father gives stones to his children when they ask for bread? Yet, what does a good father do when his children ask for stones instead of bread? This is what happens when we ask amiss in our prayers. We want material goodies to feed our concupiscence.

If you are poor in material goods and rich in spiritual goods, you are blessed by God. If you are rich in material goods but are poor in spiritual goods, you are on the sure path to damnation. Prosperity is bad. Adversity is good. If you can wrap your brain around this wisdom, you will flee the doublemindedness that James condemns in his epistle.

The Adversity Gospel

Bishop Richard Challoner revised the Douay-Rheims translation of the English Bible to make it more readable to a modern audience. It was the 1730s after all. In Deuteronomy 28, Challoner included these notes:
[2] "All these blessings": In the Old Testament, God promised temporal blessings to the keepers of his law, heaven not being opened as yet; and that gross and sensual people being more moved with present and sensible things. But in the New Testament the goods that are promised us are spiritual and eternal; and temporal evils are turned into blessings.
[15] "All these curses": Thus God dealt with the transgressors of his law in the Old Testament: but now he often suffers sinners to prosper in this world, rewarding them for some little good they have done, and reserving their punishment for the other world.
These notes contain the kernel of the Adversity Gospel which is in direct opposition to the Prosperity Gospel of the Prospetarians. In the Old Testament, God poured out material blessings on His people, Israel. He rescued them miraculously from their bondage in Egypt. He parted the Red Sea for them and fought their battles for them. And how did they repay God for all His goodness? They fashioned a golden calf and worshiped it in a sex orgy. This is the sort of thing that happens when you ask for material goods but not spiritual goods like wisdom. You become a complete idiot.

The affair with the golden calf would be repeated many times throughout the Old Testament. All Israel had to do was remain faithful to the Almighty who had been so good to them. They just couldn't do it. So, God punished them with calamities and trials. It was in those calamities and trials that faith would return to the Israelites and the Jews. Those Old Testament people were better off under a perpetual state of suffering and travail than under prosperity because it was in the prosperous and happy times that the nation would go whoring after idols.

The Prospetarians would like to go back to the deal God had going in the Old Testament. They like the idea of being faithful to God in order to get things. They don't see the golden calves they are lusting after in their desire for material things. But God does not operate by this Old Testament economy anymore. By the time you get to the Book of Maccabees, you see the economy of the New Testament taking over. Suffering was no longer going to be the exception. It was going to be the rule. Here is 2 Maccabees 7 in its entirety:
The glorious martyrdom of the seven brethren and their mother.
[1] It came to pass also, that seven brethren, together with their mother, were apprehended, and compelled by the king to eat swine's flesh against the law, for which end they were tormented with whips and scourges. [2] But one of them, who was the eldest, said thus: What wouldst thou ask, or learn of us? we are ready to die rather than to transgress the laws of God, received from our fathers. [3] Then the king being angry commanded fryingpans, and brazen caldrons to be made hot: which forthwith being heated, [4] He commanded to cut out the tongue of him that had spoken first: and the skin of his head being drawn off, to chop off also the extremities of his hands and feet, the rest of his brethren, and his mother, looking on. [5] And when he was now maimed in all parts, he commanded him, being yet alive, to be brought to the fire, and to be fried in the fryingpan: and while he was suffering therein long torments, the rest, together with the mother, exhorted one another to die manfully,
[6] Saying: The Lord God will look upon the truth, and will take pleasure in us, as Moses declared in the profession of the canticle: And In his servants he will take pleasure. [7] So when the first was dead after this manner, they brought the next to make him a, mocking stock: and when they had pulled off the skin of his head with the hair, they asked him if he would eat, before he were punished throughout the whole body in every limb. [8] But he answered in his own language, and said: I will not do it. Wherefore he also in the next place, received the torments of the first: [9] And when he was at the last gasp, he said thus: Thou indeed, O most wicked man, destroyest us out of this present life: but the King of the world will raise us up, who die for his laws, in the resurrection of eternal life. [10] After him the third was made a mocking stock, and when he was required, he quickly put forth his tongue, and courageously stretched out his hands:
[11] And said with confidence: These I have from heaven, but for the laws of God I now despise them: because I hope to receive them again from him. [12] So that the king, and they that were with him, wondered at the young man's courage, because he esteemed the torments as nothing. [13] And after he was thus dead, they tormented the fourth in the like manner. [14] And when he was now ready to die, he spoke thus: It is better, being put to death by men, to look for hope from God, to be raised up again by him: for, as to thee thou shalt have no resurrection unto life. [15] And when they had brought the fifth, they tormented him. But he looking upon the king,
[16] Said: Whereas thou hast power among men, though thou art corruptible, thou dost what thou wilt: but think not that our nation is forsaken by God. [17] But stay patiently a while, and thou shalt see his great power, in what manner he will torment thee and thy seed. [18] After him they brought the sixth, and he being ready to die, spoke thus: Be not deceived without cause: for we suffer these things for ourselves, having sinned against our God, and things worthy of admiration are done to us: [19] But do not think that thou shalt escape unpunished, for that thou attempted to fight against God. [20] Now the mother was to be admired above measure, and worthy to be remembered by good men, who beheld seven sons slain in the space of one day, and bore it with a good courage, for the hope that she had in God:
[21] And she bravely exhorted every one of them in her own language, being filled with wisdom: and joining a man's heart to a woman's thought, [22] She said to them: I know not how you were formed in my womb: for I neither gave you breath, nor soul, nor life, neither did I frame the limbs of every one of you. [23] But the Creator of the world, that formed the nativity of man, and that found out the origin of all, he will restore to you again in his mercy, both breath and life, as now you despise yourselves for the sake of his laws. [24] Now Antiochus, thinking himself despised, and withal despising the voice of the upbraider, when the youngest was yet alive, did not only exhort him by words, but also assured him with an oath, that he would make him a rich and a happy man, and, if he would turn from the laws of his fathers, would take him for a friend, and furnish him with things necessary. [25] But when the young man was not moved with these things, the king called the mother, and counselled her to deal with the young man to save his life.
[26] And when he had exhorted her with many words, she promised that she would counsel her son. [27] So bending herself towards him, mocking the cruel tyrant, she said in her own language: My son, have pity upon me, that bore thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age. [28] I beseech thee, my son, look upon heaven and earth, and all that is in them: and consider that God made them out of nothing, and mankind also: [29] So thou shalt not fear this tormentor, but being made a worthy partner with thy brethren, receive death, that in that mercy I may receive thee again with thy brethren. [30] While she was yet speaking these words, the young man said: For whom do you stay? I will not obey the commandment of the king, but the commandment of the law, which was given us by Moses.
[31] But thou that hast been the author of all mischief against the Hebrews, shalt not escape the hand of God. [32] For we suffer thus for our sins. [33] And though the Lord our God is angry with us a little while for our chastisement and correction: yet he will be reconciled again to his servants. [34] But thou, O wicked and of all men most flagitious, be not lifted up without cause with vain hopes, whilst thou art raging against his servants. [35] For thou hast not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty God, who beholdeth all things.
[36] For my brethren, having now undergone a short pain, are under the covenant of eternal life: but thou by the judgment of God shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. [37] But I, like my brethren, offer up my life and my body for the laws of our fathers: calling upon God to be speedily merciful to our nation, and that thou by torments and stripes mayst confess that he alone is God. [38] But in me and in my brethren the wrath of the Almighty, which hath justly been brought upon all our nation, shall cease. [39] Then the king being incensed with anger, raged against him more cruelly than all the rest, taking it grievously that he was mocked. [40] So this man also died undefiled, wholly trusting in the Lord.
[41] And last of all after the sons the mother also was consumed. [42] But now there is enough said of the sacrifices, and of the excessive cruelties.
Because of the heretic Martin Luther, Protestants are denied knowledge of this story cut from their Bibles. This is a shame because it would put to ridicule the Gospel of Prosperity and victorious Christian living. This tale is exceptional in the Old Testament, but it would become the rule in the New Testament and for Christians who suffered torture and martyrdom under Roman emperors. This suffering continues even to the present day as Christians experience martyrdom in our times.

The saints and martyrs have their values straight. Their priorities are aligned with God's priorities. They operate perfectly under God's economy. They prefer death and Heaven to the emptiness of this life. As for those who enjoy the good things in this life, God allows them as a mercy because these people are certainly on the road to Hell. All of the good things they enjoy in this life will be bitter memories for them in the fires of Hell. Their prosperity is actually a curse. The adversity of the saints is a blessing.

How to Pray

God will answer all your prayers. He knows what is best for you. But His answers to those prayers will be in accord with His economy and His values. This means allowing some or even most of our prayers to go unanswered for the present time. The key is to keep praying like that persistent widow. Persistence in prayer is a trial, but you will receive in the end more than you requested.

When you pray, you should seek and ask for the spiritual goods in abundance. Ask for wisdom. Ask for charity and humility. Ask to be made a saint. Put these things first in your prayer requests because they are the gold we never seek. God always delivers on the spiritual blessings.

On the material side of the ledger, ask for the things that you need. God will provide, and He will do so in a niggardly way. This is because poverty is a blessing. Adversity is good for the soul. But to keep soul and body together, God will not let you starve until it is time for you to exit this vale of tears.

Be grateful to God for all the things He gives you including pain, trials, and adversity. You will find that suffering is a sweet blessing, and you will prefer that blessing. Saints thrive under harsh conditions. And like Job, you will learn to trust God in your afflictions.

When you do ask for a temporal thing, ask for the accompanying spiritual blessing. For instance, you may ask for healing from cancer, but you should also ask for strength in enduring the trial of cancer. You will find like St. Paul that God's grace truly is sufficient.

The most important thing you can request from God is to be made a saint and to make it to Heaven. If you pray for this, you will absolutely receive it. This is what God wants for you, and this is what you should want for yourself. And if God does not grant your other requests, know that it was for the sake of this ultimate aim of saving your soul. If not for his thorn in the flesh, St. Paul may have ended up in Hell. Those thorns have a way of humbling us, and St. Paul had a lot to be proud about. Proud people do not go to Heaven.


The atheist will scoff at this answer to this problem and declare it a cop out. You can measure a material answer to prayer. You can't measure a spiritual good. If God were real, He would cure that cancer. Strength in adversity is so much hogwash. But I have never met an atheist who was a saint. As for material goods, they have done little to alleviate the misery of these atheists who look to suicide in hope of relief and escape from this empty world. As for the Prospetarians, their invincible faith which they claim makes them rich can endure no real trial which is why you don't see televangelists and megachurch pastors being martyred for the faith. They are cursed heretics who will reap a bitter harvest on Judgment Day.

We need to be persistent in our prayers because those prayers are what will carry us through. Saints are unbreakable people in a broken world. God is going to fix the world. You can count on that. But first, He has to fix you. And this is why you suffer for the present time and sometimes do not receive the things you request. Just hold on until the end. Do not lose your faith. God will reward you heavily for your fidelity to Him. My prayer is that you will pray for the spiritual goods and seek them in preference to the temporal goods.