Why would God answer my prayer with a “no”?
There are many reasons why God might not respond to prayer with an affirmative answer. He may know that it is not the right time for the fulfillment of your request. He may know that what you desire is not His best for you. He also may withhold something because you have violated His ways.
Here we will consider how disobedience to God’s commands or resistance to His ways can prompt God’s judgment. In these circumstances, we are to repent, welcome God’s rebuke, and delight in His care as a Father who chastens His children. Learn to receive God’s instruction and take to heart the soul-shaping lessons He brings into your life because of the consequences of sin.
The following violations of God’s ways bring consequences:
Breaking a vow violates God’s standard for truthfulness.
- “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” (Ecclesiastes 5:4–6).
- “This have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously” (Malachi 2:13–16).
Dishonoring parents disregards God’s counsel.
- “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).
- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1–3).
Harboring secret sin ignores God’s nature of light.
- “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).
- “The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).
Pride despises the example of Christ’s humility as the Lamb of God.
- “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear” (Psalm 10:17).
- “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).
Lustful motives rebel against God’s holiness.
- “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:1–4).
- “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).
Loving money seeks for treasures other than our Savior.
- “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him” (Proverbs 28:22).
- “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:9–10).
Committing adultery defies God’s call to genuine, covenant-keeping love.
- “Remove thy way from her [the strange woman], and come not nigh the door of her house: lest thou give thine honor unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labors be in the house of a stranger; and thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!” (Proverbs 5:8–13).
- “If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbor’s door; then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her. For this is a heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges. For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase” (Job 31:9–12).
Unbelief refuses to accept Jesus as “the Way.”
- “And he [Jesus] did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58).
- “And he [Jesus] said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:19).
Unforgiveness opposes God’s work of redemption through Christ.
- “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15).
- “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Repaying evil for good disregards Jesus’ nature as Prince of Peace.
- “Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house” (Proverbs 17:13).
- “Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession” (Proverbs 28:10).
If there are areas where you have disregarded God’s ways, remember the promise of I John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Take time to pray right now: confess your sin, and ask for God’s forgiveness.
Remember that any chastening God brings into your life is an expression of His love and a tool for your good as you grow in Godliness. “Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? . . . Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:5–7, 11). Learn to accept God’s discipline and welcome His rebukes with faith.
Whatever the outcome of your prayers, you can trust that God is at work in your life, for your good and for the fulfillment of His purposes. When He says “wait” or “no” in answer to a prayer, trust that He will work all things together for good to those who love Him. (See Romans 8:28.)
This article was adapted from page 202 of the Men’s Manual, Volume II.