When we process through a problem or confusing decision with prayer, we do so to find answers. To find relief, right?
But, like the Apostle Paul, God expects us to come at these prayer times with an open hand. With hands that are not so much waiting for a handout as much as being lifted high in praise.
Sure, God wants us to come to Him with our needs—even expecting Him to answer. But, more than that, He expects us to surrender our concerns at His feet.
When we do, we receive inner peace but not always outward resolution.
Let’s learn from two situations in the life of Paul for clarity on how to accept God’s “no” to a prayer request.
The first situation is described in Acts 16:16-40, but let’s focus on this verse first …
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. —Acts 16:25
These two missionaries sure needed the peace of God while chained in a prison cell. I’d be praying too but likely without all the singing! 😉
Yet Paul and Silas must have known that singing to God and PRAYING would strengthen their faith, as well as encourage everyone within earshot.
I bet they prayed for a lot of things at that moment and not just to be released from prison. Maybe they asked God to bring salvation to others through their current plight.
Their main concern wasn’t for themselves. They wanted whatever would bring God the most glory. Perhaps they prayed to be released but, certainly, left it up to God to decide how He would answer.
On this occasion, God answered “yes” to them being released.
When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” —Acts 16:35
God even answered “yes” to others in this situation coming to know Christ, including the jailer and his family! (Hover over Acts 16:30-33.)
However, Paul did not always get a “yes” to being released from prison.
Enter the second situation!
We don’t know exactly how or when Paul died, though there are some clues. Early church historian Eusebius claimed that Paul was beheaded by order of Emperor Nero probably in 68 AD.
Whether this is accurate or not, Bible scholars agree that Paul was executed while imprisoned. In this case, God said “no” to being released from prison but “yes” to the freedom and glories of heaven.
3 Lessons from Paul’s life that can help you to accept God’s no.
1. We can trust that God knows better than we do when He says no.
When Paul died, he had accomplished all that God had ordained for Paul to do. The timing was perfect.
In the same way, God knows whether your request is best for you. Your job is to simply trust that He and His ways are good. If He closes the door, you can know that what you requested is not the best or best timing.
2. The “no” of God protects us from unseen things that hinder His best for us.
When God said “yes” to Paul and Silas, the Lord did more by releasing them than if He had left them imprisoned.
But when God said “no” to Paul being released, God did more through Paul’s death than through his release from prison. We can trust that Paul’s death inspired others to greater depths of courage just as his persecution had before (Phil. 1:12-14).
What might God want to do in your life because He is saying “no” to your request?
3. Not getting our request gives us the opportunity to strengthen our faith.
We know that the Apostle Paul faced all sorts of trials (2 Cor. 11:16-33). Each one tested and refined his faith no matter how God answered. Listen to his words on the subject . . .
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. —2 Cor. 12:8-10
Could Paul’s trust in God’s “no” have been as strong without these many “nos” and “closed doors”? Not a chance!
How strong is your faith?
Could this be at least one very good reason why God is saying “no” or “not yet” to you? If so, find ways to stretch and “work out” your faith.
Paul gives us some hints about how to do this in that 2 Corinthians passage . . .
- Boast about your weaknesses, welcoming Christ’s power to rest (take over) in your life.
- Delight in your weaknesses, the insults others inflict, the hardships, persecutions, and difficulties you endure. Use them as an opportunity to inspire others to persevere in their faith like Paul did in his.
Another way to strengthen your faith that’s not expressed in this passage IS this passage. You could memorize and pray it whenever you feel weak.
Each action I’ve just listed above can be taken to strengthen your faith when God says “no.”
Which ones will you do?
The graphic below shows the latest devotional published by Devotableapp.com. And I am honored to be one of the authors with my devotion, “Distracted by Worry and Wants.” You can check out the devotional and purchase it on Amazon here.