Some time ago now, I went through a season where God said “Yes” to almost every heartfelt prayer I could lay on Him. I look back on that time in my life and it reminds me that God is powerful! Able. Benevolent. All Knowing. And Good. He blew my mind with His ability to answer my prayers before I uttered them and He overwhelmed me with His diligent provision-credit card debt wiped away overnight, a startlingly clear path laid out for my career, and the dream romance that I longed for.
And then a different season came whistling coldly down the hallways of my heart. A time of agony, loss, and years of sacrifice. Job loss, physical illness, loneliness, and lots of unwanted change set me up for defeat. Doubt was ever present and my dim hope limped along the narrow path that wound precariously through the valley of my burdens.
But it wasn’t a total loss. I learned some valuable lessons that would shape my prayer life.
This week, I went to see the film War Room, by the Kendrick brothers, and I do recommend you see it-for the believer, it’s a powerful reminder that our battles are fought in the spiritual realm! It’s the story of a woman whose marriage is falling apart and how she meets a true prayer warrior who reminds her that her battle needs to be fought in her prayer closet, not at the dinner table. The movie ends on a high note, but I want to caution viewers that sometimes God doesn’t give us what we want, especially when other people’s hearts are involved. What do we do then?
Sometimes God says “Yes.” Often, He says “Wait.” But what do we need to remember when He says “No”?
First, our perspective is ours to shape.
We have two choices when God says “no” to our prayer requests. We can succumb to sorrow, disappointment, and fear which is the gateway to bitterness and depression, or we can renew our faith in God that He has good plans for us, grieve with a sense of joy, and count our blessings:
So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6
Only one of these options leads to a life that God can use for His purposes. And when God makes the most of our trials, bringing unexpected beauty from ashes, there is always purpose in our pain. It would add insult to injury to hinder ourselves from a long term blessing because we couldn’t trust that God’s “no” is a mercy.
Second, we don’t know the bigger picture.
In our humanness, we think we know what is best and yet, we honestly don’t. God sees the grander picture clearly and if we truly believe that He has plans for our good, and not to harm us, then we must have rock-solid faith that whatever it is we wanted, would have done more harm than good:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13
The flip side of that coin is that sin and the unseen spiritual warfare between good and evil is always at play. Sometimes, God allows evil to play itself out, but even then, He restrains it and uses it for good in the end. I know that God’s plan is life, and yet He allowed me to miscarry twins a year ago. I don’t believe that was ever God’s design, but because sin and death are a part of this fallen world, He allowed it. I also believe that somehow, He will bring good from a tragic circumstance-I simply need to trust that He sees the bigger picture and will overcome loss with blessing in His time. This requires a long-term and eternal mindset. Instant gratification doesn’t build character, and character is what God is after most in our spiritual lives.
Third, prayer is not only a means to an end.
We pray because we want answers, but God sees prayer as so much more than that. Prayer is also the place where we enter into the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. We are engaging in a relationship, not just an exchange of requests. Seeking to know God and to yield to His plans for our lives is an opportunity to grow more intimately aware of the person of Jesus Christ on a personal level. If my kids came to me simply to see what they could get all the time, without being with me just to enjoy the mother-son relationship, I’d be pretty disappointed. God longs to be with us and commune with us-prayer is the vehicle with which we get to enjoy God Himself, the Creator of the world and everything in it! That’s a powerful and humbling thought!
Prayer is also a place where we confess our sins and any thoughts that are not Godly. In prayer, we come with our burdens and cast our cares onto the broad shoulders of Jesus Christ:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
It’s a time of profound exchange-my weariness and shame for His strength and peace. Prayer is not so simple as requests and answers. It is the hub of relationship and heart transformation.
God is not fickle when He responds to our heartfelt requests. He is purposeful whether He answers yes or no. Praise Him when He says “yes”. But don’t forget to praise Him when He says “no” and ultimately, you will see that both answers are a win-win.
Pray With Me:
Help me to see that You are always good and that even when you answer with a “no” that you have my good in mind. Thank You for Your wisdom to keep from me anything that would not be for my best, and thank You that You can turn even the effects of living in a sinful world, into something for my good and Your glory! Help me to trust You when I don’t get the answers that I think I want and help me to grow in my faith and trust in You.
In Jesus Name, Amen!
YOUR TURN! Let's talk in the comments section below: Has God said “wait” or “no” to you recently? How can I pray for you as you wrestle with His answer? Have you seen the blessing that comes from God’s protection when He answered “no” to you? I would love to hear how God’s answer was best for you!