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When We Ask and God Says "No"

When God answers “no” to my prayer request, my response can be childish rather than childlike.

I become like a child peering through the window of a candy store pleading with her parent for the goodies inside. Children can be persistent in what they want. They whine and ask tirelessly, although tiresome for the parent. 

There is nothing wrong with being persistent in prayer. In fact, the Bible encourages it. But, when we’re not trusting God in the middle of prolonged asking, then we are being more childish than childlike. And, that’s where I found myself.

When God Says No

For more than nineteen years I made the same request to God. I repeatedly asked — well, more like whined “can I…?” And God’s answer was always the same: “No.”

I waited and waited for the answer to be “yes” and meet with my heart’s desire.

Young children rarely question their parent’s love when they don’t get what they want. Yet, I’ve found myself doubting God’s love for me and have seen His answer as a rejection of me.

I’ve chewed over whether, on one hand, I’ve lacked the faith to move mountains or, on the other hand, I’ve asked with the wrong motives. I’ve tied myself in knots in this way.

But, my prayer continued to be the same: “I want to move away from here. Please make it happen. I don’t want to live here anymore. I never really wanted to be here in the first place. I would be happier if we moved.”

We lived in a nice town with good schools, pleasant people, and an excellent church community. My unsettledness stemmed from it not being my home. I am a native of England, not New England.

Friends came and went. The town is full of residents who relocate from other parts of the world and then move on. But, our circumstances kept us firmly stuck. This added to my unsettledness. 

So, how do we move from an immature approach when the answer to our prayers is “no,” to more childlike trust in God?

We need to trust God’s plans and His timing is better than our own.

I eventually acknowledged, although reluctantly: “Your plans for me must be different from my own.” We have to move from thinking God is stalling on our requests.

We need to ask for His supernatural strength to carry us through the disappointment.

“If I am to stay here, provide me with the strength to do so,” I asked. My heart was not in those words, but God can change any heart. We need God’s strength to do the thing we do not want to do, even though we’d rather not have it.

We need to try and see the good in all circumstances.

There was much I could be grateful for in living in New England. I didn’t specifically admit that to God to start with, in case he says: “told you so.” But, being thankful is how God wants us to live.

We need to remain faithful whatever the answer.

I often think about Joseph, who seemed trapped in Egypt. Did he pray to return to his homeland? I’m sure he did. Yet, Joseph remained faithful to God. And, eventually, he understood God’s plan for his life. Perhaps the emphasis when we pray should not be on whether we have enough faith to get our prayers answered, but whether we are faithful whatever the answer?

We need to yield our hearts to Him and desire to do His will.

This is the hardest thing to do because it means giving up our own desires. I wrestled through this. Moving back across the pond seemed appealing on the surface, but underneath I was uncertain. If it meant moving out of what God wanted for me, then I didn’t want it either. When we let go and let God —surrender to him — He gives us what we desire anyway.

Eventually, our children went off to college, and my husband’s work circumstances changed. A “For Sale” sign went up outside our house. It took a while to sell and I wondered if I’d learned the lesson to yield. Or if the answer would still be “no.”

Where is God asking you to trust Him in the middle of a “no” answer?

UPDATE: Our house did eventually sell, and I got to move from New England. 

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When We Ask and God Says
  • It is so draining and difficult when God says no to something we hold so close. Clearly His plan involves your staying Rachel and I pray you see small glimpses of His purpose for you each day! Your willingness to share with others may be part of that purpose-keep following Him and sharing!

    • Oh yes, I’m glad he does want me to stay because I have some amazing and wonderful friends in New England who mean the world to me and who I want to stay connected to, and God has opened up some wonderful ministry opportunities for me so I can share with others. You’re right, Jill, even in the “no” I am seeing his purposes.

  • It’s so tough when God’s plan is different from ours and the answer is no to something we want so much. Even knowing his plan is for good it’s hard to accept when we can’t understand why. Praying that you know peace as you hand this over to him.

  • Rachel, We are so often like small children aren’t we? We want what we want when we want! I so see myself in your writing today. Thank you for sharing your struggle. It resonates within my soul. Cindy

  • “Then, I’ve chewed over whether I have asked with a lack of faith or with the wrong motives—that my request is selfish, or outside God’s plans. I’ve tied myself in knots in this way.” Yes! And taking a lesson from my kids, I don’t always give them what they ask for, even when they ask nicely. It’s because I can see the bigger picture. Thanks for sharing from the tough stuff!

  • I recently read about the promises of God being yes and we have to amen them. 1 Corinthians 1:20, I don’t think we are necessarily lacking faith or asking selfishly or even that is it a no, just, ” Not just yet. ” or ” I’m preparing you. ” I lived in Atlanta 35 yrs, I thought moving would be hard but it wasn’t and won’t be now should I move or travel, as long as he is with me. I hope that is something I can amen.

  • My biggest request is for my daughter to return to God and my other daughter to become stronger in the faith. I’m not convinced that she has returned from her spiritual wanderings, but If she has, she hasn’t let go of Satan’s lies about what scripture says about certain things being right or wrong. And she suffers from depression. I wouldn’t care sbout the depression if she’d just be sold out to God. And I worry that my oldest isn’t really saved because her fruits are not showing otherwise.
    Not to belittle anyone else’s unanswered prayers because whatever they are they are most important to them. But my unanswered prayers have eternal consequences and that is most upsetting.

  • Rachel, I definitely can feel what it’s like when your not getting the answer you want. Through the tears, pain, depression our son has placed upon us, it has definitely brought me closer to God and has brought our family closer. I’ve also felt God telling me to let go, and trust Him. I haven’t gotten what I have prayed for, but I MUST continue to pray, trust, and know that God is working this out in his time.

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