The practice of prayer is so fundamental to the overall spiritual health of the Christian that Paul wrote by inspiration, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). To Timothy Paul wrote, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;” (1 Timothy 2:8). But as fundamental as prayer is there are a lot of misconceptions about how prayer works.
Prayer is the medium through which we communicate our thanks, requests, and cares to God. God communicates to use through his Word and His providence. A big misconception is that God answers prayers in the affirmative or not at all. Often when we get what we want we respond thankfully by saying that God has answered our prayers. But the truth is that God answers every prayer. Sometimes God says, “Yes,” and sometimes He responds, “Not right now.” And there are also times when God says, “No.”
God Told David, “No.” After the birth of David’s son, which had been conceived in sin with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan told the king that because of his sin the child would die. David responded by pleading with God for the child’s life. He “fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground” (2 Samuel 12:16). But God said, “No.”
God Told Paul, “No.” The great evangelist, missionary, and apostle was afflicted with “a thorn in the flesh…a messenger of Satan to buffet” him, that he may not “be exalted above measure.” Paul said, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.” But God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul reacted by saying, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). God said, “No.”
God Told Jesus, “No.” In the Garden of Gethsemane as the Lord prepared for the cross that lay before Him Jesus pleaded, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…” (Matthew 26:39). The text tells us that three times he prayed this same prayer, but each time he concluded, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” And God said, “No.”
God says no to us when we consider sin over righteousness. God says no to us when our wish is not in accordance to his will. God says no to us when what we want is not in our best interest. The most tragic response will be when God says no to those who desire to enter his eternal home after death that have not been obedient and faithful.
The thing is; we often times think that we know what is best for us, but in reality, we are not that smart. Isaiah prophesied the words of God saying, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). And Jeremiah is recorded as saying, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Many years ago, during a particular low point in my life, I was feeling lost, discouraged and hopeless. My life was misdirected and in a state of turmoil. I recall one particular evening begging God to give me some very clear and specific blessings; my hearts desires that I knew would bring me peace and good fortune. Today I am blessed beyond measure even though I did not get even one thing I asked for that dark, bleak night so long ago. All because God said, “No.”
Place your trust and faith in God. Do His will and let Him guide your life with His Word. Leave your cares and desires with Him. Be obedient; be faithful!