I’m not an expert on the thoughts of God as they relate to our prayers, but I do know that God is a prayer hearing and a prayer answering God. Anyone who has spent any time in prayer understands that sometimes, if not often, God’s answers to those prayers are not what we want or expect. Why?
It’s been my experience over the years I’ve been a Christ-follower, that when we pray God absolutely answers those prayers. He always answers in one of three ways.
Number one – God can, and often does, say “Yes.” And we praise Him for His provision and blessing.
Then there is answer number two: “Not Yet… just wait.” In this fast-food, instant-gratification world we live in, we just hate hearing that from the Lord. Yet we do. It doesn’t mean there’s a problem with our prayers, it’s just in God’s all-knowing and timeless knowledge, He knows it’s not good timing for the answer we seek. In cases where there doesn’t seem to be an answer, we need to be faithful and continue bringing those requests before the Lord in humble persistence.
Finally, the third answer to our prayers is when God says a flat-out, unequivocal, “No.” We pray and it appears God refuses to “come through” with the answer we want. I think of those years I spent as an unemployed job seeker. I would interview for a position that looked so good, the money was right, my skills looked like a perfect fit, and it was what I really, really needed to provide for my family. I would pray, ask God for the job, expect Him to provide, and the answer would come with a phone call or email that the job had gone to someone else. Clearly God had said, “No” to my prayer. I’m sure this has happened to you because it happens to all of us at one time or another. Why?
Let’s consider the simplest explanation. God loves us.
When Jesus was teaching His disciples about prayer He gave them an interesting example in Matthew 7:9-11.
“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Here’s my question. What if we’re asking for something that is NOT GOOD. What happens if the son in those verses asks for a snake? What happens if that son prays with his limited understanding of the future timeline, or future consequences and asks for something that will, at some point, bite him? Is God going to give in to a stupid request? Is He going to provide something dangerous just because it was asked for by someone with an admittedly limited point of view? No. God, being the loving, all knowing Father that He is, is going to say, “No.”
Our reaction to a “No” answer to a prayer should be one of praise. “Thank You, Lord, for protecting me from a poor request.” Thank You, that You love me enough to not give me what would have caused me harm.
That job I was so fervently praying for would have bitten me with a terrible future. Like Job, I don’t have to know why the answer was “No.” I just have to know that the God I prayed to is the God who loves me and won’t let anything hurt me – even my own stupid requests.
We’ve got to trust God and know that a “no” is not God playing with us… and withholding good from us. He doesn’t. We need to surrender to the fact that God knows what He’s doing and that He loves us (enough to die for us). That He only wants the best for us. Therefore if He says “no” or the dreaded “not yet,” He is doing it righteously, for your good.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
If we ask for a snake – it looks good – it’s just what I want – It’s just what I need – Please oh pleeeeeeeeeeeez! God knows you; He knows what’s going to happen. He knows that something we think we love and think we can’t do without is not good for us even if we absolutely believe it’s the best possible thing – ever. And God, in His love, in His care, in His concern, in His desire to bless, says “NO.”
We need to understand that. Trust God only has the best in mind for us, and say, “Thanks Dad, Thank you for protecting me … from myself and my limited perspective and priorities. Thank you for the “No.”
Think about it…