What to do when God says no to your prayers

What do you do when God says no? Have you ever felt like God is ignoring you or not answering your heartfelt prayers when you’ve desperately called out to Him?  Often times it’s hard to understand why God would say no. If you’ve ever wondered how to respond when God says no, here are 4 things my friend Julie has learned when God says no.

Desperately, I looked up from our empty bank account to the calendar on the wall.  It was the first of the month, rent was due, and we had no means to pay it.  

“Jon, what are we going to do?” I asked.  We’d been praying about the upcoming payment, unsure how to handle the situation.  We’d just moved across the state for a new job that fell through days after we’d relocated.  We were now stranded in a new area with a new baby and no employment.  And we were terrified.

“I’m going for a walk to pray and clear my head,” Jon told me.  He headed out the door to check the mail, not really sure what else to do as he contemplated our situation.

A few moments later, he returned, an incredulous look on his face.  “Look!  Our deposit check came!  And it’s for enough to cover rent this month and a week of groceries.”

We had known we’d get part of our deposit back from our previous landlord, but we’d been told that it wouldn’t arrive for several weeks.  But there it was, on the exact day we so desperately needed it.  We couldn’t ignore the fact that the Lord had answered our prayers in a very unexpected way.  We were completely humbled, grateful, and in awe.

Eight years later, we were facing the unimaginable.  Jon and I were sitting in the emergency room with our young son who had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Doctors and nurses were working over him, trying to get IVs started.  He was screaming, begging us to make the jabbing needles stop.  

But we couldn’t stop.  The very thing he needed most was the thing he wanted least.  The pain of needles repeatedly puncturing his skin was what was going to save his life, both right then and for the rest of his life.  He needed to suffer in order to survive and grow. 

I pleaded for God to give us another miracle.  After the miracle of the money right when we needed it, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was capable of healing my little boy.  I NEEDED God to heal him.  I begged for healing.

Instead of a miracle of healing, however, the Lord in His gentleness and mercy gave me the miracle of His peace.  He whispered to my agonizing heart, “My grace is sufficient for you; My strength is made perfect in weakness” (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).  

***

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It can be disappointing (understatement) when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we expect, and it can be devastating when it feels like He hasn’t answered our pleas at all.  Doesn’t He say in His Word that He is good, that He will give us good things, and that He will supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19)?  Why, then, would He allow us to suffer?  Why would He not give us something good, like the healing of disease, the income so many of us desperately need, or the friendships we long for?  Aren’t all of those good things?  Aren’t they needed things?

When it feels like God has said no to something that we think is a need, it can derail our faith.  We begin to wonder if He’s actually as good as He claims (at least, I do).  

So what are we as believers supposed to do when God says no to our prayers?

What to do When God Says No

Stop to pray

The very first thing every Christian should do, no matter what the situation, is to pray.  And it’s no different when we feel like God has said no to our prayers.  God says in His Word to pray about ALL things (1 Thess. 5:17)!  

So tell the Lord how you feel.  Thank Him for saying no, realizing that He has something else, something better, in store, even if right then His no answer feels devastating.  Ask Him for wisdom regarding the situation.  Praise Him for knowing what is best.  

Ask yourself this important question:

When I’m facing a tough situation, my instinct is to fret and worry over it.  But AJ once asked me a question, one that every believer needs to ask when God says no to a much-requested prayer:

“Are you going to trust that God is good even when your circumstances want you to believe the opposite?”

Instantly, she stopped my anxiety in its tracks.  I had a choice to make – either I would trust that God knew what was best, or I would not.  Worrying was my way of choosing the latter, and unless I made a conscious choice to set the fretting aside, I was essentially refusing to trust Him and was missing the peace that comes with trusting.

So, when God says no to the thing you want most dearly, ask yourself if you’re going to trust or if you’re going to fuss.  Choose to take God at His Word and believe that He is giving you what is best, even if it doesn’t feel that way at first.

Realize that your greatest need might not be what you think it is

Recently, my church fellowship was studying this very topic – why God might say no to a desperate need.  And my pastor shared something that’s stayed with me ever since.

“Sometimes,” he explained, “our greatest need is not what you think it is.  Sometimes, as hard as this might be to accept, our greatest need is to suffer so that we can grow in our faith.”

Having gone through the things I have, I can attest that this is true.  I thought I needed the Lord to heal my son from diabetes, but my greater need was to see how He was going to carry me through that very dark season.  While I still pray for healing, I am now content if He chooses not to.  

The spiritual growth I experienced as a result of having a chronically ill child far outweighs the struggles of his illness.  If I could choose to give back diabetes and with it the blessings and lessons that came with it, I’m not sure I would.  It was through that devastating trial that I learned so much about the amazing God we serve.

When hardship hits and God doesn’t remove it, consider whether or not your greatest need is actually to walk through that trial and grow in your faith.

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Step forward in faith

It’s not easy to move forward when God has said no to our prayers.  But He doesn’t leave us on our own.  He walks with us through every situation in life, including those difficult seasons that bring such tremendous spiritual growth.  When God says no, we can step forward in faith, trusting that He has something else prepared for us.  And we do that by continuing to study Scripture, meeting with our local church fellowship, and spending time in prayer.  

When God says no to our prayers, it can shake our faith at first.  It may even seem like He is being unkind or unloving.  But just as I knew that the best thing for my little boy was to hurt him with injections and IVs, so too our loving Heavenly Father knows that sometimes, suffering is what’s best.  While it’s not pleasant at the time, it’s often in those difficult seasons when we grow the most in our faith.  We will be able to look back and say, “Thank You, Lord, for saying no.”  

 

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Julie Varner is wife to Jon and mama to their  five spark plugs, the oldest of whom has Type 1 Diabetes.  When not homeschooling the kids, she blogs at The Hallway Initiative, where she seeks to offer Biblical encouragement to Christian women in seasons of struggle.

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6 Comments

  1. It can be very hard to accept a No from God, but then I need to remember that when God allows hard times for us, it is to help us to grow closer to him and into a deeper, abiding relationship with him. Never easy, but always worthwhile for our soul. My sister has a boy that has Type 1 diabetes, and accepting this has been a struggle for her too.

  2. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this article. Such a timely reminder for me to trust God in the tough times. I once heard a pastor say “it rains on the just and the unjust, but God weathers the storms with all of us.” Hard times are always a hard reminder that God takes care of us in every situation, whether it’s one that is fixed quickly or one we have to weather over time.

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