God doesn’t answer prayers, therefore God does not exist.
There are two fundamental problems with this statement. The first, is that God doesn’t answer prayers. There are many, many people over the course of history up to today that would unequivocally disagree. Such a blanket statement is simply inaccurate. The second problem with the statement is that it makes the assertion that a lack of answer from God somehow proves a lack of His existence. One has nothing to do with the other and the only thing we can know for sure based off of the statement is that God isn’t answering. It does not however, allow us to deduce that God doesn’t exist.
The claim that “God doesn’t answer prayers so therefore He doesn’t exist” stems from a pure lack of the biblical understanding of prayer. With the proper understanding we can see just how flawed the claim is.
What Is Prayer?
Prayer is the exercising of our relationship with God. It is a means to move closer to God. It is a way to intimately know God. Prayer catapults us into the realm of formulating a personal relationship with God.
Who is God? God is defined as the creator of all things, heaven and earth as well as the life within. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. God is the Father of the beloved Son, Christ Jesus who was sent as the savior to the world.
What Does Prayer Command?
Many people make the mistake in thinking prayer is a means of forcing God to expose Himself in order for them to believe in Him. However prayer is something that one does after they’ve determined to believe in God. The very act of praying commands that the individual who is praying first takes a position.
1. Prayer commands a presuppositional belief that God exists and He is who He says He is. It demands a belief in God.
2. Prayer commands a heart of humility recognizing the moral depravity of the sinner in light of a holy and righteous God. This conclusion is drawn from the belief that God is Holy and perfect and man is not.
3. Prayer commands recognition of God’s extended grace and mercy upon the sinner who is imperfect. Again, this conclusion is drawn from the belief that God is Holy and perfect and man is not.
4. Prayer commands a forfeiture of our own way, acknowledging that God’s way is the only way.
5. Prayer commands a heart that realizes God is sovereign and in control of every event in our lives. Thus helping us to concede that nothing comes by way of our own efforts.
6. Prayer commands faith to be placed in God.
This means that prayer does not lead an individual to believe in God. Prayer can not be used as a means to prove or disprove the existence of God. The belief in God must precede the actual act of prayer.
Our Position Towards Prayer
There are times when prayers seem to go unanswered, or seemingly unanswered. The bible sheds some light on this topic while showing us what our position should be regardless of the outcome.
1. God hears the prayers of those who love Him and have repented and placed their faith in the savior, Christ Jesus.
“Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. 17 I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: 19 But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.” (Psalms 66:16-20)
2. God does not hear the prayers of the wicked unless it is a call to repentance and faith in Christ. God simply will not hear those who reject Him. So when an unbeliever states God does not answer prayer, there is a good reason for that.
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
3. We are required to be patient, waiting on God’s answers. Answers are not always delivered immediately. Evidenced by Daniels answer being held up for 21 days by the Prince of Persia. The angel who was delivering Daniel’s answer had to overcome certain spiritual obstacles that impacted the natural world in order for Daniel’s answer to be worked out. Daniel was unaware that his answer was being delivered and continued nevertheless with his prayer and supplication.
“Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.” (Daniel 10:12-14)
4. Believers are called to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances as this is the will of God.
“Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
We must recognize that God is omniscient and sovereign. He knows what He is doing and why. God is always right, regardless of the outcome.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” (Matthew 7:7)
This verse is typically mis-interpreted to mean that if you ask Jesus, the Son of God, for literally anything (money, health, end of all wars etc…) He has an obligation give it to you. The reality is, no-one can come to know God without submitting to God’s will and without conceding that God’s way, regardless of how it seems is always right. Why? Because He is God. This means that when we ask for things it must be in line with God’s will. Things that are not in God’s will for our lives will not be delivered to us; just a like a parent. To a child some things seem right and good, but a parent knows best. To dig a bit deeper, let’s look at the reasons why God may not heal cancer, stop a war, end poverty, make someone wealthy etc…
1. Man may take the glory instead of giving credit where it is due. To God. Man tends to be puffed up, relying on his own wisdom, knowledge and education without realizing it is God who allows any and all things to happen at any point in time.
2. An answered prayer may cause a sinful heart to move further away from God. It is well known that tragedy typically moves people to seek God. Many times for the first time. Resolve and comfortability tend to cause people to think they don’t need God for anything.
3. Sinners who rebel against God may think that somehow God is “ok” with their sinning. This would be encouraging people to live sinfully as it would be assumed God blesses the wicked just like he blessed the righteous and there are no consequences for living as a heathen.
4. God, being sovereign, has a bigger plan that we simply do not see or understand and a short answer to our prayers may conflict with His long term goal.
“And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20)
Christ is not being literal here. He is being figurative describing that just a tiny bit of faith can go a long way. Again, we must be in line with God’s will.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
As always, context is important here. Christ is stating that believers will do even greater works than He in reference to glorifying God, which should be the chief aim when we pray. These works are related to carrying out the great commission. Christ is not referring to request for worldly items. Christ also states that we are to believe on Him which means to recognize Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, not just merely believe a man named Jesus lived.
“And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:22-23)
Christ Jesus is stating that for believers all things are possible. It isn’t a declaration that believers will do all that is possible. Again, these prayers as well as our lives must be in line with God’s will.
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:13-15)
This verse references believers in the church. Praying in faith is what brings divine, supernatural healing. That is the only point being made here. If it is in God’s will to not bring about healing for His own purposes than we can not override that.
Those With Answered Prayers
Let us not forget about the many people who’ve had their prayers answered. To make such a claim that God does not answer prayers in the midst of people who are living proof that He does is utterly ridiculous. Those who believe in God would state God delivered an answer while those who reject God would state that man through his own finite wisdom or knowledge delivered the answer and God had nothing to do with it. The latter brings us back to point #1 above and shows our inherit need for a savior.
In the end, God absolutely answers prayers and the bible is filled with examples ranging from Israel’s delivery from captivity to the prayers of gentiles made at the feet of Christ. People even today can attest to God answering prayers. However the chief aim of all prayers is for God to be glorified. Prayers outside of God’s will can not be expected to be answered. Prayers from those who don’t believe in God can not even be expected to be heard apart from a cry to salvation.