This October will mark the 49th anniversary of when I became a Christian. In the years that have passed since I accepted Christ’s offer of grace I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and I’ve prayed my way through all of them. Most of the time, God tells me yes. Sometimes He tells me no. Always, eventually, He has allowed me to understand and see why He told me no, but sometimes I have to wait a few years. Because I know prayer works, because I know God is a loving heavenly father, I pray for big things like a miraculous healing from cancer, and I pray for little things like lost car keys.
Myth 1 – God doesn’t hear prayers if there is sin in your life.
This is the biggest myth about prayer, and probably also the most repeated myth. If you do a web search for “when God says no,” you will often find, “Sin in your life,” on that list of reasons why God said no. The writer will then make some claim that God doesn’t hear the prayers of sinners. It is not only wrong, it is totally, and completely wrong, and more importantly, it directly contradicts God’s word.
The bible very matter of factly states, in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If God did not hear the prayer of sinners, God would not hear the prayer we pray for forgiveness of sins. He would not hear the prayers we pray accepting the grace he offers. He would not hear the prayers of anyone, because all of us sin. In John 9:2-3, you find the story of the blind man who who prompted the disciples to ask “who sinned, this man or his parents,” and you read that Christ replied, “It was not that this man sinned; or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Most people stop there, but the real beauty of this chapter is further down. Look at verses 31-34. In verse 31 the formerly blind man repeats the myth taught by ancient Jews, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God and his will, God listens to him.” In verses 32-33 the blind man responds with, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” In verse 34 the Pharisees tell him, “You were born in utter sin, and you would teach us?” They were right, the man was born in “utter sin”. We all were. Never in the story do you hear that the man did not sin. Never do you hear Christ tell him, “repent and I’ll cure you.” Never do you hear or see anything other than the grace of God in action. That is what prayer is, an extension of the grace of God.
One reason this myth is so often repeated is because of non-believers. There is a bit of a catch-22 in there. If you don’t believe that Christ is Christ, how will you be able to pray a mountain-moving prayer with the required faith. Faith, lack of faith and sin are three different things. Sin does not block prayer. Lack of faith blocks prayer.
Myth 2: Don’t pray for the impossible.
I think many people fall into the trap of myth 2 without even knowing they have fallen into a trap. Either they simply don’t pray the prayer because they consider the thing impossible, or when they pray it, they pray it without the mountain-moving faith that is required for prayer. They want to believe that “all things are possible for God,” but there is a that little nagging doubt. As an example, consider the following scenario. A friend asks you to pray for a healing from a deadly cancer. You’ve known many people who prayed for cancer cures and received a no, but you don’t want to let your friend down, so you say ‘yes, I’ll pray,” but your prayer in your heart is more a, “Dear Jesus, I know you’re probably going to say no to this, but Jim really needs a healing miracle right now. So could you please heal Jim, or help Jim accept that you won’t.” You’ve already decided that healing Jim is impossible. You’re ripped the rug of faith out from under your own feet.
God still does the impossible. God has never made a huge show of doing miracles all the time, but God has done them since he created the heavens and the earth, and despite what people might like you to believe, he hasn’t totally stopped doing them. So don’t stop asking for them.
I was a new bride when they told me that I had a terrible cancer that would eat away my face, and that was moving toward my eyes and brain. They (several different doctors and surgeons) said there was no hope for a cure, but they could possibly give me 5 years if I let them do surgery to remove most of the tumor. I wasn’t even going to seek treatment, but I prayed, and friends prayed, and my husband asked me to do the surgery, and his grandparents asked me to do the surgery, so I did the surgery. At 7 am the surgeon ran some pre-surgical tests and confirmed there was a nasty tumor with tendrils that had eaten through bone in my face. It was not a cyst. It had grown since the initial discovery. Everything that had lead to the terrible prognosis by every doctor who had seen me confirmed the terrible prognosis.
When I woke up from what should have been a surgery that removed my jaw, part of my eye, my nose and part of my frontal lobe, I was whole, except for some holes in the bones of my face. The surgeon asked me if I believed in God, and when I said i did, he said, “That’s good, because he apparently believes in you.” The doctor said when they opened up my face, just 30 minutes after having looked at the tumor, it was gone, but the evidence of its existence earlier was still there. He said it looked like another surgeon had beaten him to it. There was a hole in my bone, there were tendrils in my bones, there was no tumor. He, and the entire board of directors of the surgical unit of that hospital called it a miracle. I do too. Someone who prayed for me had prayed with mountain-moving faith.
So, why do so many cancer patients still get a no? They can’t ALL have weak prayers.
I think there are many possible reasons, with the main one being God has better plans for us than we can imagine, and sometimes those plans are not on this earth.
When my mother had cancer, I prayed, firmly believing that she would be cured. Then one day she came to me and said, “Please stop praying that. I am really tired of this world. Not just the illness, but a world with bills, and troubles, and worries. I want to rest with my parents and brother. I want to go home.” I think that God heard my prayers, and told me no because he loved my mother enough to tell me no. Mother had earned a right to the rest in his arms that I couldn’t understand.
Also, there were things in my life that happened as a direct result of being orphaned just as I was setting out as a young adult, that would surely have been changed if I had stayed on the path of “a mother’s daughter.” Things that blessed my life overall. Things like meeting my husband. He fathered my children, had I not met him, I would not have my children. I might have other children, but not the precious, wonderful two have.
God has far-sight. We have almost no sight.God has also has a paternal wisdom that the children of god don’t have. Just as your human child thinks the most terrible, cruel thing in the world that you can do is tell them no to that one thing they are pleading for, while you know it is, in fact, one of the greatest displays of love you’ve ever made, God knows we ask for things that are not best because we don’t know what is best.
Some of you are thinking, but we’re talking about DEATH! How can a loving God ever say no to preventing death? Death is a transition, and for a Christian, it is a transition forward. Think of a fetus for a moment. As a fetus, there is darkness, there are terrible limits, but the womb is all the fetus knows. For a baby to be born, for a human to grow, the “fetus stage” has to end. All that the fetus has known is left behind, but the world that they move into is a better place than that womb. Death, on God’s timing, for a Christian is leaving behind the limits of this world to transition to a better existence.
You cannot “rush” a fetus’ through that transition. You cannot rush a christian either. Taking your own life is not the answer, and it is not wrong to do what you can do to continue to grow in this life. See your doctors, take care of your health. When the time comes though, and God says, “You have to move forward now, there is nothing left for you here,” it is not a terrible thing for the one who is moving on. It is only a terrible thing for those of us who cannot move on with them, yet. So if God says no to a prayer for a miracle healing, don’t think your prayer was unheard, or that God couldn’t do the impossible. Know that God wanted better than a world of strive, bills and sickness for the person you love. Know that he has given them more than you dreamed for them.
Myth 3: You shouldn’t pray for material things or small things.
I once asked a friend to pray about a car that was giving me mechanical trouble when I needed the car and didn’t have money for major repairs. The friend replied, “Oh, I would never pray for something like that! I don’t bother god with trivial things.”
My first reaction was, honestly, anger. It wasn’t a trivial thing to me. My second reaction was, why wouldn’t you ask god for everything you want, large or small? Human parents don’t tell their children, “Don’t ask me for anything unless it is a life or death situation.” Why do you think God would be less loving, less spoiling, less indulging to his children? He may say no, just a human parent might say no. I suspect his reasons for a no will be similar to a human parent’s reasons for saying no. If you pray for wealth and don’t get it maybe it is because God knows you will be happier and better off, if you develop a work ethic. If you pray that a potential romantic connection will call, and they don’t, maybe God saw that the potential romantic partner was a total loser, and that you were just too infatuated with puppy-love to see the truth. Or maybe, despite how you feel, someone else in the world need them more than you did. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask.
One of the most spirit lifting healing moments of my life was when I asked God to help me find my car-keys. Yes, my lost car keys. It had been a horrible, horrible year. I was a single parent barely surviving from paycheck to paycheck with two children to care for, and the boss I’d worked well with for years had retired. His replacement was a woman who hated me, and who made no secret of the fact that she was looking for a reason to fire me, and I couldn’t find my car keys. If I was late for work, she had her reason. I was terrified, I was in tears. I was wondering all those things you wonder about in moments of darkness. Had I made God angry? Was all of this a punishment? A test? I tore the house apart, I dumped my purse, I cleared off the coffee table. No keys. Then I prayed, and I turned around and there they were. Right on the coffee table I’d just cleared off. Right where I’d looked at least a dozen times. I just broke down and sobbed. Those car keys were proof he was still listening. Those car keys were a “hug” from God. That little, simple answer to a “silly” prayer gave me the spiritual strength to get through all of it, and to keep going until I came out of that tunnel. To me, that “miracle” discovery of the keys was bigger than the medical miracle I had received years before. Were the keys all along? I don’t know, I don’t care. I do know, and I do care that I didn’t find them until I begged God to tell me why he hated me, and he answered with, “I don’t hate you, here are your car keys.”
Myth 4: If someone asks you to pray for something you don’t agree with you should tell them no.
God doesn’t need you to screen his calls.
When a person asks you to pray for them or with them, don’t play the role of God by refusing to talk to God about it. Don’t lecture them on how wrong you think their prayer request is. Don’t remind them of all the reasons God might say no. Just love the person who made the request, take their hand and say, “You lead,” because, usually, what they really need is someone who loves them enough to do that.
I have been told no to requests for prayer for a lot more things that God said yes to, than to things God said no to. Each time someone refused to pray for something because they thought it was too big for God to handle, or to little for God to bother with, or just “not the right thing to ask for,” it was a slap in the face that left me feeling more alone than you can imagine, and it distanced me from them. There were a few who said, “I honestly think you are wrong to ask this, but we can ask God and let God,” and I loved them for that. Ask with them, be there for them, and let God be God. He doesn’t need you to edit his correspondence for him.
Myth 5: You didn’t have enough faith when you asked.
Sometimes that is true, but in your heart, you know that when it happens.
Sometimes it is not though. A lot of people with very real mountain moving faith are told no to requests they make to God, and being reminded of this myth leaves them feeling guilty, and a bit angry at God. It serves not purpose to tell them they didn’t have faith. Don’t do that to people.
If you go to someone you love, get on your knees, positive they’ll help you through anything, positive you know the right answer, positive they’ll agree with you, and you beg them to help you do it your way and they say no, you’re shocked. You’re a bit angry that they said no, and you’re really angry if someone says, “Oh, you just didn’t ask the right way,” or “you could have talked him into it if you had really tried.”So don’t do that to your fellow Christians.
A simple, honest, “I don’t understand why God said no, but I love you, and he loves you, and eventually we’ll understand why,” is so much nicer and more accurate than, “this is your fault, you didn’t have enough faith when you prayed.”
The bottom line is, ask God. Try to accept his answer. If you have a lot of trouble accepting his answer, ask him to please help you understand why he gave the answer he gave.God loves you. He will respond to you in love. Sometimes that is yes, sometimes that is no, sometimes that is, “You can’t possibly understand right now, but when you’re older, you will see I was right.’
Love Him. Trust Him. Love him enough to be unafraid of asking him. Trust him enough to know that if he says know, he said no out of love. Trust him enough to ask for miracles, because he can do them. Trust him enough to ask for silly things because he loves you. Trust him enough to keep loving him, even if you don’t like the answer he gives.