Dear Dr. Graham:

I admit I get upset when God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I think he should. Is He punishing me for something I’ve done, by refusing to answer my prayers?

— T.McK.

Dear T. McK.: If we refuse to repent of our sins and seek God’s forgiveness for what we’ve done, why should we expect God to answer our prayers? Then we’re treating him with contempt, and we aren’t honestly seeking his will as we pray. The Bible says, “Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).

Does this mean we have to be perfect before God will answer our prayers? No, it doesn’t; after all, no one is perfect. But it does mean we should examine our lives and be sure we aren’t holding on to our sins, but have turned to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness we need. Have you opened your heart and life to him? If not, the first prayer you need to make is to ask Christ to come into your life as your savior and Lord.

Will God then answer all your prayers exactly the way you want him to? No, he won’t — but the reason is because God knows what is best for you, and instead of “yes,” sometimes his answer is “no” or “wait.” We may not like that — but later we’ll realize that he was right and we were wrong.

Remember: We see only part of the picture — but God sees it all. And because he loves us, we can trust him to answer our prayers according to what he knows is best for us — even when he says “no.” The Bible’s words are true: “As for God, his way is perfect ... he shields all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).