It is not unusual for God to answer “no” concerning one of our prayer requests. Here are ways to continue in an honest, positive and productive prayer conversation with God after a “no” answer.
How to do this prayer practice:
1. Be aware that sometimes the answer is “no.”
I asked God time and time again to save my marriage. He said “no”. I asked God to provide a different job for me several times over the past two years. He said “no”. I asked God to let me serve on a church staff again. He said “no”.
As I write this entry for Prayer Igniters, It is 11:30pm and I am seated in a hospital room at my mother’s bedside. My mom is now 24 hours removed from open-heart, quintuple bypass surgery. We prayed that the doctors would be able to put stents in instead of having to go through bypass surgery. He said “no”.
One basic principle of Christian prayer is to understand that God hears and answers prayer. One of the answers that He will give to you is “no”.
2. Be comforted to know that even the giants of the faith received “no” answers to prayer.
The Apostle Paul had to hear “no” from God three times for the same prayer: “Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-9, HCSB)
3. Honestly tell God your disappointment and struggles, believing that He will carry you through until your situation improves.
Hearing God say “no” to your particular prayer is never easy. However, when God told Paul “no” He also said to Paul in verse 9 that His grace is sufficient. First comes the “no” answer, but right behind is God’s all-sufficient grace. When God says “no” accept the answer, but then wait for God’s grace to take its place in your life. Don’t run from God…run towards God.
4. Don’t get caught up trying to figure out why the answer was no.
Although God has a very good reason for saying “no” you may never know why. Sometimes when God answers “no” the answer is related to something or someone else. The prophet Samuel delivered some bad news to Eli concerning Eli’s sons. Eli’s response was this: “So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.” (1 Samuel 3:18, NIV84) This was devastating news to Eli, but he did not run from or blame God.
King David also experienced a dramatic “no” answer to prayer, yet immediately afterwards, he worshiped God. In 2 Samuel chapter 12 King David spent seven days in fasting and prayer prostrated on the ground begging God to heal his ill son. His servants were afraid to tell him when the child died after seeing how ardently he was praying that the child be healed. However, when David received the news of the child’s death the Bible says, “Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.” (2 Samuel 12:20) Do you see here that David went towards God and not away? David’s son died…instead of blaming God David decided to worship Him. This is the response of someone in a relationship with God. This is not the response of someone who practices a religion.
5. Hold onto the truth that a “no” answer doesn’t mean that God is rejecting you or your prayers.
To hear “no” from God is perceived by many people as rejection from God. God is not rejecting any of us when we pray to Him and decides that “no” is the best answer. In the Bible, each time God said “no” He had a better alternative. Sometimes when God answers “no” we will never know why. Not in this lifetime. Understand that this only means He is asking you to trust that His grace is sufficient. Paul heard God say “no” yet Paul still walked with God. King David heard God say “no”, yet he chose to worship the God who had placed him on the throne of Israel. Eli knew God on such an intimate level that he accepted the fact that God does what is good in His own eyes. God rejected none of these men. Instead, God used them to bring glory to His name. God does not reject you. He loves you. In fact, this is what He says about you: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV84)
That, my friend, is not rejection. That is pursuit and acceptance.
6. Turn the “no” answer into a positive prayer of trust.
When God provides a “no” answer to your prayer the first thing to do is to accept the answer. Every time God has said “no” to a particular prayer of mine I have found that I can only respond one way. I found the response given by Job to be the best response: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b, ESV) Job just found out that his children had died, the children he prayed for every day. He found out that his life was a wreck because he had lost everything. Yet, he praised God.
In these moments I have had to learn to say with Job “blessed be the name of the Lord.” It’s not easy, but as stated above I have found the sufficiency of God’s grace when I run to Him.
7. Pray out loud “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Make time to respond to God. It takes only a few seconds to respond to God as Job did…”blessed be the name of the Lord.” You ask: “Is it that easy to respond?” Yes, it really is. Say the words out loud no matter where you are. I have found that speaking out loud the words “Blessed be the name of the Lord” does two things. First, I hear myself saying the words and it brings me confidence. Second, I am reciting the words written in God’s holy Word. They are His words. I am speaking God’s Word out loud. I believe that by doing this I am proclaiming God’s words to anyone who hears me, including the Enemy who seeks to destroy me.
8. Believe that God will provide.
Since those times when God said “no” in answer to my prayers He has still provided all that I could ever need or want. He did provide me with a better marriage than my first one by providing someone who loves Him first. I still have my job and have found his grace to be enough to go to work every day and do my best. I’m not serving on a church staff, but I am ministering to people every day. My ministry has expanded to include writing for this website and serving on the board of a non-profit organization that serves orphan and Gypsy children in Romania. My mom is, according to the doctors and staff, doing well on her road to recovery. The bypass surgery has turned out to be the better alternative in helping my mom to live a long and healthy life.
When God has answered “no” to your prayer what has been your response? Do you understand that “no” does not mean rejection? Do you know how much God loves you?
God loves you so much that He gave His one and only son. Sometimes He says in loving kindness to our prayers a gentle “no”. When that happens I encourage you to stand with Job and say, “blessed be the name of the Lord.” Run to Him.
Copyright David E. Shelton 2011