Why doesn’t Yahweh always answer our prayers? We will discuss some of the reasons why in this article. We will also talk about how to get our prayers answered much more consistently—and become better servants for Him.
The Hebrew word prayer is tefillah (תפילה). The root word here is palal, which is a word meaning judgment.
OT:6419 palal (paw-lal’); a primitive root; to judge (officially or mentally); by extension, to intercede, pray:
KJV – intreat, judge (-ment), (make) pray (-er, -ing), make supplication.
In Hebraic thought, when we pray, we judge ourselves. That is, Jewish prayer is a time of intense introspection, and taking a look at how one can come more in line with Yahweh’s will. This is a righteous concept. This is what most of our prayers should be about.
Our Jewish brethren understand that Yahweh loves us, and wants to give us good things. However, they also understand that before we ask Yahweh for good things, first we should obey what we know. When Elohim sees that we are judging ourselves, and are seeking to be upright before Him, then He takes compassion on us, and He removes whatever curses are upon us. This is perhaps why King Solomon prayed that Yahweh would listen to the self-judging, contemplative, and meditative prayers of His people Israel.
Melachim Aleph (1 Kings) 8:28-40
28 “Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, Yahweh my Elohim, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today:
29 that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place.
30 And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.
31 “When anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this temple,
32 then hear in heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked, bringing his way on his head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.
33 “When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and when they turn back to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication to You in this temple,
34 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to their fathers.
35 “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them,
36 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.
37 “When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is;
38 whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple:
39 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men),
40 that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.”
The Christian conception of prayer is different. When Christians pray, one often hears them asking Yahweh for things. This kind of prayer is called petitioning, and it is valid, as long as we first seek to judge ourselves, and improve our walks. Petitions are very common in the Tanach (“Old” Covenant).
Shemuel Aleph (1 Samuel) 1:8-17
8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of Yahweh.
10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to Yahweh and wept in anguish.
11 Then she made a vow and said, “Yahweh of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
12 And it happened, as she continued praying before Yahweh, that Eli watched her mouth.
13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk.
14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”
15 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before Yahweh.
16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”
17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the Elohim of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”
Christians and Jews both petition Yahweh for things, but the difference in approach is telling. Our Jewish brethren understand that they are actively engaged in a spiritual war (that sometimes turns into a hot one). They also realize that Elohim has given them a national mission to secure the land of Israel, and build Him a temple—and they don’t feel right asking Him for help unless they are already seeking to purify themselves. This is spiritually mature.
In contrast, Protestant and Independent Christians do not always understand any national mission. Very few of them realize that we are actively involved in a spiritual war (that will someday soon spill over into a hot one). Since they have no conception of a national mission, and since many of them reject Yeshua’s Great Commission, many of them believe there is nothing more to do than to lead nice, comfortable lives, and to be nice people. Since this is the limit of their faith, when Elohim does not answer their prayers, it can rock their faith.
But what about us? Why do we not always receive the things we ask for? Ya’akov (James) tells us one reason Yahweh does not answer our prayers is that we ask amiss, that we might spend it on our own pleasures (instead of focusing on building a kingdom for His Son).
Ya’akov (James) 4:3
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Yeshua asks us to fulfill the Great Commission, to build Him a literal international kingdom in His absence. If we ask for things to help us do what Elohim wants us to do, He is far more likely to grant our requests.
Think about it. Yeshua is the Commander of the army of the living Elohim (Israel). His mission is to subdue the earth, and bring it into subjection to Elohim. He has given us a golden opportunity to help Him do that, while He is away. That is our purpose.
If you were Elohim, and you had invited people to help you place the earth into subjection, then whose prayers would you answer? Would you answer the prayers of those who are trying to help you subdue the earth? Or would you answer the prayers of those who just want to spend time and money on their own pleasure?
Another reason Yahweh might not answer our prayers is if we do not truly believe. Yeshua tells us that it is not our words, but our faith (our belief) that is answered. There are many examples of this, but one is that of the centurion who was under authority.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 8:5-13
5 Now when Yeshua had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him,
6 saying, “Adon, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
7 And Yeshua said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 The centurion answered and said, “Adon, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.
9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Yeshua heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!
11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 Then Yeshua said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.
Because the centurion had faith that Yeshua could heal his servant, Yeshua did it quickly. In contrast, He did not do many miracles in His home town of Nazareth, because of their unbelief.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 13:58
58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
One hears half-hearted prayers made in a lack of faith all the time. However, why should Elohim answer these prayers? He knows it is not good for us to answer prayers that are made without faith, because that would be to reward double-mindedness (and that would not be good for us).
Ya’akov (James) 1:5-8
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of Elohim, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Yahweh;
8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
If we want to get our petitions answered, then we cannot just ask whatever we want. Rather, we need to ask Elohim to tell us what He wants us to ask for.
Yochanan Aleph (1 John) 5:14-15
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
But how can we hear what Elohim wants us to ask, so we can be pleasing to Him, and our prayers can be answered? That is what we need to know.
In English, people talk about the conscious mind, and the subconscious mind. Hebraic thought has similar concepts, except that the subconscious mind is called our spirit.
Even while our body is sleeping, our spirit does not sleep. Our spirit is always “on,” day and night. With patient practice and discipline, we can hear what goes on in our spirit—but in order to do that, first we have to be inwardly still, and mentally quiet.
Tehillim (Psalms) 46:10
10 “Be still, and know that I am Elohim; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
We are also told to meditate, and be (inwardly) still.
Tehillim (Psalms) 4:4
4 Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah.
In English we talk about mulling things over. To mull things over is to reflect on them without a lot of active mental thought. In fact, it is easier to mull things over when we take every thought into captivity. To take our thoughts into captivity means to keep our minds quiet. When we are internally quiet, then we can hear His voice. This should be an active 24/7 practice.
Qorintim Bet (2 Corinthians) 10:3-6
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in Elohim for pulling down strongholds,
5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah,
6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
We will have to expound on this in detail in some other place, but the promise in verse 6 is that when we have learned to take our thoughts into captivity (and can keep our minds quiet, and we obey His voice), Elohim will punish all disobedience on earth. Basically, He wants us to focus on taking care of ourselves—and then He will take care of the rest.
There are different kinds of spirits. A spirit can be an emotion, or an emotional predisposition. It can also be an attitude. Some people have a generally happy spirit, while others are generally sad. Some people have mean or angry spirits, while others have peaceful spirits. Some people have lying spirits, and others are without guile. There are all different kinds of spirits, and Yeshua addresses them in the Beatitudes.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:2-9
2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor [afflicted] in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see Elohim.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of Elohim.”
On top of our personal emotional predispositions and attitudes, we can also have the Set apart Spirit. The way we can tell when someone has the Set apart Spirit is that they will display the fruits of someone who is lovingly in control of himself, and his environment.
Galatim (Galatians) 5:22-26
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no torah.
24 And those who are Messiah’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Those who have Yeshua’s Spirit are not conceited. They do not provoke one another, or envy one another. They want to get along, and fulfill the Great Commission, and glorify His name together.
Leaders who have Yeshua’s Spirit want to bring His people together on the single foundation of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:19-22), so they can all fulfill the Great Commission together. Any leader who does not want to do this is probably quenching Yeshua’s Spirit out of some unclean desire, because if he was not quenching Yeshua’s Spirit, then Yeshua’s Spirit would lead him to bring the people together, and fulfill the Great Commission, as He has asked.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 28:18-20
18 And Yeshua came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Set apart Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amein.
While we are not able to make windows into men’s souls, Yeshua tells us that we can still tell what spirits people have by looking at their fruits.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 7:15-20
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
The reason this is so is that our spirit controls our mind. This is why Elohim tells us to take heed to our spirits even more than taking heed to our thoughts. If we take care of our spirits, then our thoughts and actions will automatically correct themselves.
15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.
16 “For Yahweh Elohim of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says Yahweh of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”
But how do we take heed to our spirits? When we quiet our minds, then we can pay attention to our thoughts (without getting caught up in our thoughts, or chasing after our thoughts). Then we can analyze what goes on in our thoughts, looking for patterns and repetitive themes. For example, if something makes us afraid, then we can pray that Yahweh will take away that fear, and replace it with love and compassion.
Yochanan Aleph (1 John) 4:18
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
If we suffer from feelings of shame and self doubt, then we can pray that Yahweh will take away those feelings (those spirits) of shame and self doubt, so we can become more than conquerors in Him.
Romim (Romans) 8:37
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
If we have angry thoughts toward others, then we can ask Yahweh to take away our anger, and replace it with forgiveness, compassion, and a peacemaking spirit. Whatever our personal issues are, our unclean spirits will continue to lead us into situations that will manifest problems for us, until we ask Yahweh to cast them out. Once our unclean spirits are cast out, then Yahweh can give us the good blessings He wishes to bestow upon us. This is also how Yahweh is our healer.
Shemote (Exodus) 15:26
26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of Yahweh your Elohim and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am Yahweh who heals you.”
When we are angry, or afraid, or have whatever other unclean emotion, this is reflected in our bodies. We do not have time to catalogue this here, but depression and sad spirits often manifest in lung problems (such as runny noses, sinusitis, smoking, etc.). Anxiety can manifest as stomach problems (indigestion, ulcers, etc.). There are too many issues to list here, but any unclean spirit that we harbor will cause dysfunction in an associated area of the body. When we release the unclean spirit, then the bodies can be healed.
We don’t have room to discuss quantum physics here, but basically, our body is made up of atoms, which are in turn made up of protons and electrons. These are positively and negatively charged particles (positive and negative energies). Since spirits direct energies, our spirits direct not only our thoughts, but also what our bodies do (for better or for worse).
If we have Yeshua’s Spirit, it will lead us to do what we can to fulfill the Great Commission, and build our Husband a kingdom. We will want to be used to help bring the kingdom of heaven down to earth (as our Husband Yeshua tells us to ask).
Mattityahu (Matthew) 6: 5-13
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amein”
There are several things to notice here. One thing is that there is nothing self-seeking, or self-serving about Yeshua’s instructions about how to pray. Instead, He tells us to pray that we will be used to help establish His kingdom.
Another thing to notice is that it is not by vain repetition that our prayers get answered. Rather, it is by our faith. This means we must believe. When we believe, then our spirit stands in agreement with Elohim, who wants to give us an opportunity and ability to serve Him. This gets back to quieting our minds, and abiding in Yeshua, so that we can hear what He wants us to ask. When we ask what He wants us to ask, then we can have faith that He will answer our prayers, because we are doing His will.
In the end, getting our prayers answered is not so much a question of learning how to ask Him for what we want, but of learning how to quiet our minds, and abide in Him, so we can hear what He wants us to ask.
May it be so with us.