Psalm 140:6 I said to the Lord: “You are my God; Hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord. (NKJV)
I was sitting in on a Bible study the other day when someone said, “God always answers our prayers. He either says ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘wait’.” I have heard that countless times over the course of my life from Christians in every stage of their walk with God, from the pulpit to books to Bible studies.
Over the years it has just become one of those “standard” Christian sayings that everyone nods their head to and passively agrees with. For some reason when I recently heard it, it caused me to stop and think about it. It dawned on me that it is not profitable to perpetuate overly simplistic cliches about Christian issues.
First of all, God does NOT always answer prayer. It is our assumption that God’s silence equates to “no” or “wait”. That is OUR assumption. God’s silence may be for any number of reasons:
- We may not have met the conditions God requires for answered prayer
- Sin must be confessed (2Chron 6.26; Psa 66.18; James 5.1; Prov 1.28)
- Unforgiveness must not be present (Mark 11.25)
- We must be asking for the right reasons (1John 5.13-15; James 4.3)
- We have to have faith in Christ (John 15.7)
- We ask in Jesus name for His glory (John 14.14)
- We have to be obedient (1John 3.22)
- We must ask God in belief (Mark 11.24)
- You must be treating your spouse in a Godly manner (1Pet 3.7)
- God’s glory may be increased through His silence
- God’s silence might be part of a bigger plan we don’t, or can’t, know about
- God may have His own reason and choose not to reveal it (Deut 29.29)
- Christians walk by faith and promises that frequently don’t include answers or explanations
When God does answer, there are any number of variations to “yes, no or wait” that He may reply:
- Yes, with conditions
- Yes, with corrections
- No, unless….
- No, except for…
- No, but if you will…
- Wait, until I have…
- Wait, until you have…
Beyond that I can think of other ways God might answer us as well:
- You should already know the answer
- I have already given you the answer
- You are not ready to hear the answer
- You don’t want to hear the real answer
- You aren’t listening, I’m already answering
- You aren’t capable of understanding the answer
- I’ll tell you but you still won’t hear the answer
- You’ve already decided what you want the answer to be
By constraining God to three easy answers, we take alot of the hard work out of prayer. The “hard pursuit” of God is where much of our spiritual growth occurs. Remember the old “magic 8 ball” that had the answer window in it? You would turn the ball over, then turn it right-side up, and the “answer” would appear in the window.
Sometimes we treat God like a “magic 8 ball” when we box Him in with predetermined answers. We ask our prayer, spin God around, and get the magic answer. And we can predetermine the answer 33% of the time because we’ve limited God to three choices.
James 5:16b – The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (NKJV)
God is so far beyond our understanding there is no doubt many ways God COULD answer us that we would have no ability to comprehend. My feeble little list in this lesson surely does not even scratch the reality of the ways our Infinite and Creative God could answer our prayers.
When you pray, you have to meet the requirements God plainly requires in order for your prayers to be considered in the first place. Assuming those requirements are met, don’t limit God to a few simple answers that we can compartmentalize. Stand in wonder and awe at the Almighty God who can answer our prayers in ways we cannot fathom.
And don’t worry about if you get an answer that you don’t instantly comprehend or understand. You have to believe and have faith that whatever answer God provides, whether or not you can hear it, grasp it or see it, it is BY DEFAULT the perfect answer!
O Great God, Help us to avoid putting You into nice box that suits our need to have You respond in a way that we can understand all the time. Help us to have faith and wonder at Your awesome power to answer our prayers in the way that brings You the most glory, In Jesus name, Amen.
Contemplation: Have you ever heard the “yes, no, wait” cliche? Have you ever taught it or passed it on to someone else? Can you think of other ways God might answer? If you could, would you really want to limit God to these three answers?
Application: Be careful of perpetuating “Christian” clichés such as this one, or ones like “God helps those who help themselves” and “grace is where you leave off and God picks up”. We pass these things on so frequently that everyone comes to believe they are Scripture. They only serve to simplify and limit God in our minds, and make us lazy in pursuing the depths of real truth that is not quite so easy and nicely packaged.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?