What the Bible teaches about unanswered prayer

In my last post I raised the question: How can you find all that the Bible teaches about why prayers are not answered?

I suggested that if you can find even one verse in the Bible about a subject, using cross references will lead you to the rest of the verses about that subject.

You cannot do this with just a concordance, for often a subject is discussed in the Bible using different words, not the same word.

In my last post I gave one reference verse from James 4:2,

James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Once you have found one verse on the subject you are researching, look in the immediate context to see if there is another verse close by that says more on the subject.

In this case, the following verse, James 4:3, gives another reason for unanswered prayer:

James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

So far, we have found two reasons for unanswered prayer:

(1) Ye have not because ye ask not. In other words, if you do not ask, if you do not pray, you can’t expect an answer!

(2) Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss. In other words, you ask for things in prayer with the wrong motive.

Having reached this point in our study, just how and where do we find more information in the Bible on this specific subject?

The answer is, check out a good source of cross references for the passage, James 4:2 and/or James 4:3, and see where the cross references lead.

Many good quality Bibles contain a center column which contains cross references for many verses. Even the best of study Bibles will often be found quite lacking when it comes to furnishing good cross references for a specific verse and theme.

I just now checked my Cambridge Turquoise 8vo India Paper Bible, and found no relevant cross references to this theme at James 4:2.

Checking what appears to be the fullest source of cross references in a center column reference Bible, the “Standard Edition” of the American Standard Version, Teachers’ Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, I find a very few cross references given: 1 John 3:22 and 1 John 5:14. Both of these references concern the topic of prayer:

1 John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us:

From these two passages we may properly infer or deduce two further reasons the Bible gives for unanswered prayer:

(3) If prayers are answered because we are obedient and do what is pleasing in God’s sight, then it stands to reason that prayers will not be answered if we are disobedient and do not do what is pleasing in God’s sight (1 John 3:22);

(4) If God hears us when we pray according to His will, then He does not hear us when we ask things contrary to His will (1 John 5:14).

You may be able to find a very few more relevant cross references for this subject by checking out the references given in several more Bibles which contain cross references, but compared to the many statements in the Bible that relate directly to this topic, your findings will most likely be very meager.

What you need is a Bible study tool that provides far more cross references than are found in the margin of even very good study Bibles.

That will form the subject of my next post.

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