Many times when people ask this question, it’s because there’s a pending request that seems to be unanswered. Unknown to some of us, we get to thank God for unanswered prayer in retrospect of what would have happened if that prayer was answered. Some other times, people ask because God already answered but in a different way than they expected so they don’t even know He already answered! Now that’s crazy.
Rick Warren wrote in his Daily Hope devotion, “When the request is not right, God says ‘no’. When the timing is not right, God says ‘slow’. When you are not right, God says ‘grow’. But when the request is right, and the timing is right and you are right, God says ‘go!’. That’s it, the answer to your question.
God always answers all of our prayers (1John 5:14-15), but will it always be in the way or manner we expect Him to? Absolutely not. God’s ways are as higher as the heavens are than the earth than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
Sometimes the things we are asking for are either not good for us or for the people that would be affected by the provision of that thing. Sometimes it is just not the right time so He asks us to wait and exercise/learn patience through the process. Sometimes it’s exactly what we asked for but the answer comes with a different dynamic from the norm.
Generally, there are three answers to all prayers. It’s either one of these three or something more specific and instructional from God.
One of these answers is “no”. Why would God say no to some of our requests? This answer comes mostly when our requests are sinful i.e we only ask of these things based on fleshy desires (Isaiah 59:1-2) or misdirected (James 4:3).
The second answer is “wait”. God can ask us to wait for so many reasons, some of which are;
It is not the right time (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11), or because He wants to teach us the lesson of patience, or because as Rick Warren mentioned, He wants us to “grow!”. Also, He asks us to wait sometimes because He has something super better planned (Jeremiah 29:11).
And finally, God says “yes”. To our requests of intimacy with Him (Matthew 5:6), and to our requests that are in line with His will.
Sometimes, the question shouldn’t be “does God answer all prayers?”. Sometimes the question should be “who is praying?”, Is this person a believer or a sinner? Other times, the question should be “why do we pray?”, Is it for our selfish desires and immediate gratification?. And sometimes the question should be “what are we praying about?”.