When God says "No"
There is some truth in this. A "NO" or a "WAIT" answer can teach us much as Christians -- things like surrender and patience.
Somewhere I read another person's suggestion of 4 different kinds of answers:
If the request is wrong, God says "NO"
There may be some who would argue that a "NO" answer is not really an answer to the prayer. They reason, if a person like Jerry Sittser prays for protection, and receives none, then what he requested did not come to pass.
WHEN WE HEAR A TESTIMONY OF HOW GOD ANSWERED PRAYER, IS THE PERSON TALKING ABOUT RECEIVING A "YES" ANSWER, OR A "NO" OR "WAIT"??
Almost always it is referring to a 'yes' answer. When God answered someone's prayer for healing, it was that the illness was removed. That's a 'yes' answer.
IN A PRAYER OF PETITION, INTERCESSION OR CONFESSION, DO YOU EVER PRAY HOPING FOR A "NO" ANSWER?
I do not believe that petitioning prayer was ever designated to draw a blank. When most of us talk about God answering our prayers, we, for the most part, are talking about a "yes" answer. That is the common-sense meaning. It means that God gave us what we asked for. And this is the meaning the Bible normally uses.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.To paraphrase - "all the promises of God find their YES in Christ."
When Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray, don't you think He meant to pray for a "yes" answer? I believe the Bible verse, "Ask and ye shall receive" assumes a positive answer. When the apostle Paul urged the congregations in Philippi, Ephesus, and Colossae to pray that he would be given boldness to preach the Gospel, he expected them to pray for a "yes" answer - and he expected a "yes" answer.
In an earlier lesson during this series, we took note that prayers can be broken down into six categories. Let's review the list.
1. Petitions …for the supply of our needs.
WHICH OF THE FORMS OF PRAYER REQUIRE AN ANSWER?
Let me show you the prayer list we have for our Thursday night prayer meeting in our home. Right now it has 57 different prayer requests on it. Some have been there for awhile -- others brand new. We list these under a number of categories. On the back side is a continuation of a list of answered prayers. The list is now up to 354 answered prayers. We praise God for all of these and continue to thank Him in advance for what He will do with the remaining.
The very essence of prayer carries with it the expectation that God will answer prayer. Most, if not all, of us agree that God is a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God.
In the Bible, the promises relative to prayer number in the hundreds.
o "Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22) (NIV).
I think it is obvious that God wants us to come to him in prayer. He takes great delight when His children pray. Not only is He delighted, He expects us to do so. And when we come with a request, we are to expect him to answer our prayers.
We should remind ourselves that everything Jesus accomplished during His earthly ministry was accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer. Jesus said, in John 11:42, "I know that you always hear me." We know that one of the keys to His divine, power-packed relationship was the consistency of the prayer life of Jesus Christ. We read in the Gospels alone of at least 14 times when Jesus was busy praying. If Jesus needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray.
His parting instruction to His disciples was that they were to tarry (wait prayerfully) in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. The answer to those prayers was the outpouring of the power of God - the Holy Spirit. The testimony of the early church was that they were people of prayer and people of power.
WHY DOES GOD SOMETIMES SAY "WAIT?"
For lots of people, a "wait" answer to prayer is worse than a "no." We are an instant-oriented society. Listen to this poem.
WHEN GOD SAYS WAIT
We wait at the check-out, we wait at DMV
I once heard a woman talking about her grandparents, who lived on a farm in Vermont. She said that her grandma was a "ball of fire." while grandpa was slow and deliberate. One night they were awakened by a commotion in the chicken house. Grandma sprang out of bed, ran to the chicken house and found the cause of the racket. It was a large black snake. Having nothing to catch it with, she clamped her foot down on its head. And there she stood until Grandpa finally arrived a good 15 minutes later. He was fully dressed and even his pocket watch was in place. "Well," he said to his disheveled and enraged wife, "If I'd known you had him, I wouldn't have hurried so."
There are reasons for a "wait" answer from God.
1. Sometimes God answers "wait" so that we will refocus totally upon Him.
Matthew 6:33 NKJV
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
God desires for us to want Him more than we want any person, position or object. He wants us to trust Him explicitly and fully. He desires for us to see Him as the source of our supply, and to know that a relationship with Him is far more valuable than any answer to prayer.
2. Sometimes God answers "wait" so that our attitude will be adjusted and more accurately reflect the attitude of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:5 KJV
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus
God may need for us to have a different attitude towards Him and things, so that we will know how best to use the blessing He is about to give to us. In some cases, He wants us to mature in some way, so we can handle the answer He will give.
A small child wants a pocket knife, but a wise parent knows that a pocket knife is not an appropriate gift for a young child. The parent waits until the child is older and can use a pocket knife without injuring himself. Likewise, God may delay His answer to our prayer until we are better prepared to accept it.
On one occasion, Christ told the disciples to "wait" so that they would grow. I mentioned this earlier in a different context, but I want to emphasize it again.
Luke 24:49 NKJV
49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry (WAIT) in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."
If the disciples are going to reflect more accurately the attitude of Jesus Himself, He knew they could only do that with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we are going to accomplish all God wants us to, then we need to spend time waiting on the Lord. To succeed, we cannot do his calling in our own strength.
3. Sometimes God answers "wait" because He is preparing for an even greater blessing than the one for which we asked.
This certainly was true in the case of Lazarus. Jesus knew that Lazarus was ill, and He could have gone to him to heal him before he died. Instead, Jesus waited until Lazarus had died so that He might raise him from the dead as a definite sign of His authority over death.
In Revelation 6:10, (NIV) a group of martyrs from the Tribulation time ask God, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"
God tells them to wait. Something greater is in store when their prayer will be answered.
Yes, when we receive a "wait" answer from God, it can be difficult. God doesn't always tell you that it is a wait answer so you and I might be prone to think it is a "no" answer. You may wonder if God heard your prayer, or if He really cares. But just because He remains silent does not mean He's forgotten you. He still is at work, and He wants us to "be still and know that I am God." God does hear you. He loves you. And He is working to provide what is best for you.
So, during a wait period, ask God what it is that He wants to teach you. And don't be surprised if the lesson is about something unrelated to the issue you are praying about. And it might be some time before you see how God answers you.
God's delays are meant to develop us, not to discourage us. We are at times prone to assume the worst. We can waste a lot of time and a lot of joy assuming the worst. We can sum it up with a simple creed that I try to live by:
God is in control
Psalms 27:14 NKJV
14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!Waiting creates time to build our trust in the Lord.
Psalms 40:1 NKJV
I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry.
Not only do we have a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God, but His divine attributes are all directly linked to His power and plan to answer prayer. Let's look at God's résumé.
1. God is a living God.
As the eternally existent One, He asks us to call upon Him. The fact that He lives gives us great courage to call upon Him. And the fact that He answers prayer reminds us that He is alive.
2. God is omniscient
Since He knows everything, then His answers to prayers are always exactly right. Additionally, His perfect understanding means that He is never confused by what we ask Him.
3. God is omnipotent
Because we cannot exhaust His power, we can take literally His command to pray without ceasing. God's miraculous answers to prayer also reveal that He is not limited by His own creation. His answers to prayer reveal that He continually controls al things.
4. God is holy
We do not manipulate God into answering prayer, nor does He violate His own perfection by manipulating us. His answers are right - His answers are just.
5. God is love
His unconditional love moves Him to respond to the plea of even the most unlovely of His creation. As I stated a moment ago, He doesn't respond because we coerced Him to answer our prayer. He responds because He loves us. His love governs His response so that we receive what we need, not necessarily what we want.
Do you fully understand this résumé of God.
o He is a living God. Only a living God can hear our prayers.
Let me expand upon the omnipotence part of God's résumé. Our God is able to do whatever is needed by us.
o He is able to guard us while we are battling temptation.
He is able! You see,...
o His names,
Our God is very much alive and He can do anything.
o There is no problems He cannot solve.
One additional part of God's résumé is found in the Psalms 81:10 NKJV
10 I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
It sounds almost like is looking for the job of answering prayer. In this verse, all kinds of thoughts would come to the Israelites. Jesus is saying:
a. I brought you out of Egypt
That's the kind of God I am. If you want any big things done, just come to me. God is just as willing now as he was then. He is still the same. He hasn't changed.
We are to pray expecting a "yes" answer. That is the only way that makes sense. In no way has God mapped out prayer as a dead-end street. But what happens when our prayers are not answered exactly as we had expected? Or what if it takes a little longer than we think it should?
ARE THERE CASES IN THE BIBLE, WHERE A PERSON DID NOT RECEIVE WHAT THEY ASKED FROM GOD?
Actually, I think we will find a number of them.
1. King Saul
King Saul prayed for help and guidance. But Saul had removed himself so far from God that He no longer answered Saul's prayers. Saul then sought an answer through a medium (1 Sam 28:6-7).
2. King David
David prayed for the life of his son. The son died because of David's sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:13-23). The lesson for us - sin has its consequences.
Elijah prayed that he might die (1 Kings 19:4). God had much more work for Elijah to do, so it was not in God's will for Elijah to die at that time.
I have always looked at this request of Elijah with some amusement. Here was a guy who, a few days earlier, had witnessed a great answer to his prayers, with fire coming down out of heaven, consuming his sacrifice in a showdown with the 400 prophets of Baal. Now he was running from Jezebel, and would rather have God kill him right then and there, rather than be confronted by this wicked queen. And yet, his prayer was never answer - not here, or ever. Elijah never saw death, but was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire by a whirlwind.
Jonah also prayed that God would take his life. He felt it would be better to die than to live. God does not answer this type of prayer for there is a time to die and we must wait for God's timing not ours. Also, Jonah had yet to accomplish the work God sent him to do (Jonah 4:3).
5. King Zedekiah
King Zedekiah prayed for help in defeating Nebuchadnezzar. God answered that He would not help because of the many sins of Israel (Jeremiah 21:2).
6. The disciples James and John
James and John, along with their mother, requested the highest rank in the kingdom Jesus was to establish. Christ actually asks them what they wanted Him to do for them. Their request - for one to sit on the right and the other on the left. The answer of Jesus was that this position was not His to give. And then Jesus goes on to teach them how those who would be first were to be servants of one another before greatness would be given them (Mark 10:34-40).
7. The Apostle Paul
Paul prayed that his "thorn in the flesh" be removed. In fact, he prayed three times for it to be removed. Paul's thorn was not removed. The reason, so that Christ would be glorified, not Paul. It would keep him from becoming to proud. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul did not receive what he requested, but rather, God says to him, "my grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
In Exodus 33:11, Moses is referred to as a friend of God -- one whom the Lord spoke with "face to face." And yet, although Moses was one of the Greatest Old Testament servants of God, even he heard an ear-splitting "No!" when he asked God to reconsider the question of his entrance into the Promised Land. To paraphrase, God said "don't talk to me about it another time - case closed."
Daniel was given some incredible visions of what will happen in the end times. At the end of the book he wrote, Daniel says "Although I heard, I did not understand." (Daniel 12:8) So Daniel asks the Lord what the meaning of all that was given to him. In Verse 9, Daniel is told that it is not for him to know and understand. His writings were to be closed up until the end times. Daniel did not receive what He asked for.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, with the cross looming over Him, Jesus prayed, "May this cup be taken from me." He actually makes that request twice. As Luther put it, "God struggles with God." As He lay prostrate on the ground, sweat falling from him like drops of blood, his prayers took on an uncharacteristic tone of pleading. But, Jesus goes on to say, "Your will be done." Jesus was not saved from death, as He had requested.
This story has great hope for me and you. Submitting to the will of God is not always easy for me. In fact, it is sometimes downright difficult. Knowing that Jesus could go on after his prayer was answered with a "no," gives me some comfort. And, what's more, my salvation is a result of God saying "no" to His Son. But it is also the result of Christ submitting to the will of the Father.
When prayer seems more like struggle with God than a relationship with Him, when I find myself repeating the same requests over and over and even wonder, "Is anyone really listening?" I take comfort in remembering that Jesus, too, had unanswered prayers.
In each of these 10 examples where the person did not receive what they requested, someone might say, "but they still received an answer. They all receive a "NO" answer."
ut, when you are in a crisis like each of these, a "no" answer raises other questions. And while some will learn later that a "wait" or "no" answer turned out to be a great blessing, there are many times when God never tells us why we received a "no." And for some of us, that might seem to be confusing. Some are so sure they are praying in the perfect will of God, and yet their request is turned down, or they are told to wait, although they may not learn which it is - a no or wait - for some time.
We will learn in a later lesson what our reaction should be towards God when we receive a "wait" or "no" answer.
The night was dark and foggy. A man walked in the darkness from his house to the cobble-stone street His step determined and relentless, but his face - had anyone been able to see it in the dark - was tear-stained and weary. As he reached the street, he peered both ways, looking for the tell-take lantern of a horse-drawn, London cab. The man muttered: "Nothing! Am I too late? But no! I must end all tonight! And the river it must be!" Then, in the distance, he espied a hazy light, slowly enlarging. Almost whispering, the man said bitterly: "God, you provided me no solace, but here you provide the cab to take me to my death!"
"Where to?" asked the cabbie, when he stopped. "London Bridge," the man replied, curtly. "A cold night it is, sir -- what sort of business have you at the Bridge at this hour?" But the man said nothing. The cabbie ended his attempt at conversation, and set off toward that well-known destination. But the fog became thicker and thicker, so that the cabbie could not see even his horse's nose. What should have been a 20 minute ride lasted an hour, and still there was no sign of the river or the 600 year-old bridge. The cabbie peered into the fog, desperately looking for some familiar sign.
Suddenly, the fog lifted. The passenger, startled from his morose stare, looked to his right and saw, to his amazement, his own home. The cab, lost in the fog, had circled back to the very place he began the journey. "My God! You have answered me!" the passenger cried out. Later that night, by his own hearth, this man, one of the greatest of England's 18th century poets, meditated on Psalm 77. Let us read it now:
1. I cry aloud to God, I cry out to God to hear me.
That same night, William Cowper penned this great poem, which we sang earlier today, more than two centuries later:
God moves in a mysterious ways
|Questions, comments & suggestions to John Hoole||
Last Updated: Thursday September 08 2011