Jesus encourages us to ask God for help. ...Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name... Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete (John 16:23-24). He also tells us to expect God will indeed give us what we ask....whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24).
Yet sometimes our prayers are not answered in spite of our trusting Him, and sometimes they are very important prayers indeed. Why is this? And how can we rely on God when our prayers are not always answered?
Do we please God?
We should not expect God to readily answer our prayers if we displease Him by the way we live (such as having immoral relationships). Why should He help us if we work against Him? The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29).
If we turn away from our sins, seek to do good as God sees it, and by faith in Jesus receive forgiveness, God will see us as righteous and will listen to us. However, there may still be sin in our lives which needs dealing with. Unconfessed, or on-going sin can hinder some of our prayers from being answered. This includes failing to apologise to someone (or appropriately honour them), not forgiving someone from our heart, not helping people, not properly renouncing our involvement with other gods or the occult, and owning possessions which displease God. We may need to deal with the sins of our ancestors too. ...if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him (1John 3:21-22).
Do we pray good prayers?
We can pray all sorts of prayers - good, bad, selfish, hard, imperfect, inappropriate, even sinful ones. We can ask God for anything; however, God will not answer us if it is wrong for Him to do so. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:3).
Do we pray effectively?
It is not enough just to ask God. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt... (James 1:6).
For our prayers to be effective, they need to be heard by God and strong enough to overcome any resistance from the devil. Satan will often resist our prayers (perhaps by trying to get us to doubt) and we need to maintain our trust in God even when things look bad. We...should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1). We also need to be realistic and let God direct us into those battles we can win. A huge war is going on between God and the devil and we play only a small (albeit significant) role in it.
Do we trust God no matter what?
Although God gives us many promises, His primary motive in doing so is that we can become like Him. Our relationship with God should therefore take precedence over the things we pray for. All our prayers are made with a partial understanding and we need to pray in a way that reflects this - trusting God to answer our prayer, but trusting Him also if He does not. ...Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).