When God Says, “No!”

Our Prayer-Answering God Has More Than One Choice

In prayer meetings we hear people thank God for answered prayer.  Then the person goes on to describe a prayer request that God answered the prayer with a “yes.”  God gave what the person requested.  For that He is justifiably praised and thanked.  He is the kind of God who many, many times gives us what we request.  And we hear this over and over.  We prayed and God gave what we requested.  In fact, it is so frequent that it is easy to think that a “yes” answer is the only way He answers.  Rarely do we hear much discussion of any other answers.  He is also justifiably thanked and praised for being a prayer-answering God.

But let me put a twist to this.  Recently I had a skin biopsy of a couple of black lesions on my skin.  I know those lesions could be the dreaded melanoma.  On a number of occasions I have heard people in such situations ask for prayer that the biopsy would be negative.  Although that is a bit late, it is not a bad request.  But what if God answers that request with a “no”?  What if the biopsy comes back as melanoma?  I thank God for “yes” answers, but am I as thankful when he answers with a “no”?

The Right Response to “No”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are taught that it is the will of God to thank Him in everything, every circumstance.  Thus I must even thank Him for a “no” answer.  The writer of that, the apostle Paul, had this happen to him.  He tells us about it in 2 Corinthians 12.  He prayed that God would remove a thorn in his flesh which many think was some physical problem.  He made specific requests to have it removed.  God answered with a “no.”

Paul’s response to the negative answer from God is very helpful.  “And He has said to me, ’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NAS)  He saw God’s negative answer as more beneficial than a positive answer, because He trusted God to do what was best for him.

Recognize the Answer. Thank God For It.

Your child asks you for a candy bar and you answer with a “no” for reasons that are not known to the child.  If your child asks you again, saying that you didn’t answer the first time, you would remind the child that you did answer.

It is easy to think that the only acceptable answer from God is a “yes.”  He answers all of our prayers but not always with a “yes.”  One of the possibilities is a “no” answer, but how many times do we hear Him being thanked for that kind of an answer?  Although it is difficult to understand at the time, God is saying He has something better for us by saying “no” than to be giving us what we desire.  This requires trust in His good, sovereign control of all the events in our life.

So when God answers your prayer with a “no” thank Him that He answers prayer with what is best for us.

Bob Smith
Dr. Bob Smith, a retired physician, is co-founder of Faith Baptist Counseling Ministries. He is an instructor and counselor for Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries, where he oversees the training certification of several counselors. He is author of several books. Bob teaches several adult ministry classes and serves as the Chairman of deacons for Faith Church.