When God Says “No”

When was the last time you prayed for something and God’s answer was “no”?

  • Have you prayed for healing for a dear friend with cancer and instead, she passes away leaving her young children and husband to grieve in this world?
  • Have you prayed for a job in a season of unemployment and instead joblessness persists as you watch your savings account dwindle?
  • Have you prayed for a baby — just one baby — and instead, remain childless?
  • Have you prayed for a spouse and instead, remain single and alone, heartbroken for someone to share your joys and sorrows?

When we receive this response to our fervent prayers, I think sometimes we try to mentally soften the blow to our disappointed hearts by receiving this answer more as a “not now” or “not yet”. We might even consider our prayer, “unanswered”. (Although, for the record, I don’t think this idea of “unanswered” prayer is scriptural for God says, “Call to me and I will answer you” (Jeremiah 33:3).) It may take longer than we wish to receive or understand God’s answer, but the truth is, the Bible is full of examples when God’s answer to a just, verdant, and even good prayer request was … “No.”

  • Moses wanted to go into the Promised Land. But God told him ‘no’ and instead raised up Joshua to lead the Israelites into the promised land. (Deut. 3:23-27)
  • David wanted to build the Temple. But God told him no and instead used his son Solomon to build it and in so doing, bring peace to Israel (1 Chronicles 22:7-10)
  • Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal their brother Lazarus when he was sick. Jesus answered no and instead raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11)
  • Jesus himself asked that the cup of suffering be taken from him as he prayed just prior to his crucifixion. God said no, but instead sent angel to strengthen him to complete the work set before him. (Luke 22:42-44)

In each of these situations, the “no” God gave was because He had a greater plan yet to be revealed.

I have been praying for months about two things (and by “things”, I don’t mean material things, I mean “circumstances”). Two good things that I believed would provide our family greater stability, more time together, and an increased opportunity to serve Him by serving in our community. I was not asking God for wealth or stuff. I was not asking God for popularity or prestige. I was not asking God for status or success. I was asking Him to make provision for us by allowing two particular good circumstances to come to pass, if it was His best for us.

But His answer was … “No.”

It is a hard thing to (sincerely) pray, “Thy will be done” and then accept the outcome when His will isn’t that for which we hoped. But we do so because if what we want isn’t God’s best for us, then … do we really want it? I don’t.

God has not yet revealed His greater plan for us. It has been hard — even painful — to accept and understand these circumstances, but because it is His nature to say “no” when His plans are greater than ours, I know He will.

In the meantime, I continue to abide in these truths: “Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5).

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