Have you ever prayed a prayer and got a “no” from God in response?
Prayers for healing, prayers for reconciliation in relationships, prayers for answers, prayers for clarity… they aren’t always met with the responses we hope for. We pray, we cry, we beg, we fast, we read Scripture, and we feel like we’re doing everything right, yet God still seems to say no to our requests.
Many times, when we feel like God isn’t hearing us or isn’t answering our prayers, we get mad at him. We feel bitter toward him. We might start to resent him or run from him, because we feel like he isn’t there and he just doesn’t get it.
But the thing is, Ann Swindell points out in her article “Fighting to Say ‘Yes’ When God Says ‘No’” for The Gospel Coalition, “when we’ve begged and pleaded with God, and he still doesn’t change our situation, we’re left with a choice: We can offend him or obey him.”
This is an important choice, and one we have to make often.
Let’s talk about the first option. Do we offend God by telling him we know better? Do we dare to tell him how we think he should be doing things, like we are the ones with the power and control? I can think of many times I prayed specifically to God, thinking I knew exactly how things should play out to lead to the life I wanted for myself. I thought I was being so honest and so genuine in these prayers, but looking back, I can see what I was really doing was grasping at control and trying to boss God around to do things my way. Yikes.
“While it’s good to be honest with God, there’s a distinct difference between heartfelt honesty and hostile honesty,” Swindell writes. “Heartfelt honesty comes to God on its knees, crying out with humility and trust. Hostile honesty comes to God pointing a finger. When our honesty turns hostile, we become bitter. We judge him and run from him. By doing so, we reject the very source of comfort we desperately need.”
It’s humbling to think about how many times I’ve done that very thing, and how often I’ve rejected the One who could truly give me what I needed in my hurt.
And now, the second option. Do we obey him even when it all feels like the opposite of what we’d hoped for? Do we humble ourselves before him, knowing he is sovereign always, even when we don’t understand? Do we trust in his goodness and faithfulness despite our challenging circumstances?
Swindell talks about how this choice, the obedience that feels so much harder in the short term, was what softened her heart toward God.
“The healing and softening continued as I obediently read the Word and spent time in prayer, she writes. “As I met with Christ, I couldn’t harden my heart against him. By reading the stories of men and women in the Bible who waited and trusted, I came to trust God’s sovereignty over my life, even when I didn’t understand it. And, as I poured out my heart to him in honest and humble prayer, I came to experience his comfort and love.”
God won’t always answer our prayers with the “yes” responses we hope for. He doesn’t work like we work, think like we think, or move like we expect. He is so much more than our minds and hearts can comprehend, and realizing his power and love for us will often blow us away and humble us. He wants to pour out his perfect love on us, he wants to comfort us, and he wants to move in our lives in a way that is for our good and his glory… but we have to trust that he knows best in all of it.
I remember hearing a pastor at a summer camp in my youth say that God answers prayers with “yes,” “no,” or “not yet.” When the answer we get is a “no,” we know we have a choice to make-- one that will lead us away from the heart of Christ, or closer to it if we humble ourselves to obey and follow him anyway. All we really need, more than any answer to our prayer, is Jesus himself. May we choose to follow him faithfully, when it’s easy and when it’s hard, when we’re loving life and when we’re stumbling through it, when he says “yes” and even
(especially) when he says “no.”
Have you had to make this choice between offense or obedience in your own prayer life recently? How have you seen God work in your own heart as a result?
Photo credit: Unsplash
Publication date: April 7, 2017
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com