A "No" from God

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said.
- Mark 10:38a

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to prayer is the reality that God sometimes tells us “No.” What do you do when you get a “No” from God?

The temptation for us is often to respond to God’s “No” with disengagement. “If God isn’t going to do for us whatever we ask,” we say, “why bother asking him for anything at all?” Expectations run the risk of becoming disappointments. And life has enough disappointments of its own.

A dose of humility makes a big difference right here. CJ Mahaney says that humility is, in essence, just being honest about ourselves. We have good desires and corrupt desires. We have good ideas and terrible ideas. We have good moments and shameful moments. We know this about ourselves. Humility helps us connect what we know about ourselves to how we think about prayer.

We know we don’t know everything. We live in a fantastically complex world that defies perfect prediction. As meteorologist Edward Lorenz demonstrated, nature’s myriad interconnections create scenarios where a butterfly flapping its wings could unexpectedly cause (or prevent) a tornado. Our prayer requests fly to God, but we can’t pretend to fully comprehend the full impact of each flap of their wings.

When God tells us “No,” we have to trust that his “No” is always in service to a bigger “Yes.” We have to trust that God loves us and wants what’s best – not only for the whole world but also for us as individuals.

God deserves our trust. And he is constantly at work to earn it. Let us, therefore, pray as those who are loved by God, knowing that he will protect us when we don’t know what we’re asking.

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