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Will God Say "No"?

yes or no

by Dennis Pollock

Among Christians there are certain sayings that have been around so long and repeated so often they are taken as certain truth. Although they are not Scripture, they bear enough resemblance to the Scriptures and are approved by so many Christians that it would seem pretty nearly heretical to question them. In this devotional study I am going to challenge one such saying, and endeavor to show you that at least in some cases and certain situations, this saying can actually be harmful to your spiritual health. The saying goes like this: "When we pray God will have one of three answers: sometimes it is yes, sometimes no, and sometimes He says wait." Whatever the answer, we must be content with it, and never question it.

Now before you get too upset with me, I will fully admit that in many cases and with many prayers this is absolutely true. As I have walked with the Lord over many decades I have enjoyed His yes’s, been disappointed with but endured His no’s, and reluctantly accepted His calls to wait. So I will admit at the outset that this saying does have relevance for believers in many cases. But not always. There are times when we do not need to consider a no from our Heavenly Father. He has already spoken an eternal yes and it is unbelief and cowardice for us to believe He will say no. There are prayers and requests we can make of our Father where a no is out of the question and we must fully expect a yes – perhaps a yes with some waiting involved, but definitely and absolutely a yes, a whole yes, and nothing but a yes.

Prayer Plus Faith

To understand this fully, we must explore the relationship between prayer and faith, as we are taught by the Lord Jesus. Nobody had more to say about prayer and faith than Jesus. It seems He was always encouraging us to pray to the Father, to pray in His name, and to expect an answer in accordance with our prayers. Let us look at one of His prayer exhortations:

"Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." (Matthew 21:21,22)

Here Jesus is telling us that we must not only pray, but we must believe that we receive that for which we pray. We cannot merely toss up a few wishes to heaven and hope that one or more may be granted. We must pray with a definite faith that our Father hears our prayers and that we receive that for which we have prayed. It may be some time before the answer appears on the horizon of our lives, but we must pray with faith. This is the polar opposite of praying with the idea that God may say yes or may say no. Prayer without any definite expectation to receive is not what Jesus is speaking about here.

Many approach prayer in a similar fashion to the gambler who plays the slot machine in Las Vegas. The gambler knows full well that the odds are against him winning. They are always stacked against the gambler and in favor of the house. Still he dares to hope that his case may be the exception. He drops in his tokens, one after another, hoping for luck. He knows that the answer may be a yes but will probably be a no. Still he dares hope, and he knows that winning, although by no means certain, is at least within the realm of possibility. If he is lucky this night he will win; if not he will lose, as most do when they play these machines.

This is precisely how so many Christians view prayer. They figure most of their prayers probably will never yield a jackpot, and they go about their business expecting to lose most of the time. God will say no. But they figure at least in some cases He may have pity on them and say yes. It can’t hurt to give it a try. The gambler loses hard-earned money, but in their case they have little to lose. Throw up a few random prayers and see what comes of it. All it will cost is a few minutes of their time. This is the mindset of many Christians; this is their “prayer theology.”

They fail to realize that this is radically opposite and hugely inferior to the attitude our Lord encourages us to have as we pray. There is certainly no faith involved here. Hope and the desire to be lucky are about all such people can manufacture as they approach the throne of grace in timid unbelief. Jesus tells us over and over that we must pray with faith. We must come before our Heavenly Father with an attitude of expectancy – not thinking He will almost certainly say no, but rather that He has a divine yes for us.

Because of Unbelief

When Jesus came down from a mountain, He saw His disciples in a frenzy. A man had brought his demon-possessed son to them to cure him, but they had been unable to bring relief to the boy. When Jesus arrived He quickly took care of the situation, and the boy was delivered. The disciples were puzzled why His word brought deliverance, but their prayers were ineffectual. They had the following conversation:

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:19,20)

Once again Jesus stresses faith. He tells them that their lack of results was not because God had said a great big no to their prayers, but because they had prayed without faith. Unbelief had stained their prayers and made them unacceptable. Jesus goes on to give the most unlikely prayer scenario imaginable – He speaks of commanding a mountain to be moved from one location to another. He assures them that even in this, faith can win the day.

Jesus with keySpace does not permit me to share the many occasions in which Jesus said things like: “Your faith has saved you,” "How is it that you have no faith?," or “Your faith has made you whole.” It is absolutely impossible to hold such a faith posture in your prayers and petitions if you are carrying a slot machine mentality in your mind as you pray, thinking that the answer may possibly be yes, but will more likely be no. The woman with the flow of blood who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment was not saying to herself, “If only I can touch Jesus' robe, I will get an answer. It may be yes; it may be no. Still it doesn’t hurt to try.” No, the Bible tells us that she said to herself: “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” After her healing our Lord assured her that her faith had made her well.

Asking Amiss

Some may be wondering, "Must God grant our every whim, every foolish, lustful, or outlandish request that we present to Him in prayer?" The answer is obviously no. James writes, "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3). However God has revealed in His word a great many things that clearly are His will, over which we may pray and petition Him with total confidence. Not only may we pray with faith and assurance of the answer, we would be greatly wronging ourselves and weakening our prayers if we do not pray this way.

Let us consider the most significant and monumental prayer of all – the prayer of the sinner for salvation. Would we counsel the unsaved to pray this way: "Lord Jesus, please forgive my sins and save me. I receive you as my Lord and Savior, and I hope that you will say yes to this prayer. I know you may say yes, but then again You may say no. So do whatever you please, yes or no –  whatever you choose is fine." Of course no Christian would ever encourage a non-Christian to pray in such a fashion. We know from the Scriptures that God "desires all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4), that He "is not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9), and that He who comes to Jesus, He will by no means cast out (John 6:37). To pray for the gift of salvation half expecting a no would be unbelief of the highest order.

After becoming a child of God, are there other things for which we may pray with absolute assurance? Indeed there are a great many things. Our Lord Jesus has told us that we have a loving, kind, and generous Father in heaven who will provide for our needs, and who delights to give good things to His children. Anything that qualifies as a genuine need for our well-being can be requested with confidence. Human dads do not give snakes to their children when they request fish – they give them fish. They do not hand their sons and daughters rocks when they come begging for bread – they give them bread. As sons and daughters of the Father in heaven, we can approach our Abba with faith when we need a job, when we can't pay our bills, when our bodies are being ravaged by disease, when we desperately need wisdom, and when depression and despair threaten to overwhelm us. And Jesus tells us, "Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Matthew 21:22). We come before God not expecting a no, but expecting a great big yes! And to make it easier for us to believe He has made all sorts of declarations in His word assuring us of His desire to answer our prayers. Like the little child before his dad, we can remind our Father, "You promised!"

Promises of the Spirit

In addition to the promises of the Bible, Christians also receive promises directly from the Holy Spirit. At times He will give us an assurance of things God wants to do in our lives, or blessings He has in store for us in the future. At such times we must courageously embrace God's promises to our hearts. No slot machine mentality for these prayers! God has spoken and we will fully expect His divine yes to our petitions. We cannot determine the timing, and often God's time does not mesh with ours, but still we can look to Him to fulfill His word. Like Abraham we must sometimes wait long for our Isaacs, but in time they will arrive, just as God has assured us they would.

But suppose as we pray and seek the Lord's face, we begin to get the impression that we are asking for something God does not want us to have. Shall we continue in prayer, claiming the promises that whatever we ask in Jesus' name, we shall receive? Of course not! The Israelites demanded meat from God, when His plan was to feed them with manna. They whined and cried and demanded and complained until at last He granted them their request – but then sent a terrible judgment upon them. It is possible to so nag God for something which He has no desire to give, that He says yes -- but sends punishment and pain along with it. On the other hand, in many cases He simply ignores us as we fast and pray and beg and plead. It is true that God has told us we may move mountains by our faith, but we find that the mountains most easily moved are the ones God wants moved. Try to move a mountain God has no interest in moving, and you will strain yourself and find that the mountain has hardly moved at all.

In the end it is the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit who inform us of the requests we may confidently present before our Father, expecting only a yes. "If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1 John 5:14). As children of the Most High God through faith in Jesus Christ it is our great privilege to come boldly before our Father, with absolute assurance of His goodness, kindness, and generosity, and with tenacious faith in His word and His promises. There will be times of uncertainty in our lives when we pray, "Thy will be done." But there will also be those wonderful times when our prayers are empowered by a faith in God's word and His promises, and we look only for a divine yes. "For all the promises of God in Jesus are Yes, and in Him amen, to the glory of God through us" (2 Corinthians 1:20).

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.

     

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