SOMETIMES GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS WITH AN ABSOLUTE "NO."
Sometimes, perhaps often, God must respond by saying "no" when men pray. Such is the case concerning the unrighteous. As Proverbs 28:9 teaches - "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." Such is also the case concerning God's faithful servants whose pleas are not in harmony with His revealed will or purpose. I John 5:14,15 declares - "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." If a request does not keep with God's will, then He will answer that request with a response of "no." Also, some prayers are answered negatively because the petitioner's motives are selfish or impure. Consider James 4:3 on this point - "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."
Two prominent Biblical examples of godly men who prayed earnestly to the Father and still received "no" answers are Paul and Jesus.
Paul was a righteous man and was fervent in His thrice-repeated prayer for the removal of his "thorn in the flesh" (II Cor. 12:8). However, the Lord did not remove the thorn, whatever it may have been, apparently leaving it to remind the apostle of his weaknesses lest he be exalted above measure. It was for Paul's spiritual welfare that God answered his prayer with a "no." Certainly this still happens today.
God likewise refused to grant the thrice-offered petition of His sinless Son in Gethsemane. Jesus asked that He be spared the awful ordeal of Calvary. He offered these prayers and supplications with strong crying and many tears, and His Father most certainly heard Him (cf. Heb. 5:7). However, it was necessary for the Father to answer "no" to our Lord's prayers on this occasion because the redemption of mankind would have been impossible had He answered otherwise. We should always therefore follow our Lord's example of selflessness in those agonizing prayers - "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matt. 26:39). Our Savior, as God, surely knew there was no other way than the cross. However, His humanity prompted the plea that He might avoid the extreme suffering and pain involved in His approaching trials and crucifixion.
It is an undeniable truth that mere human beings cannot see the things that God can see in the present and future. He alone knows exactly what is best for us and for all others that might be affected by the fulfillment of a particular prayer we offer. God alone knows all of the factors that would be involved, affecting both today and years down the road, in giving us what we ask. If we receive a "no" answer to our prayers, ultimate trust in God should cause us to humbly and submissively thank Him.
Perhaps some of you can recall times when you earnestly prayed for something, only to thank God later that He spared you the fulfillment. Hindsight often enables one to see things he was unable to see earlier. That which we thought we had to have at one point is sometimes later seen as that which might have brought severe temptation, hardship, or misery (on others or ourselves). So, with that thought in mind, pray fervently and always in submission to God's will. Don't be discouraged if the Lord seems to be giving you a "no" response. He knows best, and even His "no" responses are blessings--even if we can't discern the blessing at the present time!
Friends, God answers with a prompt "yes" when it is in our best interest. However, when an absolute "no" response is in our best interest, that is the answer He gives.
We will continue this study on God's responses tomorrow.