“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” -Psalm 13:1-2
There are times in our journey with Christ when certain prayers that are asked for are not answered in the way, or time frame, that we desire. Sure, we’ve all heard of the “name and claim it” theory, that’s not what we’re talking about. Let’s also rule out spiritual warfare and the aspect of battle for our prayers to ascend to God’s ear (Dan. 10). Or from what the Apostle James states, that our asking is incorrect (4:1-3). Let’s also rule out that there is nothing wrong with faith and that we’re walking in God’s will, at this understanding, what do we do when God says, “No”?
If the LORD is a heavenly Father who leads us into righteousness then surely He knows how to lead and where to lead. I know in my own walk that there have been times when I prayed for certain things for years—being the persistent widow in my faith (Luke 18:3-5) and still no answer. Specifically, not getting an answer doesn’t necessarily mean no, but it does tell us that either the timing is not right, the way we’re asking (motive or intention) is incorrect, or it’s not meant to be. In all of these aspects, for the time being, the answer is technically no—at least to us.
Our timing is not God’s timing. For instance, when I took a pastoral position in another state, neither my wife, nor I, ever questioned God’s calling—it was a perfect fit. However, we needed a job to open up for her to help pay for the mortgage and other bills that we had accumulated. We both faithfully prayed—for two years, while we lived and worked hours and a state apart. Why is God not listening? Why isn’t this happening? We never asked those questions—at least I admit that I didn’t, but there were the thoughts of doubt and wonder. We became used to the time apart, but trusted God that He knew best. Recently, the prayer was answered with the perfect opportunity, and so we learn patience in His timing. Patience is one of the most difficult things for us humans to grasp. We live within a twenty-four (24) hour, seven (7) day a week calendar. God is not defined by time, nor does He live within time. This is something we must understand in our trust.
Out of the vast prayers and even tears of missing one another, one thing that my wife and I learned—trust! If God was, who He said He was, and His timing is not our timing—and we believed that!—then we needed to trust Him. We did. If God is saying, “No,” then we can trust that whatever we’re asking is heard and comprehended. Trust means that we yield our will to God’s will. Trust is an attribute that is taught and learned through time—so then it makes sense that some of our prayers are either, “no,” or take a long time to be answered. In human terms, we build relationships of trust through time—through trials and times of turmoil or need. It’s rare that we meet people and immediately trust them with our firstborn child, the new car, or power tools. Likewise, as we find our desires or needs overwhelming us, we must trust that God is in control. We’re building a lasting relationship with Him.
One of the greatest things that we learned with God’s timing and trust is contentment. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13). Assuredly, we can deduce that Paul prayed for food during times of hunger and prayed for shelter in times of cold, or even prayed for clothing in times of peril and nakedness; why would we believe that our faith is in a vacuum? What Paul expresses is what we must learn—contentment. We must bridge God’s timing and trust with being content. So, whether things happen the way we’d like, or the way we don’t—we must be content with the outcome because He is our Master. Is it merely to learn contentment, God’s timing, or trust? That’s probably not altogether true either—but what should be an aspect within all the waiting is falling in love with Christ and drawing closer to Him, for that is where our strength comes from.
So, if God is saying “No,” we should be saying, “Lord, Thy will, not my will.”