You may have noticed- or not- that we skipped a message last week. One reason was I still felt like crap over the tooth pull. But God led me to a conviction that that was okay; He had two interconnected messages to tell, of which I had only half, and that He wanted it there this week so somebody out there who needs to see it wouldn't miss it due to the holiday.
I call it, When God Says No.
Our fellow travelers, the Tares Satan has planted, would say that we view God as a magic djin, and prayer is nothing more than rubbing the magic lamp. And when we don't get our wish, it's proof that no one was listening. But God always has a purpose for what He does- and what He doesn't do. I have here 12 reasons God might answer your prayers with NO- 6 positive and six negative. If a prayer isn't answered, look down this list and you might find out why. First, let's get the nasty negatives out of the way.
Ecclesiasties 2:10-11: There's no profit in what you want. This passage Solomon tells us how nothing in the world had been denied to him- he had anything he could possibly want. That turned his heart to the constant seeking of pleasure. "I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure", he says. But in the end, it was just as vain as anything else he had looked at- "... there was no profit under the sun." You have to remember God answers prayers on a "big picture" basis- is it going to help you (or someone else) in their walk with Him. Sometimes, you just don't need it.
2 Chronicles 11:1-4: What is the motive? In this passage, Rehoboam had been rejected by most of Israel, and the nation was split into two. Rehoboam was pissed, as any legitimate king would be, and called Judah to war. But God said, "You shall not go up and fight against your brethren! Let every man return to his house, for this thing is FROM ME." One of the facets of successful prayer is seeking God's will in it. Rehoboam's motive was anger... what's yours?
Ezekiel 20: 29-32: But I want to be like everyone else. Here, God is chastising Israel. "So shall I be inquired of by you, o House of Israel? As I live, says the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you. What you have in your mind will never be, when you say, 'we will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone." God will never give on the basis of your keeping up with the Joneses.
Matthew 6:8-9: Here Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites ( and not for the last time). This time, it was because they only prayed in front of others, to make a big show of their "piety". Jesus said that the acclamation of the masses was all they would receive for their prayers. "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and the Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." Jesus went to a remote place each morning; I pray in the bathroom in the morning (TMI?). It's not a bad thing to have a chance to pray aloud in church, or to go before the altar with requests. But is it the only place you pray?
1 Samuel, anywhere involving Saul: The people clamored for a king, not willing that God Himself, an invisible presence in their lives should lead them. Samuel told them, this is a wicked thing you ask, and tried to stop them. But God said, give them what they want. Soon enough, they'll wonder why they wanted it. Sometimes we pray for something we think is vital; but God can see the consequences of getting what we ask for and many times we can't. Like the song says, sometimes we need to thank God for unanswered prayers.
Isaiah 26:10-11. The theme here is God showing grace to the wicked, yet the wicked do not see; but eventually, all people will see the hand of God- and some will be ashamed. Perhaps the problem lies in your salvation- or lack of it.
And now, the positive side:
John 7: 1-24: Here, Jesus' brothers tease Him about going up for the Passover feast. "If you do these things, show yourself to the world." Jesus tells them to go on ahead, He'll catch up later. You see, if He had come openly, what happened on Palm Sunday would have came a season early. By showing up in secret about halfway through, not only did He accomplish the Father's task, but did it without the fanfare being reserved for His final week. Sometimes God says no because, no matter how good the thing might seem, there's something even better just ahead.
Luke 24: 13-32. This is the stories of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Having met up with a Jesus who they didn't recognize, they confessed their anxieties to Him and then He taught them not to fear- showing them through every verse of scripture how they came to where they were. And only when they understood did He reveal Himself to them. Had they not waited for this revelation, they would have never been calm and centered enough to understand what was being said. By the waiting, they learned.
Joshua 5:11-12: The day the Israelites ate the first produce of Canaan, the manna from heaven ceased. In this we learn that to a certain extent, "God helps those who help themselves" is true. Sometimes we sit back and wait for God to do something we need to do ourselves. A blonde prayed three times, "Lord, let me win the lottery". Three times, she got nothing. In frustration, she prayed," Lord, why won't you let me win the lottery?" And God replied, " Help me out- BUY A TICKET."
1 Samuel 13: Yes, Saul again. Samuel told Saul to wait seven days for him to come and perform sacrifices before he attacked the Philistines. The seven days went by, but still no Samuel; the people began to walk away. Now, Saul shows us what NOT to do- he panicked, performed the ceremony himself (which he was not qualified to do), and lost battle, and eventually kingdom and life, as a result. Where if he had just trusted in God, he would have realized what God had done over and over again, starting with Gideon- win the battle through His own hand and a handful of men. By waiting, you learn to trust.
Luke 11:5-10: The parable of the persistent friend, who needs something in the middle of the night. Even though you've gone to bed, you'll answer if he keeps on knocking. Which then Jesus tells us to do. Keep knocking, keep praying. Sometimes God wants you to learn persistence.
And finally, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10- the "thorn in the flesh" episode. God's no answer to Paul was accompanied with, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My Strength is made perfect in your weakness." That doesn't mean God's stronger when we're weak; it means that we perfect His power within us when we allow Him to move us through our infirmity.
So, there you have it. If you aren't getting your prayers answered, somewhere in these twelve items:
-the value of your request
-the motive of your request
-the goal of your request
-the manner of your request
-the consequence of your request
-the condition of your salvation
-whether God wants better for you
-whether you need to learn a lesson
-whether you need to take action first
-whether you need to trust
-whether you need to learn persistence
-whether God can move you more effectively in weakness
you will likely find a reason why not.