Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayers?

The question in the title of this post is a damn good one. It is one which many religious believers have asked themselves. If you are here now because you have been asking it and are seeking answers, you are in good company.

Growing up as a Christian, I asked myself this question many times over the span of several years. I gradually worked through many possible answers, some of which seemed to help briefly. Unfortunately, it would eventually become clear that most were not productive. While there are no easy answers, it seems like there are at least a few possibilities those asking this question might want to consider. In this brief post, I'll invite you to consider six possible explanations for why your prayers are going unanswered.

  1. Maybe you are praying incorrectly. I have been told repeatedly by Christians that their god answers all prayers, as long as they pray correctly. As for what "correctly" means, their explanations quickly become too vague to be of much help. Perhaps it means that their god answers all prayers that happen to coincide with its will. If that's the case, there doesn't seem to be much point in praying at all, does there?
  2. Maybe your god decided that your prayers are not sufficiently important. You certainly wouldn't be the first person to pray for something trivial. Of course, it probably didn't seem trivial to you. If it did, you wouldn't have sought divine assistance in the first place. And ignoring you doesn't seem terribly compassionate of your god, does it?
  3. Maybe your god is testing you, temporarily ignoring your prayers to see how you respond and perhaps even rewarding you if you respond correctly. But why? Why would such a powerful entity desire to test you, and wouldn't a being of this sort already know the outcome of any such test? Once again, testing you - especially when the tests involve subjecting you to particular hardships - does not seem particularly kind.
  4. Maybe your god is angry with you. Could ignoring your prayers be a form of punishment? Is the god in which you believe supposed to be a forgiving one or the sort that might hold a grudge?
  5. Maybe you are praying to the wrong god. I know this will strike you as far fetched, but humans have worshiped so many gods throughout our history that simply listing them all has been the subject of many books. Maybe you just picked the wrong one.
  6. Maybe no gods exist. Could it be that your prayers are going unanswered because there isn't anything on the receiving end of them?

As a Christian, I struggled mightily with #1-4 but found no satisfactory answers there. I briefly looked into #5, but it did not seem any better. #6 seemed scary at first, but it is where I settled and have remained for the bulk of my adult life. It certainly fits the available data much better than any of the other options.