Prayer: a better way: How to respond when God says no.
There’s no such thing as an unanswered prayer. God answers every prayer with “Yes,” “Wait,” or “No.” The no response is always the most difficult one to receive and can be flat-out heartbreaking. In this message, we learn three truths to consider when God says no. God’s answer is His way of protecting you, helping you grow spiritually, and teaching you His perspective, plan, and purpose for your life.
Bottom-line: How do you respond when God says “no”?
Something To Talk About:
- Feel with God the loss of what you want: Was Jesus’ crucifixion the most agonizing moment of His life or maybe, just maybe it was what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus and the other disciples went to Gethsemane. Jesus needed to pray, to pour out His heart to God, and He took three of the disciples to stay close to Him. Jesus knew that crucifixion lay ahead. He would suffer and die a horrible death. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden is remarkable for its straightforward honesty. “…My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me…. (v. 39). When Jesus prays the prayer the second time He seems to know the answer is no. The words are slightly different, but the intent stays the same. He wanted nothing other than what the Father wanted for Him. The disciples persistently let Jesus down. Jesus told them to keep watch with Him (v. 38). After His first time of prayer, Jesus returned to them, found them sleeping, and urged them again to watch and pray (v. 41). A short time later He came back to them again and found them sleeping (v. 43). And when His prayer was finished and He rejoined them, it was no different. “Are you still sleeping and resting?” He asked them (v. 45). Their timing was not good. One of the greatest struggles of all human history was happening only a few paces away, but these men curled up and went to sleep. What Jesus wanted was not difficult to understand and not impossible to do. But they let Him down. We are no different.
- Want to want what God wants: It takes some time to realize that God does want to give us the desires of our heart, but not until our heart has changed to reflect His desires. His promises are certain and we can delight in a future with Him. Some people believe that praying is hard. They don’t know how to start, how to sit, or maybe stand. What do they say? What do they ask? Should they go to church to pray, or can they pray while driving? The hardest thing about prayer is remembering to ask God what He wants us to pray for: when it comes to our relationship with God, our wants or desires are to be subject to the will of God. As Christians, we are to want what God wants. God is in control. God is Provider. But do you also believe His provision for you is good? God’s plan for you might not be what you would choose but do you believe it is good? This is a good time to have a “courageously real” conversation with your Father. Spend a few moments on your own talking to Him about the parts of His provision that don’t feel good right now. If you have the faith to believe that He is good in spite of all circumstances, tell Him that. Ask Him for help to want what He wants and the peace to accept His answer.
- Do what God wants: That is the ageless question isn’t it? The New Testament gives us clear instructions and helpful guidance when we are wondering what does God want us to do? It tells us about sharing the good news of salvation and making disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:18–20; 1 Peter 3:15). We are to live honorable lives (1 Peter 2:12–17). Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” First Timothy 2:1–2 tells us to pray for all people, including our leaders. The New Testament is filled with practical instructions regarding specific things God wants us to do. It also reminds us that by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, we become children of God. Because of our identity in Christ—who we are—we act in specific ways. We don’t do things in order to gain God’s favor or pleasure; rather, we do what He wants us to do because we know Him and love Him. What does God want you to do? In your day-to-day living, talk to God regularly, and get to know Him more and more by reading the Bible and listening to what He is saying to you. Read God’s Word and obey it, relying on His Holy Spirit to help you.
- Read Jeremiah 33:3. What does this verse tell us about God’s heart for prayer?
- Describe a time you said “no” to a friend or family member’s request. Was it for his or her own good? Explain.
- Do you believe God’s plan is forced on you or do you have a choice? Explain either way.
- Read 1 Peter 1:7 and 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 aloud in your group. Discuss a time when you received a “no” reply from God. How did it make you feel? How did it affect your relationship with Him?
- We need to trust the no answer from God. Discuss how this response can greatly strengthen your faith. Also, discuss the potential for how receiving a no answer can weaken your faith.
- Read Hebrews 4:13: How can this verse help explain why God may have said “Wait,” “Grow,” or “No” to one of your prayers? “
- Think of a time when you prayed for something that God did not give you. Then read Proverbs 2:8 and discuss in your group why it was better this way or how something else He gave you instead far outweighed what you asked for.
- How good are we at accepting God’s decision?
Take one thing home with you:
The goal is to accept God’s decision, even if the answer is no. It is one thing to pray for God’s will to be done in your life, but it is quite another to accept His will. Many of us talk a good game about wanting His will for our lives, but once His answer is “no” fear takes over.
If we trust God when He says yes, we should also trust Him when He says no. If you wonder where to draw the line between praying persistently and accepting that God said no, I am afraid we don’t have an answer for you. There is no blueprint no formula that fits every situation. If you are in such a position, I can only advise you to pray and seek His will and then accept the answer, even if the answer is no.