By Kathy Johnston
Have you ever prayed diligently for something, with full faith that God was going to answer that prayer? You pray for days and weeks. You ask others to pray. You put it on a prayer chain and you spend time worshipping and praising God for His goodness and faithfulness, knowing He will come through.
And then nothing.
In fact, it seems just the opposite of what you had prayed for happens. My guess is that most of us have had that experience at one time or another in our lives.
Some might say we didn’t pray fervently enough, or that we didn’t have enough faith that God would do what we asked.
But is it possible that God’s “no” in our circumstance was actually a yes? Could it be that God was doing something so much bigger and better by saying “no” than if he had answered in the way we had hoped?
Sometimes, I get frustrated when I hear people talk about how you just have to have enough faith. If you ask and pray with the right formula, God will grant your request.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe God wants us to bring our requests to him. I believe God cares about the details of our lives and that he heals, delivers, rescues and transforms. I’ve seen it happen many times and rejoice when God shows himself powerful in situations that look hopeless.
“And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” James 5:15
Yes, God still heals, moves and acts in our lives. Miracles still happen!
I also believe that sometimes when God seems to say no, he often is doing something huge in the seemingly “hopeless” outcome. What we perceive as a no answer to our prayer is in fact a yes to something much bigger than what our puny minds can understand. It may not make any sense to us now, but from an eternal point of view,
It has far more importance than the temporary outcome we had hoped for. The question is: do we trust him?
Paul so eloquently points out in 2 Corinthians 4:16- 18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Jesus, knowing that he would soon be tortured, mutilated and crucified, if the Father did not intervene, pleaded with the Father,
“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
He knew that the Father would not ask anything of him that wasn’t necessary to fulfill His purpose. He trusted his Father and he was sure of the Father’s love for him. He knew that God was good, even as they arrested him and led him off to be slaughtered. And he counted it as joy.
“Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 12:2
What an incredible example he set for us!
What are our motives when we ask things of the Father? Are we demanding that he answer our prayers the way WE think he should? Do we approach prayer requests like a giant candy dispenser, putting in a certain amount of coins and expecting a determined outcome? Or do we defer to his will, trusting that he knows the best outcome? We might not see that “best” for a very long time. In fact, we may not ever see it on this side of heaven. Can you still trust him then?
Many of those mentioned in the Hebrews 11 “hall of fame” never saw that “best” in their lifetime. Yet they put their hope and faith in God and walked in obedience, because they knew he was faithful and true.
In 1991, my husband was diagnosed with a terminal disease. It was devastating and challenging to say the least with three young sons. Obviously this rocked our world in a very traumatic way. We began praying for healing for Russ immediately. The word spread and soon there were literally people all over the country and the world who were praying for healing for him. Not long after he was diagnosed, we received a visit from a Christian couple that we were acquainted with. They passionately shared with us that if we followed a certain prayer formula, then God would surely bring healing…it was a promise!
But he wasn’t healed…in heaven, yes. But not here on earth as we had prayed for. Was it because we didn’t say the right prayer, or sing enough worship songs, have enough faith, or follow the right formula?
There were so many people praying. I believed with every fiber of my being that God could heal him, even when the doctors were no longer holding out hope and he lay in a coma, his organs shutting down and his body wasting away. I still believed and I still prayed for healing. And I believed it until he took his last breath on earth and his first breath in heaven. I would do it again, and so it should be.
But it wasn’t because we didn’t have enough faith. It was because a loving Father who has power to do all things according to his good pleasure, saw something bigger and better than what we were asking for.
Do I still wonder how my three boys growing up without their dad is “best”? Or how my grandchildren never knowing their “Papa Russ” could be considered for their “best”? Yes, I do sometimes. But how can I argue with the God of the universe? How could I argue with the One who created and named the more than 100 billion trillion stars in the universe- the one who knows the number of hairs on our heads? He’s God, and I am not. I know His character, and it is good. So I trust him even though I don’t understand.
Here’s the big question:
Can you say that God is good, even when the outcome is heart wrenching and NOT what you had asked for? Is God good then? Can you say he is perfect in ALL of his ways? Is that God’s grace towards you? Do you trust Him?
I love how Paul Tripp puts it: “Often grace comes to us in uncomfortable forms. He will take you where you had not intended to go, to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. Even the storm… is His grace.”
May his grace be sufficient for you, even in the “no”.