It’s been said that God’s answer to prayer comes in three ways: yes, no, and not yet. When God says yes, we are relieved and thankful. Sometimes God says not yet, and we wait on His timing; always hopeful. When He says no, however, we can feel frustrated and confused.
The truth is, God only wants to give us good things. James 1:17 reminds us:
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.“
His good gifts are known for their perfection. He would bestow nothing on us that would lead us to harm or that wasn’t in our best interest.
When God Said No
There are reasons God says no and there are plenty of examples of God saying no in the Bible. Here are 3:
God Says No to King David
Near the end of his life, David spoke to all the leaders of Israel about his plans for building a temple for God.
“I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’” 1 Chronicles 28:2-3.
David had drawn up plans and gathered stone, iron, bronze, gold, and cedar logs in large quantities in preparation. It was the desire of his heart to build the temple for the glory of God.
God Says No to Paul
The apostle Paul suffered from an unknown malady he described as “a thorn in my side.”
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” 2 Corinthians 12:8.
Even though Paul pleaded with the Lord in earnest and heartfelt prayers, God did not remove it. This thorn must have been painful and frustrating for him.
God Says No to Jesus
Jesus, overwhelmed with sorrow, asks His Father three times to spare Him from the physical and spiritual torture to come.
“My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Matthew 26:39a.
Jesus knew what was ahead, and He knew the “why.” That didn’t make His struggle any easier.
Each of these examples were honorable and well-meaning requests. David’s heart wanted to honor God with a permanent place for Him to inhabit, not a moveable tent.
Paul was in pain, which made doing God’s work more difficult.
Jesus was in extreme agony as He contemplated what was before Him, to the point of death. His sweat was like drops of blood.
Reasons Why God Says No
God didn’t say no because their requests weren’t good, reasonable, or well-intentioned. He is always in control, and sometimes it takes a “no” to show God’s glory and power in your situation.
●God said no to David because He wanted His temple built by a man of peace and rest, not a warrior. He chose David’s son, Solomon, instead.
●In Paul’s case, the thorn kept him from being conceited due to all the visions and revelations he received from God.
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh.” 2 Corinthians 12:7.
God promises Paul he would always have His grace to overcome his affliction. If we let it, God’s divine power and strength can be magnified when we are weak. God can use illnesses to carry out His purposes.
●God said no to Jesus because there was only one path to our salvation, and it was through His Son.
In each case, God’s no didn’t come from a place of rejection or spite. That is not His nature!
Sometimes we want to argue with God’s no. But nothing can even compare to God’s wisdom. Do any of us know the mind of God?
God’s heart is pure and holy. Our loving Father says no because He knows us intimately and always has our best interest in mind.
His knowledge, wisdom, and thoughts are higher than the heavens are above the earth. (Isaiah 55:8-9) We can trust in His plans and purposes for our lives.
What to Do When God Says No
When we get a no from God and can’t understand why, it can be earth-shattering.
Receiving a “no” when we ask God for healing for family members, relief from financial or relationship issues, or that perfect new job can leave us reeling.
So, let’s look back on our three examples again to see how they handled God’s no.
●David asked God to give him the desire of his heart- to build His temple. God didn’t say no to judge David or as a punishment. In fact, God told David it was a good idea.
“Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart.” 2 Chronicles 6:8.
But God wanted to use someone else, so He redirected David’s plan to his son, which David graciously accepts.
●When God gave Paul His reasoning and promise of His power, Paul boasts even more about his weakness.
He relied on God more than ever to keep him humble and strengthen him to do the good works God had planned.
Paul accepted God’s no because he accepted God’s word and reasoning as sovereign and learned to depend on Him even more.
●When Jesus prayed to His Father, He made an important distinction:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42.
He was asking in all honesty what He desired, but also in surrender to His Father’s will, not His own.
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Praying in God’s Will
We can take anything to our loving God in prayer; no prayer request is too small. He wants us to be honest and open, laying out all our worries, desires, and frustrations.
If you can text it to your friends or family, you can communicate it with God through prayer!
But there may be times when we pray from a wrong motivation or a selfish desire. We can easily be deceived. What is on our agenda is not always on God’s.
“People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.” Proverbs 16:2 NLT.
Pray as Jesus did, “thy will be done,” with surrender and trust in the Father’s perfect will. Examine your prayers for the right motives and intentions.
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” I John 5:14 NKJV.
Discuss with God what He wants in your situation and then listen for His plans and ideas. Ask Him what action He wants you to take, what comfort He has for you, or what spiritual truth you can rest on.
Trusting God When He Says No
God desires an intimate relationship with us. He is our good Father, and we are His children.
“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, say the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18.
Being the good Father that He is, He will not give us everything we ask for. Don’t we do this with our own children?
We raise our children and teach them right from wrong. As they grow, we must decide in their best interests. If this means saying no, it is necessary to protect and guide them.
God has that same right to say no and overrule the desires we ask of Him. He is sovereign over all, and when we can submit to Him and trust His judgement, we too can say with conviction, “thy will be done.”
There may come a time when we just can’t understand what God is doing and cry out to Him, “Why me, God?” Sometimes life’s burdens are heavy, and we would like an explanation.
Instead of asking God “why me,” better questions are “what can I learn from this situation,” or “how can I grow through this trial?”
Ask God if He is protecting you or your loved one, or has something better to give you than what you’ve lost.
It’s important to trust God’s timing, accept our limited understanding, and remember what we know is true about God.
He will never leave us. He loves us enough to give up His only Son for us. God is good- in all things. Remember His promises and reflect on how He has blessed and cared for you in the past.
What Do I Do Now God?
God’s “no” can leave us wondering what we are supposed to do next. His detour is unexpected, and the road is unfamiliar to us. The clear answer we desire doesn’t come.
Psalm 25 of David is a prayer for guidance. When we hold fast to our trust in our heavenly Father, He will give us what we need.
“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5.
What a beautiful prayer to pray when we need His wisdom to know what direction He has for us to follow.
When His no has crushed your spirit, the hurt can feel overwhelming. Express how you are feeling to Him; He longs to hold you in His arms. He wants you to place your heavy burden at His feet.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29.
Jesus promises love, healing, and peace for you.
We can have hope in times of discouragement and pain. While the enemy would love to see you slip into hopelessness, God helps us set aside discouragement.
He can help us see through the darkness and uncertainty to His light and truth.
Psalm 43 speaks of hope in a time of discouragement and a way to return to a confident focus on God’s promises.
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” V5.
Disappointment is a sure part of our world. But since we are in Christ, our struggles are merely temporary. Letting go of earthly things and opening our hearts to God’s plan for our lives brings blessings and peace!
All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
Photo Credit: Canva, Krista Goodale