Why Does God Say NO?
God promises to answer the prayer of faith. But why does God sometimes answer no?
By Rick L. Shallenberger
You keep telling me to pray about my problems and I do. But it just doesn't seem to help. My problems are still here. It makes me wonder if God really hears my prayers. And if he does, why doesn't he answer?"
Have you ever felt the way this Good News reader feels?
Do you think God doesn't hear your prayers? Or, if he hears, that he doesn't answer?
Another reader writes: "I've been sick for a long time and I pray about it daily. At one point I told God I couldn't take any more. I reminded him of the promise he made in I Corinthians 10:13. He said he would never give us a trial we couldn't bear. We wouldn't be tested beyond our limits.
"I told God I had reached my limits and asked him to heal me. Evidently God said no, because the next day I got worse."
Sometimes the answer is no
God does hear and answer prayers, but sometimes the answer to our requests is no. Why? How could God say no to someone who is genuinely striving to overcome, someone who is trying to faithfully deal with problems and trials?
In 1986, Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of The Good News and the pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God, was critically ill. Church members fasted and prayed, asking God to heal Mr. Armstrong. But God allowed Mr. Armstrong to die.
Many of us have seen loved ones die, even after we've earnestly prayed for them. We've also seen illnesses drag on in spite of daily prayers and supplications to God. We've seen loss of employment, difficulty in making ends meet, lack of proper living conditions and, for some, insufficient food and clothing to meet needs.
We pray daily for relief from trials such as these, yet sometimes they continue.
God sometimes says no. We've experienced it in our own lives. But why? Why does God say no?
If God always said yes
Let's look at the other side of this question. What if God always said yes?
Suppose you find your dream home. The house is out of your price range but you still want it. You tell God you'll work harder and use the house to serve him by sharing it with others. You promise to praise him more-if he'll only give you this house.
So God says yes, and you buy your home.
Before long you realize you really can't afford your dream home, so you tell God you need an increase in salary. "After all," you reason, "God put me in this house. He should help me find a way to pay for it."
Again, God says yes, and you get a raise.
With this increase in income, you decide you need a bigger house and ask God to provide it for you. He does and then you find you need more money. So you go to God.
Where will it end? What would this do for your character and your desire for material things?
Suppose you eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You aren't worried about getting sick because if you do, you'll just pray to be healed and God will heal you. You don't need to worry about exercise, eating the right foods, getting the proper amount of sleep or any other aspect of health care because you know God will take care of you.
In short, if God always said yes to our requests, we wouldn't need to develop character! We wouldn't need to study the Bible to know God's will in our lives. We wouldn't need to overcome and change. We wouldn't need faith or hope. And we wouldn't need God's kingdom.
For us to grow in grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18), for us to learn to look to and trust him, God occasionally says no. Let's look at four reasons why God might say no, or might seem to say no:
1) We don't ask enough
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). Sometimes we think if we ask once, that should cover it. But God wants us to be persistent.
In Luke 18:1-8 we can read the parable of the persistent widow. She pleaded her cause so often before the judge, he finally gave in just to keep her from coming back and wearing him out! Christ used this example to show that we, too, must be persistent. In verse 7, he said, "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?"
Another reason to be persistent is because sometimes the answer to our prayers isnot now, or not yet. God may not be saying no, but he is telling us to be patient and to have faith.
Also, if we want God to answer our prayers, we must ask in the right attitude, "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18).
2) We ask amiss
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3). If we ask God for something that isn't good for us, or for unnecessary, selfish, personal gain, God is likely to say no. Another way to ask amiss is to ask while expecting the answer to be no.
Do you sometimes pray out of a sense of duty, not really expecting God to answer? Maybe you feel your request is too silly or too unimportant for God to answer.
You still pray, though, so when others ask if you've prayed about it you can say yes.
For your prayer to be effective, it must be a work of faith. When we pray, we must believe that God will answer positively.
"Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt ... if you say to this mountain, `Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done. And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matthew 21:21-22).
So if you pray believing God will say no, why do you get upset when he does?
3) "No" tests our faith and commitment
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." We are to pray in faith. If the answer was always yes, we wouldn't need faith. There would be no need to hope for things.
God wants to see if we will remain faithful despite our trials and our problems.
The apostle Paul was beaten and left for dead, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, hungry and tired (II Corinthians 11:23-27), yet he never lost his faith or his commitment to God and the work he was doing.
One would think that a man of Paul's stature would have any request granted by God. Yet we read in II Corinthians 12:7-10 that Paul had a "thorn in the flesh." "Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' "
It is through our weaknesses, those trials God decides not to change, that we come to rely on God. We realize through faith that we need God to make it through our trials. We can't make it on our own strength.
4) "No" sets an example for others
After David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed, Nathan the prophet told him that his son would die. David prayed and fasted for seven days, an act of a converted and repentant man. Yet God allowed the child to die (II Samuel 11 and 12).
What a tremendous lesson for us to learn. Sin produces consequences. Sometimes we suffer those consequences immediately, as in the case of getting a sexually transmitted disease from an adulterous act. Sometimes the consequences come down the road, such as marital problems from that same adulterous act.
When we suffer through a trial, maintain a right attitude and don't waver in faith, we teach others. We have watched some loved ones die. We also have watched them grow in faith. They set a tremendous example of faith and dedication for us.
God shows us through our trials, and through the trials of those around us, that we can make it. Even if and when God says no, we can grow.
The ultimate yes
God wants us in his Family. He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
We must keep in mind that God knows what is best for us. He knows when to say no and when to say yes. He promises that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28), to those who remain faithful in trials.
When we make it through our trials, when we don't falter over the occasional no, when we learnwhy God sometimes tells us no, then we are ready for that ultimate yes. Then we are ready for the kingdom of God!