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On the Promises and Problems of Petitionary Prayer
J.P. Moreland


Biblically speaking, the most pervasive aspect of prayer is one of petitioning, asking and receiving. While worship and confession of sin are intrinsically valuable and biblically important to the purpose of prayer, they are not scripturally described as the most pervasive aspect of prayer.

Indeed, prayer is learning to interactively cooperate with what God wants to get accomplished by His Spirit. In this regard, prayer is a way of spiritually co-laboring with God, where we learn to persistently stay intent on "soaking" a project or endeavor in prayer under the direction of God.

Now there are at least three fundamental reasons why God will not answer a prayer:

  1. If it means that he will have to coerce someone's free will in order to bring about a request, in whole or in part;
  2. If it if means that answering it in the exact way that we want it to be answered will not be good for us or others in the grand scheme of things;
  3. Due to experiences of unanswered prayer, when we ask there is little faith and expectation of a result.

My talk at the Vineyard Anaheim addresses the above and more with both examples and further explanations.

Related content: If this talk interests you, you might also want to consider the following:


  • It offers helpful and encouraging examples of answers to prayer.
  • It frankly talks about why God might not answer all of our prayers.
  • It offers perspective and seasoned advice about how to get answers to prayer.

Get this talk.

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3 Responses to 'On the Promises and Problems of Petitionary Prayer'

  1. Adam says:

    Great talk, Dr. Moreland. I really needed to hear a clear articulation of petitionary prayer. This has helped my prayer life greatly.

  2. Ben S. says:

    “God will not answer a prayer…[i]f it means that he will have to coerce someone’s free will in order to bring about a request, in whole or in part;”

    Prov. 21:1
    “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord. He turns it wherever He wishes.”

    “So then it [salvation] does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

    Exodus 14:17
    “And as for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.”

    Deut. 2:30
    “But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing for us to pass through his land; for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as he is today.”

    Romans 11:7-8
    “What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.”

    Rom. 9:18
    “So then, He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”

    Deut. 29:4
    “Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”

    Jer. 24:7
    “‘And I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”

  3. Deborah Bullock says:

    Dr Moreland,
    I heard you speak at Temple Baptist Churh in NewBern,NC this wkend, 4/22/12. I am in the 3rd reason group: –.Our Faith is not Expectant, because our failth is worn down, due to many experiences of unanswered prayer.

    Do you have other recommendations for building up ones Faith & Prayer expectations, besides listening to stories of answered prayer, and keeping a journal of answered prayers? I have very few of those.

    Also, I am troubled by the verses below, in coments by Ben S, that seem to indicate God coerced humans free will ??