August 16, 2015
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
What if God answered “yes” to every one of our prayers?
If prayer is a part of your everyday life, you will have some “yes’s” and some “no’s.” There are things that we will ask for, things that we think God would want for us, that God would bless us with, but they go … unanswered.
In this series we are looking at unanswered prayers. Today we will start at the ground floor, and look at when “no” can be good, when “no” is what is best for us.
We’ll cover two stories today about truths in our prayer and faith life, one in the Old Testament, the other in the New Testament. We won’t have all the answers, and may raise more questions than give answers, but as we think through the week and talk through this, puzzling through the “no’s” in our lives, perhaps we will get some understanding
Two simple truths about unanswered prayers:
1. There are times when “yes” is the wrong answer.
Sometimes “yes” is the not the best thing for us. Psalm 106: 9-15 talks about Israel’s history. It’s the story of the Exodus and escaping Pharaoh. It refers to Numbers 11, where the Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40 years.
God fed them with manna. Manna means “What is it?” in Hebrew. Manna was actually vegan, so they started whining and lusting for meat. They started wailing and complaining to God, and remembering “when” — when they were in Egypt they had food, they had fish. Moses got so sick of the whining, he said, “Am I just a babysitter? God please just kill me.” God wasn’t against meat. He commanded Israel to eat meat during the Passover, and provided meat at the beginning of the journey with quail. The purpose of this was so that they would know that God provides. But because they didn’t trust God, and whined so much, God became furious with them — so mad that in the Hebrew he says he will give them so much meat that it will come out of their nostrils. He granted their request with a HUGE migration of quail — so much that each family gathered 60 bushels of quail. But He sent leanness to their soul, and they wandered for 40 years in the desert. So they got a “yes,” but not the “yes” that they wanted, and not one that was good for them.
Sometimes we beg God for a “yes,” but we know deep in our heart and soul that it was not good for us. Even asking for temptations — we want what we want. We forget about God and what is right for us, and we won’t take “no” for an answer. I had a time in my life when I had a big request for a “yes” and wouldn’t take “no.” I desired a girl in high school I just had to have as a girlfriend. I kept praying about it and didn’t really care what God wanted. Sure enough there came a time when I felt as if God “gave me quail” and I had the girl more than I ever wanted. It was a miserable relationship. She was always flirting and cheating on me. The relationship was terrible, but more importantly my relationship with God changed. It was as if God sent leanness to my soul. Times such as this remind us when “yes” is not the right answer.
2. Sometimes “no” is the right answer.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul is writing to the church at Corinth. There are preachers stating that they had amazing visions – but they bare false teachers. And Paul says he has had these visions, too, but was forbidden to speak of them. And after he received these visions, he received a “thorn in my flesh.” Could be a disease, a demon to torment him, but whatever it was, it was REALLY bad! This thing tormented him. In verse 8, Paul wrote that ”three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” He pleaded, begged, even rebuked God about this request.
Let’s think about the nature of Paul’s request. It could not have been more legitimate. He was asking for something that was hurting his ministry, hindered God’s work, and was even from Satan! God’s response, in verse 9: “But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God’s response was “no” — not “have a little faith, or wait, or pray more,” just “no, I want you to find your grace in Me not in your circumstances or what you have, but in Me.”
Many of us here today are in this place. We are begging for the “yes,” but all we can see is the “no.” How do we deal with that? How do find understanding?
In verse 9 Paul writes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” His life is not just about himself, but about serving God, and how he can be most effective. When Paul gets small, God gets strong and big and powerful. While not easy, and a “no” doesn’t make sense, God is glorified.
So what do we do with this?
1. There are some things we should never give up on, when a “no” is not the right thing:
- Like praying that our loved ones come to Christ, to know Jesus and life in him…KEEP PRAYING! Don’t give up on that prayer, that request. Even decades of prayer can show fruit.
- We can always hope for reconciliation. If God opens the door, take a chance.
- That God can always be glorified.
2. There are some “no’s” that we will never understand, but God has his reasons. For example, why would God take a child? How will God be glorified through this?
3. Often when God says “no, it’s more about our hearts than our circumstances.
In Paul’s letters, God gave Paul a clear understanding that his life, his grace, his hope, was found in only one place — in Christ.
Why did God only give the Israelites manna? Because he needed their entire hearts. They were about to enter the Promised Land and He needed their eyes fully set on Him so that they could go forward in this new land. Because of the challenges ahead with giants and opposing forces, He needed them to completely believe and give their whole hearts!
Sometimes it feels like God is unresponsive to our needs, but He wants what is best for us, and He wants our whole hearts, and to show us what is really the best “yes” for us.