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A Study of Job | When God Doesn't Answer Prayers


It is the biggest lie in Christianity today. It's the lie that if we're good enough, humble enough, and kind enough, that good things will come our way all the days of our life. It's the lie that if we live our lives completely devoted to God through religious law, we will never have to feel heartache, we will never have to go through trials, and we will never have to worry about anything. 

First of all, worry is a choice. Certainly, you make that decision on your own. 

But what about the rest? The trials, the heartache, the loss of a loved one, a miscarriage, losing your job, not having good health, financial struggles....the list goes on...

And so the question is, 

Why does God answer some prayers, and not others?



There are two major things we need to consider when answering this question. Believe it or not, it's a pretty cut and dry answer. Most people would like to believe that there's some mysterious meaning behind God answering or not answering prayer. But the reality is that He clearly lays it out for us in the Bible. Unfortunately, sometimes, we tend to only cling to scriptures like Psalm 37:4, where God gives us the desires of our heart. Or Mark 11:24, where it says "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."

I could ask for a million dollars right now in prayer, and believe the heck out of it, but it doesn't mean I'm going to get it. 

While those are both very true and honest scriptures, we can't just take those scriptures and only cling to the good parts. We must be logical and know the Bible as a whole. Otherwise, we throw out major role players in scripture, such as Paul, who was one of the greatest disciples of Christ, and yet was thrown in prison, and had huge health issues. We disregard people like King David, who was a man after God's own heart, but still struggled in his own sin. And then we find men like Job. And that's where we will begin.


Job. Poor Job. He was a righteous man who did everything right. He believed that God dictated the life of a person by how good or bad they were. But that's not God's character at all. Not completely. Because we have a God who loves us no matter what our flaws and sins may be, if He were to dictate people's lives by the way they act, most of us would be dead by now. 

And so we'll begin with this passage in Job. Now, remember, Job was a righteous, God fearing man who had devoted his life to the Lord and was extremely blessed by Him.

"Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” 
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord."  [Job 1:8-12]
 First thing's first. We are reading from the old testament, where God was still very much audibly involved in His people's lives. Now that we are living under the new covenant, He has given us the Holy Spirit and Christ within us. There's a big difference now than there was then. 

Second, let's look at Satan for a moment. This story always intrigues me, because in this instance, Satan was required to come into the presence of the Lord to ask Him for permission to try Job. Of course, we all know that God is all knowing and powerful, so I imagine He had a hint of sarcasm in His voice when he said "have you considered my servant Job?". 

And third, this verse debunks every single theory of "if you do good, you'll be treated good" and that "God wants all of His people to rich and prosperous at all times". God is no respecter of man. In fact, in everything He does, it is to edify the person, the body of Christ, or to bring glory to His own name. Let us never forget that when praying for things we want. In fact, scripture even says, He will supply all of our needs, not wants.


For the sake of not dragging on, most of us know the story. Satan comes and puts Job through many trials. Job loses his wife, his children and all of his animals and land. Everything that he owns is taken away from him. Everything. 

He seeks comfort and consultation in his friends, who are seemingly ignorant in their own knowledge of God. They go through scenarios of why God is allowing these things to happen to Job. They convince each other that it must be because Job has sinned terribly against God, and Job drives himself crazy trying to figure out what he has or hasn't done. In Job's own righteousness, he goes through examples of how good he is. Through the next 30 chapters, it is a non-stop dialogue between Job and his friends. Rambling, useless information. But an important reminder that sometimes, we are just as Job and his friends. 

We over think it.

We ramble on to ourselves and our friends, looking for validation of why our prayers aren't being answered, or why some people's are answered and not ours. 

Something must be wrong, we say to ourselves. There must be a reason why this is happening.

All the while, missing the major point of our lives as Christians...

to bring glory to His name.

to bring testimony and salvation into other's lives through our own trials and struggles.

and to remember that no matter what, He will use us for His glory and honor, not our own.  


In chapter 41 of Job, God finally speaks to him through a great storm. And in all of scripture, it is the one passage that shakes me to the core. A reminder of just how great and mighty the King of Kings truly is. We often get stuck on the gentleness of God, but sometimes, we need to be reminded that He is in charge of all things.
"Who then is able to stand against me?
Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me." [Job 41:10-11]

Job—as do so many of us—had the false assumption that because these things in his life were given to him, that they were his. But yet, even his own life was not his own. The scripture goes on as God questions Job. Corrects Job. And reminds Job of who He is. I encourage you to read it.  

But even more so, I am in love with Job's response. It is not one of "but why, Lord". He does not question God. He does not fight with God. He does not cry out his plea of why he should have a better life. He simply says,


“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.


“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
[Job 42:1-6]

And yet, even in the mist of Job's ashes, God blessed him abundantly, trading ashes for beauty. He was given a double portion of what he lost. What he gained was even better than what had been lost. Surely, he spoke of things he did not understand when questioning his trials, because he was unaware of the wonderful things God had prepared for him in the end.

Job went on to have an incredibly blessed life—a double portion of what he had before. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. [Job 42]

Job is a wonderful example of how God works in ways that are not our own. And that His ways cannot be thwarted. The greatest lie you will ever hear, is that God is not in control of everything. Because yet, in scripture it clearly states that God uses everything for His good, and the good of His people.

There is no key. There is no trick. There is no way to manipulate God into answering your prayer—to give you financial blessing, good health, and the things you've been praying for. But consider this...



We Were Given the Gift of Free Will

...and God will not take back a gift He has given. He loves us so much, that He allows us to decide how we want to live our lives. But this also means that we suffer our own consequences. There are so many things that we choose to do or not do in our lives that can cause us pain, bad health, financial stress and debt. Many times, we cause our own self-destruction. Listen, God isn't going to force Himself on anyone. He is a complete and total gentleman. If He did, it would completely contradict everything He stands for when He gave us the gift of life. 

If you're eating 6 cheeseburgers a day and you weigh 400 lbs, but you've been praying for good health, then you are the issue...not God. 

If your child has health issues and you consistently allow them a less than nutritional diet, God isn't going to step in and just automatically heal them because of your selfish ambition. This child was entrusted to you, never forget that. You have freedom of choice, don't allow it to ruin someone elses life. 

If you're continuously spending frivolously, and you keep asking for financial blessing and not receiving it, then you are the issue...not God. 

If you're in and out of relationships and can't find "love", then you might consider your own choices and mistakes. And if you are fervently praying for a spouse, then trust that God will bring that spouse instead of trying to make it happen all on your own. Because within that, heartache surely lies.

Whether it's health, relationships, money, love, anger, hurt, or despair. Remember that your free will can cause your own issues. And if that's the issue, that could be a reason your "prayer" isn't being answered. You are, to some degree, in charge of your own life.



We Are Not Our Own, And God's Plan is Greater

Just as with Job, he knew not of the beauty that God had prepared for him. Had he not of gone through what he did, the greatness of his life would not have been recorded for us to learn from, and he would never have received the bounty he did. Even if it wasn't what he "wanted", he wanted it once he received it. Sometimes, we don't even know our own desires, until God shows them to us. We need to realize that the desires of our hearts are the desires of God's heart. The desires of God's heart is NOT the desire of our heart. Because out of all things, the heart is the most deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). We forget that, when reading that particular scripture.  

But we must also realize that our desires change like the wind, God's desires do not. Ultimately, the desire of God's heart is for us to bring more people into His kingdom, while being happy. Believe it or not, God wants us to be happy. But that doesn't mean we'll live a happy life. Did you get that?
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]
Do you realize that no matter what life brings you, you are instructed to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This is the will of God concerning you. Never once did God promise that we would not have trials. How so, you ask? Just look at His greatest followers in the Bible. Each and every one of them had trials they went through. Some worse than others.

Our unanswered prayers are sometimes unanswered because they are not God's plan for our lives. In fact, sometimes, unanswered prayers are a blessing, because He has something far greater in store for us. While it may not be your desire now, it could be your desire once you see it.

God had a plan for Job. Job prayed continuously that God would save him from the depths of despair, but had God have intervened when asked to, Job would not have received a double portion of reward in the end. While it would have brought Job temporary satisfaction and joy, it would not have brought him the ultimate joy. In fact, Job's joy didn't come from the things he received from God in the end. It came from knowing that God, in His almighty power and mercy,  was still in control, was still almighty and powerful, and was still in love with his child Job and his life.


Life sucks sometimes. Good things happen to bad people. And bad things happen to good people. But when we can look at our lives as "use this for your glory, Lord" or "use ME for Your glory, Lord", instead of, "why is this happening (or not happening) to me, Lord". Our outlook on life completely changes.

When we can rejoice and be joyful, no matter what our circumstance, then we are in the will of God. And the will of God will never once fail you. Never once.

It doesn't mean we can't grieve.

It doesn't mean we can't be sad, upset, angry, or heart broken.

Jesus came to earth and felt every single emotion that we feel. And because of that, He provided us with a comforter—the Holy Spirit. Lean on Him. Love on Him. Cherish Him. Have a relationship with Him. But never forget that, while your life may be temporarily not going the way you had hoped, it doesn't mean God isn't creating beauty from ashes. It might take days, weeks, even years. You may not get what you want. But if you're not having prayers answered, and you've weeded out the option of "is it a self consequence", then I encourage you to stand strong in the Lord. To lean on Him for guidance. And ultimately, seek Him and allow Him to use your trial for His glory. And remember that God might not be giving you the desire of your heart, because the desire of His heart for your life is so much greater than you could ever imagine.

Job was tested time and time again, the worst trials a person could seemingly go through. And yet, in the end, the one thing God wanted Job to understand and realize is that just because Job had been "blessed" for so many years, it was from nothing of his own doing. Everything came from the Lord. Everything under the heavens belongs to Him. No matter what life brings, you are still His. And He is still the King of all the earth. The fact that we are sons and daughters of the most high God is comfort in and of itself.