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When God Says No: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer

Article contributed by Probe Ministries
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1. Sin in our lives.
Confess and repent!
The psalmist wrote, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the LORD would not have listened" (Ps. 66:18). Not that God is unable to hear, for He is omniscient, but that He maintains His distance when we allow sin to be a wall between us.
Major disobedience sets us up for long-term unanswered prayer: When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day." (l Sam. 8:18)

A loving God is in control!

2. To say yes would bring us harm we don't foresee.
B.M. Palmer in Theology of Prayer, tells of a woman who had spent the summer away from her children, and was quite anxious to get back to them. When she learned that all the rooms on a certain steamer were taken, she wept bitterly. Because she couldn't get a passage on any other ship, she was detained two weeks in NYC. But the sorrow of being delayed was turned into thanksgiving when, within a few days, she learned that the vessel that denied her passage was buried at the bottom of the Atlantic. She didn't see the "no" as a wonderful answer to prayer until the whole story unfolded.

A loving God is in control!

3. God has something far greater in store for us.
Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal Lazarus, but He had resurrection in mind.
We ask for health, but often sickness and suffering or something less than wealth is the best way to produce holiness and maturity in us.
Our premature daughter Becky, who only lived nine days: God's plan was our growth plus full lives of ministry—taking care of a severely disabled child would have seriously restricted us. Plus raising two active boys who were born later!

A loving God is in control!

4. We pray at cross purposes with other believers.
• Two Christians on opposing teams, praying for their team to win.
• Two Christians applying for the same job or to get their child in the same preschool spot.
God has to say "no" to one to say "yes" to the other.

A loving God is in control!

5. We pray for things where a "yes" is impossible.
• That a child be found alive when they've been murdered.
• We pray for lost things that are not found.

A carpenter was building some crates for the clothes his church was sending to an orphanage in China. On his way home, he reached into his shirt pocket to find his glasses, but they were gone. He remembered putting them there that morning, so he drove back to the church. His search proved fruitless. When he mentally replayed his earlier actions, he realized what happened. The glasses had slipped out of his pocket unnoticed and fallen into one of the crates, which he had nailed shut. His brand new glasses were heading for China!

The Great Depression was at its height, and the man had six children. He had spent twenty dollars for those glasses that very morning. "It's not fair," he told God as he drove home in frustration. "I've been very faithful in giving of my time and money to your work, and now this."

Several months later, the director of the orphanage was on furlough in the United States. He wanted to visit all the churches that supported him in China, so he came to speak one Sunday night at this small church in Chicago. The carpenter and his family sat in their customary seats among the sparse congregation.

The missionary began by thanking the people for their faithfulness in supporting the orphanage.

"But most of all," he said, "I must thank you for the glasses you sent last year. You see, the Communists had just swept through the orphanage, destroying everything, including my glasses. I was desperate.

"Even if I had the money, there was simply no way of replacing those glasses. Along with not being able to see well, I experienced headaches every day, so my coworkers and I were much in prayer about this. Then your crates arrived. When my staff removed the covers, they found a pair of glasses lying on top."

The missionary paused long enough to let his words sink in. Then, still gripped with the wonder of it all, he continued: "Folks, when I tried on the glasses, it was as though they had been custom-made just for me! I want to thank you for being a part of that."

The people listened, happy for the miraculous glasses. But the missionary surely must have confused their church with another, they thought. There were no glasses on their list of items to be sent overseas.

But sitting quietly in the back, with tears streaming down his face, an ordinary carpenter realized the Master Carpenter had used him in an extraordinary way.

A loving God is in control!

6. We pray for things that are already determined.
• Praying for a boy or girl that's already been conceived.
• Praying for the salvation of someone who's already dead.

A loving God is in control!

7. We get discouraged in prayer by thinking God has said no when in fact He's said nothing at all.
"Wait" is an answer. Delay is not denial.
God often delays His answer to cultivate patience and persistence, and build our faith.
Or to bring our will around to conform to His own.

A loving God is in control!

8. God's "No" is not rejection, but redirection
Close a door—open a window? No!
God's "no" to one thing is a "yes" to another.
2 Sam 7 - God said "no" to David's desire to build a temple.
I asked to marry several guys in college. God said "no" to these requests so He could say "yes" in giving me Ray.
He said "No" to healing of my polio so He could say "yes" to ministering the gospel and encouragement to 15,000+ women as a speaker.

A loving God is in control!

9. God's "no" isn't punishment, it's preparation
Rom 5:2a-5 - "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

God is preparing us to be His Son's bride. We will reign with Him; we must be made into a bride worthy of our position. He develops perseverance, character, and hope as we trust Him in prayer. Prayer and spiritual warfare is His means of preparing us for bridehood.

A loving God is in control!

10. God's "No" will sometimes bring greater glory to God.
Joni Eareckson Tada. (A Zondervan publishing rep: Joni is the only successful Christian writer he knows who has stayed the same person after gaining fame.)
Focus on the Family : A pastor’s throat/voice was healed while being recorded. The tape was aired on Focus; he has now written a book.

A loving God is in control!

11. God's "No" opens the door to an adventure with God.
Elijah, 1 Kings 19. He prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said. "Take my life. I am no better than my ancestors." God said "no" because He had an adventure planned for Elijah!

2 Kings 2:11, "Suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out. 'My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!' And Elisha saw him no more."

I prayed that God would keep me off a jury. He had an adventure planned: two weeks on a trial where I ended up addressing the plaintiff from the jury box, urging him to forgive the man who killed his son.

A loving God is in control!

Related Topics: Messages, Prayer, Speaking, Women's Articles

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