God’s hearing is never impaired (see Ps 94:9). But the language of Biblical poetry sometimes pictures God as though he were deaf (see Dt 1:45). This was simply a figurative way to say that God does not always respond to requests as people might want. Sometimes answers come only after long delays; other times answers may come in an unrecognized form or in a manner the petitioner would not have wanted.
Effective prayer requires that the one praying have the right attitudes: reverence, humility, proper motivation and purity. Ineffectual prayer—that which God seems to ignore—often results from the lack of such qualities. Here are a few examples:
Irreverence: God may ignore those who are irreverent (see Ps 50:21). Pride: God wants to help those who are humble in spirit, not those who are proud (see Jas 4:6). Self-seeking: When people pray for selfish reasons, God may refuse their requests (see Jas 4:3). Sin: Disobeying God can separate someone from God and cause prayers to go unanswered (see Isa 59:1–2). Unbelief: Spiritual instability can undermine prayers (see Jas 1:6–7). Broken relationships: A husband’s prayers may be hindered if he has treated his wife disrespectfully (see 1Pe 3:7).