When God says “No”
There’s a country song that says “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”. As much as I love most of his music, I’m going to have disagree with Mr. Garth Brooks and say that God never leaves a prayer unanswered. I know many people would disagree with me and that’s okay. But I base my stand on some scriptural principles I have found.
James 4:3 – When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
I John 3:21 & 22 – Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
Just in these two verses, there seems to be a connection to the behavior and motive we bring with us when we pray and whether or not we get what we ask for. That alone is enough to convince me that sometimes God says no. But what about those times when “no” seems cruel? What if we are sure that our motives are right, that we’ve been obedient and we still get a “no”?
Isaiah 55:8 & 9 says – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
In other words, I don’t have God’s heavenly perspective. He will always see to it that he is glorified. There are times he says no because he has something greater for us. There may even be times he says “not yet” because when the answer does come it will seem nothing short of miraculous and we will know beyond the shadow of a doubt who is responsible!
So what do we do when God says no? We need to rest in the knowledge that he loves to give us good things, he feels our needs as deeply as we do, and he wants us to be very aware of the ways he moves and acts on our behalf. A “no” from God is not a time to complain or whine that he’s being unfair. It’s a time to keep moving forward in the direction he has given us and watch for his hand. It is also a time to pray for wisdom so that we are asking according to his will!!
After all, I John 5:14 & 15 states – This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.
Seems pretty clear to me – asking according to his will always receives a “yes” answer. But there is one last thought. Jesus told a parable about a woman who persistently bugged a judge to get a fair outcome for a situation. I don’t get the impression that she whined or complained about her situation. She simply kept calmly and respectfully bringing her case before the judge. The judge kept turning her away until finally he gave in simply because she wouldn’t give up.
As a matter of fact, the parable is introduced in Luke 18:1 with the words – Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up.
Does that verse in Luke (and it’s accompanying parable) mean to tell us that sometimes God waits to give us a yes simply to see if we are persistent? That’s sure what it looks like to me. And he designed so he knows that we don’t tend to value those things that we obtain easily.
God moves in perfect time. He is never late, he is never early. We, on the other hand, tend to behave like petulant, whiny, demanding toddlers who want every prayer answered in the affirmative and immediately. God is not at our beck and call like a valet. He isn’t a short order cook who must meet our selfish demands. He is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, and he will always fulfill the needs of his people according to his will. Even if that sometimes means telling us “no.”