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When God Says, "No"

To say that 2020 was a challenging year is a gross understatement! The uncertainty regarding the pandemic and our government’s draconian responses to it along with the media’s fearmongering were bad enough, but at the same time we were also experiencing the most negative presidential race in recent history which concluded with unexpected and dubious results. Many Christians were praying fervently that God would intervene and that our election would go the way we believed would produce more conservative and godly laws and a better direction for our country. Not only did God not intervene, but it seemed that every day something worse happened to push the country in the opposite direction so that finally all hope was lost for any affirmative answer to our prayers. What was happening? Obviously God should want conservative people to be in office making decisions much more in line with His Word. To pray as such was His will, wasn’t it? Why wasn’t He answering our prayers? Why does God sometimes say no to good prayers?

God’s Instructions about Prayer:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:7-11

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Matthew 21:22

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:13

If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:14

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. John 16:23

This is just a few of the many verses saying similar things about how God will answer our prayers. They seem to be saying that God will answer our prayers in the affirmative every time we pray. But obviously, that isn’t the case. Sometimes God answers our prayers very differently from the way we’ve asked them. Sometimes God even seems to ignore our prayers, or at least hear them but answer no. I’ve known people over the years who have had difficulties or tragedies in their lives where God didn’t answer their prayers the way they thought He should have answered and they lost faith or even renounced their belief in God as a result. I have to admit that it’s difficult to understand God when things look very bleak and He seems to be “sleeping in a boat” somewhere, or just plain ignoring us. We don’t have to let our lack of understanding and knowledge cause us to lose faith, however. There is always an explanation as to why God seems to ignore our pleas. Really, it’s enough to say that God’s ways are so much higher than our ways and the things He’s accomplishing are so far beyond our little bubble that we have no basis to question Him. But for the sake of trying to understand and build our faith in a loving God, let’s look at some times when God said no in the Bible. Perhaps we may see that God’s no could actually be a yes to something better. He is our Heavenly Father, and just as our own Daddy’s never said yes 100% of the time, God should not be expected to do so either.

A good illustration of a loving father who protects his children from things they’re not ready to know yet is a story I heard about Corrie Ten Boom as a child. She had been present when someone was using some salty language and talking about an adult topic with her father. Later, while riding on a train across town with her Dad who was a watch maker and repairman, she asked him about the conversation. Her Dad remained silent, however, and didn’t give her an answer. When the train stopped, he asked Corrie to please carry his watchmaker supply bag, which was very large and heavy with all kinds of tools and clock parts. She tried to pick it up but was unable to even budge it. “I can’t carry it, Daddy,” she said. “That’s right,” he replied, “and you also aren’t yet ready to carry the answer to the question you asked a while ago. Trust me, that when you are ready to hear and understand what was talked about, I will tell you. But until then, allow me to carry those things for which you aren’t ready to hear.” God does this same thing for us. Jesus even told His disciples this in John 16:12 when He was talking to them just before His crucifixion. He said to them, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” God knows what we can bear, and as a loving Father, He will not overburden us with more than we can stand.

Biblical Examples of Unanswered Prayers

  • Joseph’s entire life was filled with difficulty that seemed random and unfair. He was sold into slavery, thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and then completely forgotten for two full years by the cupbearer whose dream he had interpreted. (Genesis 40:13-15, 41:1) All that happened to Joseph was a foreshadow of the things that would also be accomplished by Jesus. Poor Joseph had to suffer in order for us to learn about the coming Messiah. He was a type of Christ. In addition, if he had been freed from prison before Pharaoh had his dream, he would have never been put in charge of saving the world from starvation, and saving the line of the Messiah so that Jesus could eventually be born. By being raised to his high position, he became a type of Christ who will one day rule the world during His Millennial Reign. Joseph had to suffer for our benefit! This was the case in the lives of so many Old Testament prophets as well. Sometimes God is using us to benefit those who will follow after us. We may be called upon to live our lives for the greater good of others.

  • Moses on Mount Pisgah begged God to allow him to enter the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 3:25-28) Moses symbolizes the Law. If God had allowed Moses to take the children of Israel into the Promised Land then we would get the wrong impression that keeping the Old Testament Law would bring us into God’s Kingdom. In reality, it would be another Man named Joshua – the exact same name as Jesus – who would bring God’s people into the Promised Land. The whole history of the Exodus and inheriting the Promised Land is a picture of how the Blood of the Lamb would redeem us from our firstborn state so we could be born again by faith and be reconciled to God and become part of His chosen people. God was doing something much bigger, much grander, than Moses even imagined. But Moses did get to enter the Promised Land after his death at the Transfiguration of Jesus! He wasn’t punished forever!

  • Another example is the man set free from demon possession who asked to go with Jesus, but was refused in Luke 8:38-39. This man was a gentile and it was only after the Jews had rejected and killed Jesus that the Gospel was sent to the Gentiles. The people in Gadara needed the witness of this man so that they would be ready to accept the Gospel when it went out after the resurrection of Jesus. Asking to go with Jesus was a very good request, but by his staying and spreading the news of his healing by this Jewish prophet, Jesus, he was able to prepare an entire city to receive the Gospel and be saved.

  • There was the time when the disciples were caught in a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat. So many times, we feel as if God is sleeping, or ignoring our problems and just allowing us to suffer needlessly. In fact, the opposite is true. God is allowing the difficulty to help us to grow in our faith. When we come out on the other side, we will be amazed at His miraculous deliverance just at the disciples were amazed at Jesus being able to speak to nature and command it to do His bidding. If we knew the power of God and what awaits us in the future, we would face every trial with an inner smile and complete confidence that everything will be alright.

  • Jesus’ best friends besides the three inner circle disciples were Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. When Lazarus became sick, Jesus didn’t go to him and heal him, but allowed him to die instead. I can only imagine the confusion and feelings of betrayal that Mary and Martha experienced. Jesus had healed everyone else that had come to Him, but He refused to heal his own close friend? It made no sense! Why did He do it? So that He could raise Him from the dead! And guess what! Jesus is going to raise us all from the dead one day! He raises us from spiritual death and separation from God when He saves us, and He will either change our bodies or raise us out of the grave one day when He returns! How can we question His love for us? Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

  • What about the example of Jesus, Himself, when He prayed for God to remove the cup from Him in the garden? Jesus was so deeply disturbed by what was facing Him that He sweat great drops of blood. Yet, God refused His request. Why? Because there was absolutely no other way to save us from our sins except by the death of Jesus on the Cross. If there was any other way, Jesus could have been spared that agony. God’s “no” answer to Jesus’ prayer is proof positive that only the blood of Jesus can save us from our sins.

  • The last example I’d like to look at is Paul. When Paul had set his mind on going to Jerusalem, a prophet named Agabus told him that the Holy Spirit had said that Paul would be bound and delivered into the hands of the gentiles if he went to Jerusalem. The people present when Agabus gave Paul this prophecy cried and begged Paul not to go. But he answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When Paul refused to listen to their pleas, they stopped begging him and said, “The will of the Lord be done.” In our modern thought, and I might add, our soft and squishy American faith, we pray to avoid any kind of uncomfortable persecution or suffering for Christ. Obviously, according to the television preachers, God always desires our prosperity. He wants us to always be healthy, wealthy, and comfortable according to the prosperity gospel that they promulgate. We’ve always looked with pity to those other people in those other countries who have to go underground to worship. But what if suffering is a good thing? What if by suffering we further the cause of Christ? What if by suffering we receive a greater reward? This is a whole lesson unto itself, but from this passage in Acts we see that God doesn’t always save people from suffering. He miraculously saved Paul from stoning, prison, beatings, and shipwreck, but there came a time when He allowed Paul to suffer and die for the Gospel. After Paul had written all the books we needed for our own growth and understanding of the Gospel, God took Paul home to be with Him. And so it will be with us. When God is finished with us and our job here is complete, He will lovingly remove us from this world and take us to be with Him forever in an existence we can only imagine.

Has God been good to you? Has He ever answered prayers for you? When He answers our prayer to be forgiven and to save us from our sins, He has answered the most important prayer we could ever pray. If He never answered another prayer or did another thing for us, He would still be a good, good Father who has given us more than we deserve! We know, however, that He is eager to do good things for us and answer our prayers. He is eager to help us grow and give us His Holy Spirit and wisdom and understanding of His Word. We have the promise that He works all things for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose. And we know, finally, that whether God answers us in the way we want or answers us with a no, He will give us exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we could ever ask or think. He is worthy of our trust and deserves all of our praise, worship, and adoration! Amen!

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Welcome to Faith Over Fifty. As a young wife and mother it seemed pretty clear that God's will for my life was to love God, love my husband and raise my children to know and love Jesus. Life revolved around balancing my career as a teacher with being a homemaker. Now that I am over fifty, my children are grown, and retirement is looming ever closer, the big question becomes what does God want from me during this phase of life? How can I continue to impact the next generation? What does faith over fifty really look like? I hope you will join me on my quest to seek out God's will for my life as I strive to live for Him and finish the race well.


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