Why Doesn’t God Answer All My Prayers? Because Some of Them are Stupid

Lack of Planning MugGod doesn’t do stupid things.

No matter how many times we say “please”.

No matter how much faith we have.

No matter how hard we pray.

God doesn’t do stupid things.

Yes, he does strange things. Hard-to-understand things. Even things that can seem totally messed up and cruel from our limited vantage point.

But he never does stupid things.

I’ve come to believe that the main reason for my unanswered prayers is that I keep praying stupid prayers, asking God to do stupid things.

Yes, I can hear some of your objections already. “There are no stupid prayers!” Yes, there are. I know. I’ve prayed some.

In fact, Jesus introduced the Lord’s Prayer by telling the disciples not to pray stupid prayers like the hypocrites and pagans do.

People regularly ask God for stupid things.

  • “Help me win the lottery”
  • “Bring my cheating boyfriend back to me”
  • “Help me lose weight while I eat whatever I want and never exercise”
  • “Bless me now, even though I’ve been ignoring you for years”
  • “Make me smart enough to pass the test I didn’t study for”
  • Give me a bigger ministry than the church down the street

Then we get mad when God says “no” to our stupid prayers. Sincere, but stupid. 

 

Start With Pre-Approved Prayers

The point of salvation is not just to give us a get-out-of-hell-free card. It’s so that we can enter into a real, ongoing, loving relationship with Jesus.

And the point of ministry is not to have a job that pays the bills and gets us pats on the back. It’s to lead others into an ongoing, loving relationship with Jesus. The best way to do that is by being a living example of how to have that relationship.

Relationships need regular communication. Prayer does that for our relationship with Jesus. But I’ve never met anyone who said they were completely happy with their prayer life. Including pastors.

Prayer may be the most overlooked aspect of Christian life and pastoral ministry. Even though we know it’s the most important.

We need to become better pray-ers. But how?

The best way to get better at something is to start with the easy parts. But are there easy parts to prayer? Yes, there are. Start with prayers God has already said he’ll answer.

Take a look at the Lord’s Prayer, for example. What if we practiced being better pray-ers by praying…

  • That his kingdom would take greater hold in our hearts
  • That his will would be done in me, like it is in heaven
  • That he would supply our needs for today
  • That he would forgive us as much as we’ve forgiven others
  • That he would lead us away from the things that tempt us the most
  • That he would keep evil away from our heart’s door
  • That he would be honored and glorified above all

Those are prayers God will never say “no” to.

Plus, when those prayers are answered, they help us become better pray-ers about other things, too. Smart prayers have nothing to do with smooth words. They’re the ones that change our hearts to become more like Jesus.

 

Pastors Pray Stupid Prayers, Too

Pastors are not immune to praying stupid prayers. Starting with me. My story in The Grasshopper Myth is evidence of that.

What if, instead of praying for more, more, more, we prayed using these biblical prayers?

 

The Father Knows Best

We’re not alone in our struggles with stupid prayers.

Even late into his mature life and ministry, the Apostle Paul struggled with this problem. He prayed over and over that God would remove something he called a “thorn in the flesh”, but God said “no”. Why? To keep Paul “from becoming conceited.”

Paul had to learn what we all have to learn. God knows what we need, even when it isn’t what we want. Paul came to realize that God’s way of keeping him humble mattered more than his comfort.

Paul also advised the Christians in Rome on this matter. When “we do not know what we ought to pray,” he advised them to lean on the Holy Spirit. Because, in those situations, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26)

But perhaps the best defense against stupid prayers may have come, not surprisingly, from the only person who never had a stupid thought or uttered a stupid word, let alone offered a stupid prayer.

When Jesus was pleading for his life in the Garden of Gethsemane, he ended with words we would all do well to remember.

Not my will, but yours be done.”

Those aren’t just words to tack onto a prayer. They should be our lifestyle.

 

So what do you think? Have you ever caught yourself praying stupid prayers?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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(Lack of Planning Mug photo from kvanhorn • Flickr • Creative Commons)

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5 thoughts on “Why Doesn’t God Answer All My Prayers? Because Some of Them are Stupid”

  1. I wouldn’t say he doesn’t answer them. More like he answers them with “No. Ask for something else.” I don’t want people getting the idea God is one of those non-responsive parents who gives us the disapproving silent treatment whenever we do something dumb.

    1. I hear you. That’s why I mention that God says “no” to our stupid prayers in the body of the post.

      Some people abandoned when we phrase it as God not answering. But for others, getting no answer from God feels less abrupt and mean than getting a “no” answer from God. So I went with the one that made the best title I could think of, then put the other one in the body of the post.

  2. I reposted part of your post on Facebook (with a link to your blog) today because, 1.) I just read it (mea culpa); and, 2.) It fits perfectly with the Day 11 emphasis of our church’s “Awakening” time of prayer and fasting. Isn’t it great how God orchestrates things? You’re encouraging so many people, and I thank you again for letting us all be part of the process. Happy New Year!

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