pictured - kids at THRIVE praying for two of their own, heads bowed,
Just in case you are one who is ready to turn away because you have been praying and praying, and it seems your prayers are hitting the ceiling … you just might be like those in the crowd that day who decided that following Jesus was not worth it, well, consider this:
God always hears and answers our prayers, but like it or not, sometimes he says “no”. Usually, we do not like “no”, but it is there just the same.
Sometimes, people look around and think that everyone else’s prayers are being answered but theirs … but how about the apostle Paul? Paul asked God to heal him, but God did not. Scripture does dot specify Paul’s illness; it was some weakness or constant source of pain in his body. Some have speculated it was poor eyesight, while others have said he had a chronic stomach problem; either way, though he asked God to take the pain from him, God said ‘no’.
“To keep me from becoming conceited… there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness."
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12.7-10
There is no doubt that God wants us to pray—actually, he commands us to pray without ceasing! James said ‘we do not have, because we do not ask.’ And Jesus said, ‘Ask and you will receive…knock and the door will be opened.’ But then, clearly, God does not always answer our prayers the way we ask, and sometimes, he just says ‘no’.
Why does God say ‘no’? Four reasons. He wants us to completely trust him—just as Paul did. His ways are higher than our ways; there is so much we do not see, so much we will not understand, this side of Heaven. But God sees the whole picture. And we must always bear in mind that, no matter our struggle, God wants to be with us . . . right in the middle of our struggle. He does not leave us alone or defenseless. In the midst of our pain . . . God.
Sometimes God says ‘no’ or ‘wait’ because he wants us to grow in his grace, which is always enough to carry us. Paul was struck with a torturous problem, which did not go away, even though he pleaded with the Lord three times. He got his answer, directly from God,
‘My grace is sufficient for you,
My power shines through your weakness.’
Paul learned that God works through our weakness.
A third reason why God says ‘no’ is more obscure. While we are often unaware of watching eyes, God knows that others will grow as a result of watching our faithfulness, especially when we are told ‘no’. Job’s wife, Job’s friends—all of them watched to see how Job would react to losing everything except his own life. He remained faithful. Incredible. ‘Yet though he slay me, still I will trust him.’ Yes, Job. And thousands of years later, not only do we talk about Job’s faithfulness, but about the God who sustained him, and how he fully restored him.
Finally, Paul mentioned that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ was to keep him from becoming conceited. He recalled the vision he had, and heck, remember this is the guy that Jesus himself supernaturally visited on the Damascus Road! He could have been puffed up with his knowledge and experience, but ‘the thorn in the flesh’ kept him reliant on the Lord. Sometimes, God allows circumstances in our lives, precisely because they keep us in right position to him, knowing we are totally dependent on him. It is true—in the eye of the storm--that is when we cry out to Jesus, standing him up on his promises that ‘never will he leave us, never will he forsake us’. When we continue to look to God in faith, knowing as Peter said, there is no one else besides Jesus … because ‘he is the Holy One of God,’ that he alone is our peace, it is right, and it is also sweet.
God’s grace is a gift to his children. The world has no counterpart and no counterfeit to grace. God is not stingy with it—he promises all we need—even when the answer is ‘no’, maybe especially when the answer is ‘no’.
The above picture taken at THRIVE, our Thursday morning drive-up community. 10 am
San Clemente Outlets, in the parking lot next to Hermosa, nearest Chick-Fil-A. Join us!