Prayer is the vehicle God has given us to make our requests known and to receive from Him. Jesus teaches that if we ask, we will receive. In James’ epistle, the Bible says we have not because we ask not. A noteworthy truth about this is that we don’t always know the perfect will of God concerning what we are praying about. So what if God denies your request? That is, suppose when you pray, God says no?
In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul the apostle talks about this messenger of Satan he had to contend with. The great apostle said he prayed to God three times that He would remove it from him. I am sure that if any of us were under the same kind of attack from the enemy we too would pray to God for deliverance. Furthermore, we would be confident God would oblige. On the surface, this seems like a straightforward case.
But God denied Paul’s request. Instead, He said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a). What God is saying here is that it is not His will to remove every load and test from our lives. Human nature is for us to pray for Him to remove every such burden, and we are never wrong to pray that way. But sometimes God suffers us to go through a test that is beyond our strength so that in our weakness we can experience His strength.
Anyway, when God so responded to Paul, he in turn said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (verse 9b).
Say what? Most gladly? Let me get this straight. Paul made a serious request to God. The Lord denied Paul’s specific request. In effect, God said no. And Paul was not disappointed but glad. Hum.
What is the lesson for us? It is that when we pray, we must be willing to subject our will to God’s perfect plan for our lives. Until we develop the habit of coming before the Lord in prayer with this kind of disposition, we have a ways to go in learning how to pray. Sometimes, God does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to, even when we pray in accordance with His Word. He gets the final say. We are on a journey with Him, and He wants us to experience Him.
Twenty-one years ago, I began pastoring a church. I really thought I was going to take the world by storm through that ministry, but it didn’t turn out that way. I pastored the church for nine years, and most of the time was a serious struggle. About five years into that pastorate, things got really bad on several fronts. I diligently prayed and sought the face of God for a turnaround. The truth is, the going was tough the entire nine years I was at that church.
I never saw the realization of my requests to God, regarding that church. What I can boldly say, however, is that God didn’t build that congregation the way I wanted Him to, but He certainly did build this preacher better than I could ever have imagined. I will give absolutely nothing for how I grew spiritually in the process. It never would have happened had I not been tested as I was. God won’t always grant our request, but for us He always knows what’s best.