Regarding prayer, there are a few verses in the Bible that confuse many Christians and have even caused some to lose their faith.
They are the verses that say “Ask and you shall receive.”
Matthew 7:7 English Standard Version
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Mark 11:24 English Standard Version
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received[a] it, and it will be yours.
It is important at this point to say unequivocally that prayer is our most important and powerful connection with God and it is vital to our Christian walk and growth.
God does answer our prayers.
However, just as earthly parents answer their children’s requests, He answers in one of three ways;
- Not Now
Many have left the Christian faith because they prayed for something and God did not grant their request.
In fact, I know of a person who was told that their mother passed away because her faith was not strong enough and that is why God did not answer her prayers. Which is absolute hogwash.
God says yes to many prayers. In these instances, we see God’s handiwork; sometimes immediately.
God says not now, to many prayers. Sometimes it is simply not the right time for our prayer request to be answered and God simply says to wait. He wants our faith and trust to grow.
Finally, God also says no, because the request is not in His will.
When we pray for something that is not in God’s will for our life, He obviously cannot grant it. The following scripture says God hears our prayers if they are according to His will.
If our prayer is outside of His will for us, He does not hear us and the answer is obviously no.
1 John 5:14-15 English Standard Version
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
All of us love to have our prayers answered either in the present or after a while.
However, God will say no to us from time to time. Not because He doesn’t love us and want the best for us, but because what we are praying for is not in His will.
If I pray for a million dollars, what is the likely answer? It is going to be “no”, for reasons that are good for me.
If I pray to win the lottery, what is the likely answer? It is going to be “no” again for reasons that are best for me.
If I pray to ace my trigonometry class without putting in any effort, what is the likely answer? It is going to be “no”, as God expects us to do our part.
Sometimes we want a trial or valley to be removed, so we pray that God will help us get beyond it.
However, God may have other plans. He wants to help us grow in faith and trust. He wants us to see that He is in control and is teaching us a valuable lesson through the trial. He may want to teach us total dependence or total surrender to Him.
The focal point of this lesson is that God is in control and when he says no to a prayer request, it is because it is not in His will. He has His reasons and He knows what is best for us.
It might only be temporarily out of His will, as he wants us to experience and learn something before granting our prayer request.
However, it might be permanently out of His will and the prayer request will never be granted.
Paul's Thorn In The Flesh
Think about the Apostle Paul who taught us much about prayer. Paul is called by some the chief of the apostles as he was chief in prayer.
- Paul prayed for each Church and all of the members
- Paul prayed for wisdom and knowledge
- Paul prayed for hope
- Paul prayed for peace and unity in the Church
- Paul prayed for God’s strength and spiritual power
Paul taught us to pray without ceasing and he believed prayer to be powerful, effective and necessary in the Christian life.
Yet, we will see in the following verses, where God couldn’t say yes to one of his prayers.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 English Standard Version
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul had an affliction or what he referred to as a “thorn in the flesh.”
Most theologians believe it was poor eyesight that resulted from his experience on the road to Damascus.
In any event, it was such a problem for Paul that he prayed to God three times for it to be removed from him.
God said no.
Think about this. God did not say yes to the Apostle Paul’s prayer request, but told him that “His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness.”
Then, think about Paul’s reaction.
Paul didn’t lose faith or trust in God. Paul didn’t cease praying. Paul didn’t devalue the power of prayer.
No, Paul knew that God said no to this request for his own good, realizing that it was for the purpose of keeping him humble.
We may not be able to see His purpose initially, but when God says no to a prayer request, it is not in His will and He is doing what is best for us.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and we learn many lessons when God doesn’t say yes, especially never forgetting that His grace is sufficient in all ways.
Always remember that our Heavenly Father wants what is best for us and that requires saying no at times.
When God says "yes", it is best for you and when He says "no", it is best for you.