Here Are The 3 Possible Answers To Prayer
Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14, NKJV
Yes, No, and Wait! Those are the three possible answers to your prayers, so says conventional wisdom. I have thought a lot about the three-compartment answer‑‑ yes, no, and wait. At the introduction of today’s Guidelines, I freely acknowledge that God does not answer all of my prayers the way I would like. Sometimes, in fact, He flatly denies what I have asked for. And I, for one, am quite glad that God does turn down some of my ardent requests, because as I later look back on some of the things I once asked for, I now realize that if God had given me just what I asked for I would have been most unhappy later on.
At times we have asked for things that just were not in our best interest, yet at the time we really believed that what we were seeking was exactly what we needed. We are not alone in doing this. Elijah, the prophet that withstood the 450 prophets of Baal, did the same thing. After his great victory, he was physically and emotionally exhausted. Having learned that Jezebel was out to get him, he just prayed that God would let him die. But meeting his Maker was a request that was not on schedule as far as God’s timetable was concerned. Request was denied! Yet God was not indifferent or silent. He simply said, “No!”
At the same time, be very certain that God does answer prayer. Each morning–schedules allowing–my wife and I rise an hour earlier than we normally would and spend that time in quiet prayer. When the alarm goes off, I stagger into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee, and then while we drink a cup, we talk about things that we want to pray about. Believe me, I would not give up the best hour of sleep unless I was fully persuaded that God hears and answers prayer. We have kept records, and the indication is that although coincidences happen, there is no way that they happen with the frequency we have experienced which we call answered prayer.
“Yes,” God does answer some prayers, approving just what I have asked for, but at other times, He simply says, “Not just now!” It is not an out‑and‑out denial; it is merely awaiting His timetable and schedule. But is there another alternative? There is another side to unanswered prayer which, I believe, is telling God what we want–at least, what we think we want or need–then putting the whole matter in His hands for Him to dispose of as He sees fit, fully confident that God knows how to answer our prayers better than we do.
I have found that most of the time God chooses to answer my prayers in a slightly different way than I have in mind. Fortunately, God sees many details which are unknown to me. His perspective is so much better than mine; and because He has the power to change things and people that I do not have, I had better make it clear as to what I have in mind‑‑that is praying in faith‑‑but then allow God to exercise His options as to how He answers my prayer. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him,” says the Apostle John, “that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14, NKJV). That is the secret!
When God answers my prayer and does so in His way, which is far better than my way, the answer may contain one or even more of these three elements: Yes, No, and Wait my timing, but in the end our needs are far better met by awaiting His timing. George MacDonald, the man who greatly influenced C. S. Lewis, wrote, “Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best and man will not take it.” Remember, God has a better plan.
Resource reading: 1 John 5:1-21