I grew up in the church. While I am thankful for every person in those churches who poured themselves into me, I recognize now that not everything I was taught is Biblical. Take for instance, the very common belief that God answers every prayer. We like to say that. It makes us feel good and reminds us that God is never very far away. It ranks right up there with the reminder that "God neither sleeps nor does He slumber" when it comes to peaceful thoughts. The problem is, it's not true.
The teaching goes something like this. Whenever we say a prayer, God will ALWAYS answer. His answer will take one of three forms: yes, no and not now. I will grant you that God typically responds in one of these three manners WHEN He responds...but I believe the Bible teaches that God doesn't always answer.
Many places in Scripture, it is made clear that our sin can be a roadblock to our prayers being answered. Consider a couple of verses for me:
...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord... Acts 3:19 NIV
In each of these passages, Scripture spells out that a prerequisite for God's response is our repentance. In other words, before the bold face can happen the underlined part must take place.
What does that mean for you and me? If you're like me, for many years, I've clung to the promise that what seemed to be "unanswered" prayer was just God saying wait. I can't deny the truth or dress it up any longer. God's silence was indicative of my rebellion. I needed to ask for forgiveness before I asked for anything else.
You may find yourself in that place today. Don't let Satan or well-intentioned believers convince you that everything is okay and that God's answer will come "in His time." God's answers will come, and come with abundance, when you and I get serious about our sin, turn from our disobedience and live lives of purity as God demands.