What to Do When God Answers Your Prayer with a "No"
- Betsy St. Amant Haddox
- 2019 Sep 12
Prayer is, I believe, one of the most misunderstood concepts among Christians.
We tend too often to treat prayer like rubbing a lamp and making wishes to a genie. Or we’re tempted to think of God as a doting grandfather who chuckles and gives us that extra piece of candy we really want, but don’t need, if we just beg. Other times, we might think of God more like a frazzled parent, who finally says “yes” in exasperation because He’s tired of being pestered. Other times still, we believe that if we pray really, really hard and add the magic words “in Jesus’ name,” then we’ll automatically get whatever we want.
The problem with all those mindsets is that if they were true (trust me, they’re not!) then it would make us more sovereign than God.
Yikes. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that responsibility!
So if prayer doesn’t get us what we want, then why pray at all? That seems to be a common question among believers, especially those who have beseeched the Lord for something important to them and grew discouraged when God answered with a “no.” The temptation at that point is to stop praying altogether.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, having God answer with a “no” can feel like I did something wrong. It makes me want to shy away and not risk getting hurt again.
But that, my sister, is not the answer.
Here are 5 things to do when God answers your prayers with a no:
1. Keep praying.
When God answers your prayer with a no, keep praying. Because sometimes, it might actually be a “not yet.” This is especially the case when praying for a loved one’s salvation. Until they draw their last breath, there is always hope that the Holy Spirit will move in their heart and give them faith to believe.
"... do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
Pray about everything. Pray continually.
"… pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 ESV)
Whatever it is, don’t give up until the Lord removes the burden from your heart or the answer is clear. Keep praying with faith!
2. Trust in Him.
Receiving a “no” from the Lord, whether it’s about a relationship status, a job opportunity, a health diagnosis, financial provision, or anything else that’s important to us, can be incredibly discouraging. But this is your opportunity to exercise your faith and trust in your Heavenly Father and believe there is a purpose behind your pain.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 ESV)
As parents, we often must tell our children no, even when it makes them sad. But we’re older, wiser, and see the whole picture, so we know that going to the school dance with the flu isn’t the best choice. We know that eating that second piece of cake is going to make them sick. We know that allowing them to continue to hang out with the class troublemaker is going to lead them down a bad path. We expect them to trust us to make good decisions for them, because we love them. How much more does God do that for us?
If you were just dumped, trust the Lord that it wasn’t the best relationship for you. If you just got passed up for a career promotion, trust the Lord it was for your good. Sometimes, a “no” can be protection. Other times, it can be a test to see if we will stay faithful. When you’re told “no,” do you want to respond like a child with a tantrum—or with faith in your Good Father?
3. Study the Word for answers.
When we’re given a “no” by the Lord, it’s always wise to go to His word. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit will reveal truth through Scripture as to why the answer was “no.” Even if it’s not His plan to divulge that information, then you’ll still be uplifted, and your faith will grow by reading His promises. When we read His word, we’re correct`ed, instructed, and trained.
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)
Remember, you’re in good company. The Bible contains many people who prayed many prayers which were answered with a “no” or a “wait”—and it was always for God’s glory and perfect plan. Reading the Scriptures reminds us that while our life is valuable, ultimately, we’re secondary characters in God’s story. It’s about Him, not us.
4. Be encouraged by the body.
One of the most comforting assurances of the human experience is the simple knowledge that we’re not alone.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)
When we are told “no” by God, and are emotionally processing what that means, we can find great encouragement by sharing our burdens with other believers. You’re not the first one in your church to receive a “no.” Find a mentor in your body of believers—a Sunday school teacher, an older woman in the faith, someone who is farther down the spiritual road than you—and ask for prayer and encouragement. Make a coffee date or just pull them aside after the Sunday service and share your heart. Sometimes, just talking about our disappointments and bringing them into the light of God’s truth makes them seem less overwhelming. Listen to stories of how other believers in your community handled similar hardships. Comfort each other and be comforted.
5. Do something positive.
When life is disappointing and we take a blow, there’s no faster solution to getting back on our feet than getting our attention off ourselves and onto others. If you’ve been given a “no” and are struggling with a negative attitude, do a good deed for someone else. It can be as big as volunteering an entire evening to a ministry or sponsoring a child in a foreign country, or as small as bringing up your neighbor’s trashcans or washing their car. Get creative and find unique ways to bless someone. After all, you might be used by the Lord to be a part of someone else’s “yes!”
There’s nothing wrong with taking a quick break to rejuvenate and treat yourself if you’re going through a hard season. Eat the candy bar, take the bubble bath, and then get back out there and exercise your faith in your community. You’ll feel better if you do.
"A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)
Finally, remember His goodness:
One of the hardest “no”s I ever received was when I prayed for God to restore my marriage. I was certain He’d say yes—after all, God is against divorce! Yet, despite my prayers, despite underlining multiple verses in my Bible, despite grand gestures of faith, despite teaching a small-group on praying for your spouse, despite biting my tongue, trying to be perfect, shedding countless tears and pouring out countless prayers, the answer was “no.” Do I fully understand why to this day? I don’t. Do I trust that God is sovereign? I do. He comforted me, sent others to comfort me, and ultimately, restored my heart and placed me in a second marriage with a godly man. Now I can offer the “the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
My sister, His plan is good, even when it’s hard—and it’s always for His glory.
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of fourteen inspirational romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her newlywed hubby, two story-telling young daughters, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she's not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. Look for her latest novel with HarperCollins, LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES, and POCKET PRAYERS FOR FRIENDS with Max Lucado. Visit her at http://www.betsystamant.com./
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