This article will be a two part series looking at our reactions when our prayer requests are answered with a “no.” In Part 1 we look at our struggle with knowing if we’ve praying in the right way and the confidence we can have that we are.
I’ve been wondering, what would the world look like if God answered “yes” to all our prayers? Our favorite sports teams would all be winners and they’d be no championships to celebrate. Every children would have an Olympic gold medal hanging around his or her necks. Not just one but ten people would get promoted, or turn up for the first day of work at that new job. It would always be sunny and the perfect temperature, unless you’re a skier and then it would snow with abundance. It sounds amusing, but we would know little about commitment, empathy, showing grace, being patient, learning to be tolerant, and many other worthwhile behaviors.
More seriously, though, there would be no more death, no more tears, no more crying or pain. We would be living in a world where everything is made new. It sounds heavenly and that is what we have to look forward to one day.
Yet, in the meantime, we continue to live in an imperfect world and with prayers which are not always answered in the way we would like or how we think are best.
So how should we react when God says “no” to our requests?
The way we often react is by worrying or being concerned that it’s our fault — that our thinking and actions stopped God giving the go ahead on our prayers.
When we read: If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened — we can wonder if we’re holding onto a grudge or wrongdoing that hinders God from answering our prayers.
Then we question our intentions because James 4:3 says When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. In other words, perhaps it is selfish reasoning that trips us up and determines the outcome of our prayers.
Or we see a warning in: If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable. And we ponder if we’ve ignored God because if we don’t listen to God then he doesn’t listen to us.
Rather than letting these thoughts make us despondent, it’s more likely that if we are worried about making the wrong move then our hearts are in the right place. But, here are two simple ways we can overcome these issues and our concerns. One, always come to God with a humble and repentant heart. Two, always acknowledge God’s will is best. The Lord’s Prayer helps in teaching us how to pray in this way: Our Father…your will be done…forgive us…
Still, accepting a “no” answer is not easy, even if it is God’s will. And struggling with that is a part of being human. We can take comfort that even Jesus struggled, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to embrace God’s will for his life.
There is also reassurance from scripture that God has: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. And when you yield to him, he will make your paths straight.
Just as Jesus had an angel come and strengthen him in his struggle to accept God’s will, you have the Holy Spirit to give you everything you need to stay committed, be empathetic, show grace, be patient, learn to be tolerant, and many other fruits of the Spirit.