“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” – Psalm 66:18
Why does God not answer prayers? There can be any number of reasons why He doesn’t answer our prayer, sin being the biggest reason why our prayers are not answered. Can God answer a prayer when we have not confessed sin? Will He answer a prayer if there are sinful thoughts on our mind?
God’s first condition is that our heart must be pure. In Isaiah 1:15 God says: “I will hide mine eyes … I will not hear.” Sin in our heart will close God’s ear and cut off all communication with Him. It is unsuccessful for us to pray when we are carrying a sin on our conscience which we have not yet acknowledged or confessed. Isaiah 59:1–2 says, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
To help us better understand here are some examples of hindrances to prayer:
Un-confessed and un-repented sin – In the letter to the Romans, Paul tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yes, we all sin, but do we have un-confessed and un-repented sin in our life? If so, we need to confess our sin, and repent from it as we are commanded in Acts 17:30 “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,” if we do not, our prayers are not going to be heard. (Psalm 66:18)
Selfishness – “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). We need to examine ourselves and make sure our prayers are not motivated by selfish desires. If we find that selfishness is a factor then we need to confess it and repent.
Doubt – “But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind,” (James 1:6). We all doubt and when we do we should remember the man who said to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Remember that God has given a measure of faith to every man (Romans 12:3), therefore we need to trust God. James 4:8 tells us to: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” God is merciful and He will help us is we trust Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall directyour paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Pride. Jesus spoke of the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer who both were praying. The Pharisee boasted about himself while the tax-gatherer asked for mercy from God. Jesus said in Luke 18:14 regarding the tax-collector, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.” Jesus shows us that pride is sin and that it hinders prayer. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). If you are prideful, confess it as sin, repent, and learn from Jesus how to be humble unto death.
A poor relationship -If there are problems with your family, a friend or acquaintance because of selfishness, pride, arguments, anger, un-forgiveness, or any of the other number of obstacles that cause strife, then your prayers will be hindered. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus said, “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
When the believer lives in rebellion against God, sin blocks his ability to communicate with our heavenly Father (Psalm 66:18) and places them in a position to be disciplined by the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:32) so that we will not be condemned along with the world. We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit by whom we were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30), because, “the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16)
The Bible teaches us as believers to put off falsehood and speak truthfully to everyone, for we are all members of one body. We are not to be angry with each other for that is sin, and we are also not to not let the sun go down while we are still angry, so we do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:25-27)
Let us therefore keep in mind that God will not answer the prayers of believers if they are living in unrepentant sin or fail to forgive others. Jesus teaches His disciples in Matthew 6:12, “that God forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” And continues in verses 14-15 that “if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Therefore, a believer that is living in sin or fails to forgive others has their prayers blocked since they are out of fellowship with the Father.
So how do we remedy this situation? 1 John 1:9 makes it clear: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Therefore, we need to repent, confess our sins and be reconciled to God and to those we have offended.