Jesus identified unbelief as the major cause of unanswered prayer. When he was asked why they couldn’t cure a demon possessed boy, Jesus told his disciples, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20, NKJV). The Apostle Paul admitted his own short coming in this matter when he told his spiritual son Timothy, “although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13, NKJV). Paul’s comment seems to suggest that unbelief doesn’t keep us from being saved, but it can keep us from doing God’s will.
The writer of the book of Hebrews compared the unbelief of the Jews who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Israelites who had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. He stated:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
And saw My works forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” (Hebrews 3:7-11, NKJV)
According to this statement, the source of unbelief is a hard heart. The author of Hebrews went on to say, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13). The progression from sin to unbelief might take place instantaneously or it could happen slowly over a number of years. What is clear from the standpoint of unanswered prayer is that unbelief indicates there is definitely a lack of connection with God. A person who is acting in unbelief does not have the power of the Holy Spirit working in his life.
According to the author of the book of Hebrews, the remedy for unbelief is the word of God. He said, “For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 3:12). Basically, what he was saying was that the word of God has the ability to convict us of our sins and to bring us to the point of repentance, even when our sins are hidden deep within our hearts. The Apostle Paul is a prime example of this because he was defiantly opposing the spread of Christianity until Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and asked him the question, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4, NKJV). After Jesus identified himself as God, Paul immediately responded, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6, NKJV).