As Christians, we know we’re to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16), to pray for the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:18), and to humble ourselves and pray to God (2 Chronicles 7:14). Of course, while it’s natural for prayers to ebb and flow over time as we go through different seasons of our life, there is one season all believers go through that can make continuous prayer difficult. I’m talking about a season of hearing no. Not just one no, but what seems like endless no’s to each request we make.
Have you ever experienced this? A time when everything you ask for seems to come back with a resounding no? Even the things that you just know in your heart would be honoring to God were he to bless you with them, but he says no anyway?
Continuing to remain faithful in prayer when our prayers aren’t answered affirmatively is often one of the hardest things we’ll do, but it’s also one of those times when we can draw closest to our Lord. In fact, it can be a time of great renewal of our faith.
When Yes Seems Like The Godliest Option, But You Still Hear No
I remember when I was going through my divorce, I prayed and prayed that God would restore my marriage. I reasoned with God that this restoration would be what was best for all parties involved. I felt in my heart that this is what God would want, so I reasoned in my mind that it had to happen. I had been reminded over and over that God hates divorce. That He answers prayers. That He wouldn’t leave me or forsake me. So, clearly the man that I had spent over 14 years with would come to his senses and reconcile before the divorce was final, right?
Wrong. Even though I prayed without ceasing, my divorce was finalized. I got a no in the most painful way possible, and even though it’s been over a year since my life would be forever changed, it feels like it just happened yesterday. I felt defeated. I asked God, why?! I still don’t have an answer to that question, and while even after the divorce I prayed that God would work a miracle and bring my husband back to me and we’d renew our vows, start over together, and live happily ever after, that never happened.
Add to this the fact that there were many other nos that seemed to come in rapid succession. No to my request for certain items, no to jobs that I thought would bring me happiness, no to projects I wanted to be part of and was overlooked for. Then, as I tried to move on, no to potential new relationships. I once joked that I should pray for the opposite of what I wanted since that is what I seemed to always get.
I’ll be honest, there was a part of me that wanted to give up on prayer at certain points in this journey. Have you ever thought something like, “Why bother, nothing works out.” or “God doesn’t answer me, so why should I pray?” Or maybe you’ve wondered, “Does God even hear my prayers?” If so, congratulations, you’re human. We all go through times of doubt, but God does hear us and He does want us to continue to pray.
God Hears Our Prayers Even When He Says No
God does hear our prayers. Let’s be sure we’re clear on that. We can’t allow doubt to creep into our minds, especially when we’re hurting. Yes, God hears every prayer we pray. “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.” (Psalm 34:15)
He listens to everything we ask Him for, but sometimes the outcome we think we want wouldn’t be in our best interest. Sometimes God needs to teach us a lesson through our situation, and sometimes, even though what we’re asking for is a good and godly thing, God won’t violate the free will of someone else, and this can be a painful realization.
While I do believe that my ex and I reconciling would have been a wonderful way to glorify God, my ex wanted no part of it, so God let him make his free will decision. That hurt me deeply, but free will is a gift that we have, even if sometimes it causes pain.
God is a good God. He hears every prayer we cry out to Him, and He answers us. Sometimes that answer is no, but that doesn’t mean we should ever stop talking to Him and asking Him for our needs.
What If I Don’t Feel Like Praying?
I get it. Trust me, I do. When everything is going wrong and you’ve cried out for help and feel like that help just hasn’t arrived, it can be tempting to stop asking. To feel like there’s no point in it. But this is where obedience kicks in. Prayer is a powerful spiritual discipline, and one that we should be engaging in daily. It doesn’t matter what circumstances I find myself in, I must pray.
Remember Job, when he was suffering one loss after another and his wife told him to curse God and die (Job 2:9)? Job did not heed this advice, but instead continued to pray. In Job 42:1 he says, in answer to God, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
He did not lose faith in God’s goodness, even when his world was burning all around him and he lost everything. In the end, God restored good things to Job’s life. They were different things, but they were good.
Sometimes, when we focus on a particular outcome we desire in prayer and then don’t get that outcome, it can be easy to think that God isn’t listening to us or doesn’t want good things in our lives. But He always listens, and He always answers. It’s just that sometimes the answer is no, and when that’s the case, we have to accept that while we may not understand the reason for the no this side of heaven, it will all make sense to us someday.
I write this as someone struggling deeply with a very painful no. I have pleaded with God to change His answer, to send a miracle, to undo the pain this divorce has caused. I also know that while I have been hurt deeply, God will not leave me in that place. He is still caring for me, loving me, and promises to work things out for my good. Not necessarily my good here on earth, but I can still pray for that. But, absolutely for my good with him in heaven someday.
Should I Continue To Pray About Something I’ve Heard No About?
This is something that you’ll have to take up with God, but I think part of healing from a loss of any kind involves accepting the loss. For this reason, I no longer pray daily that my ex would return to me. I did pray without ceasing for his return for over a year, but every door has stayed shut. Dwelling on the hurt and the pain keeps me in a place of sadness, and I know that’s not what God wants for me. Instead I’ve prayed that God’s will be done, and while I’ve expressed my heart to God about what I would like, I’ve released it to Him to sort out.
Remember that God sees things differently than we do. He is not beholden to our timelines or our finite views of what is best for us. In the end, God will be glorified through our lives as believers and we’ll understand why things happened the way they did.
Even when we’re hearing no to something we deeply desire, or receiving a series of nos that seem to come like rapid fire, we can trust the God who created us to see us through, to make those nos understandable someday and to help us find new yeses that we can look forward to in the future.