The old hymn “Prayer Bells of Heaven” is a song about communicating with God. It uses the picture of a bell at the Lord’s right hand. When we are in need, we pray our prayers, and the little bell rings to get God’s attention to hear us. The other day when I was praying, I had a surprising thought about why prayers might go unanswered sometimes. I thought of prayers like a doorbell. If you have ever tried to get someone’s attention using a doorbell when the power is out, you know it doesn’t work. You can press the button until your finger is purple, but the people inside the house will still never know you are standing there (unless you call them or bang on the door). Doorbells need power. They have to be connected. Some people have no connection to God and are ringing a dead bell.
1. God Doesn’t Hear Us When We Have Unconfessed Sin
Sin separates us from God. It’s that simple. It’s like slamming down a barrier in between us and God. The only thing that will open the gates again is repentance. This is why it is so very important to live a life characterized by self-examination and repentance for sins so that He can forgive us and cleanse us. Then He will hear our prayers.
- Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God;and your sins have hidden His face from you,so that He will not hear.”
- Micah 3:4: “Then they will cry to the Lord, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds.”
- Psalm 66:18-19: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear but certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer.”
- Proverbs 28:9: “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”
- 1 John 3:22: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
2. God Doesn’t Hear Us When We Worship Idols or Put Other Things Before God
The Old Testament is full of idolatry as a major sin. It can be hard to relate to people who melt earrings to make golden calves, but modern idols are “alive” and well. It’s just that today, those idols are all based on self: materialism, ego/pride, science/naturalism, self-indulgence, and works to name a few. When we put anything other than God on the throne of our hearts, it causes a barrier.
- Ezekiel 14:7-8 “For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.”
- Galatians 5:4 “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
3. God Doesn’t Hear Us When There Is Unforgiveness
We must forgive to be forgiven. It is simply not okay for a Christian to have anything against anyone. We must choose to forgive and give those hard feelings to God for His disposal. We must live at peace with others in as much as it is within our power to do so. The parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates just how ridiculous it is when we don’t forgive others since God has forgiven us so much.
- Mark 11:25 ““And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
- Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
4. God Does Not Hear Us When We Lack Charity
The Bible says, “Give to those who ask you,” and although there are certainly exceptions, if we know that someone has a need and we have the ability to meet that need, it is up to us to help. After all, we are but stewards. Everything we have has been given to us. We must do good and share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews 13:16).
- Proverbs 21:13 “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.”
5. God Does Not Hear Us When We Don’t Ask Correctly
When we ask for things for our own selfish pleasures, or when we want things that are not in the will of God, He doesn’t hear us. When we make vain repetitions with words after words that never touch our hearts, He may not listen. But when we ask according to His will, with our hearts, and in His name, He will hear, and we will receive.
- James 4:3: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
- Matthew 6:7: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
- 1 John 5:14 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
- John 16:23-24: “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
6. God Does Not Hear Us When We Ask in Unbelief
God won’t answer our prayers when we don’t believe He will do so. He hears us when we pray in belief that He is both listening and able to answer our prayers.
- James 1:6-8: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
- Matthew 21:22: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
7. God Does Not Hear Us When We Are Disobedient
My pastor says “Do what you know God wants you to do. If you’re not sure, do what you think He wants you to do.” But when we know what God wants and deny giving it to Him for our own selfish motives, we are in rebellion to God, and that is sin. Even when what He is asking is hard or puts us outside our comfort zone, we must submit to God always.
- Zachariah 7:11-13: “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
- Proverbs 10:24: “The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted.”
8. God Does Not Hear Us When There Is Family Discord
Problems in a marriage can affect God’s willingness to hear our prayers. We must honor our partners so that our prayers may, in turn, be honored by God.
- 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
- Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
9. God Doesn’t Hear Us When We Don’t Ring the Bell
Finally, a working doorbell is only helpful if someone pushes the button. When we try to use worldly means to get the things we think we need and want, we can cause ourselves more harm than good. Instead, we should humble ourselves and ask God for His help.
- James 4:2 “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
God DOES Hear Us When We Are Right With Him
God does listen to prayers from His children who are right with Him. He knows us, and we have a relationship with Him that opens the lines of communication. We believe in Him, trust Him, and spend our lives trying to please Him. The Bible is full of promises that God will hear us when we are in a right relationship with Him.
- John 15:7: “f you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
- John 9:31: “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.”
- Psalm 91:14-15 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.”
- Psalm 145:18-20 “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The LORD preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.
- Jeremiah 29:11-12 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”
- Psalm 34:17: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
- Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
We Simply Must Be Connected to Be Heard
Like a doorbell that must have power, our prayers must have a connection to God in order to be heard. He doesn’t hear us when we are separated by things that displease Him, but when we are in good standing with God, He promises to hear us and grant those petitions that are in His will and good pleasure.
f you like analogies, try Message in the Moisturizer: We Can Choose Change . It is an object lesson about changing for the better. Or, try The Waves of God’s Judgement and the Child of God. In it, we can see that the closer we are to God, the more protected we will be in times of trouble.
Like to read more from Evangelical Christian sisters who “tell it messy, true, and wonderful because we are His”? Check out Telling Hearts.