Have you ever prayed fervently and, as far as you could tell, according to God’s will, and yet the Father did not grant your request? If you answered “yes” to this question, you’re not alone. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, the apostle Paul tells of a time when he prayed with passion, three times, that a “messenger of Satan” would be driven away from him, that a “thorn in the flesh” would be removed from him, but in the end the Father answered “no.” Instead, he replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (12:9).
I once prayed and asked the Father to deliver me out of a situation, but my sense of his reply was this: “I don’t want to deliver you out of this; I want to develop you in this.” And that is precisely what he ended up doing in my life.
How, then, are we to understand such experiences in light of such a strong promise as this: “…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”? I see at least six reasons why the Father may not grant our requests in the way we ask for them. First, it may be that we are not asking according to the Father’s will, even if it seems to us like we are. The most merciful thing the Father can do in this situation is to say “no” and then teach us to pray according to his will. Second, it may be that we are asking according to his will but with wrong motives (James 4:3).
Third, it may be that we have unconfessed sin that is hindering our prayers (1 Peter 4:7). Fourth, it may be that the Father sees a greater good and says “no” to our request in order to give us that greater good, in his time and his way. Fifth, it may be, as with Daniel, that he has granted our request but that there are spiritual dynamics at play that are delaying the fulfillment of the answer (Daniel 10:12-14). Sixth, it may be that for some other reason the Father thinks it best for us to wait on him (Psalm 40:1).
The bottom line is that God the Father really does know best, and we must learn to pray as Jesus himself prayed in the garden. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). In other words, we must learn the joy of total submission to the Father, trusting that he knows best and does best every single time. Our main request in every request ought to be this: “Father, teach me the joy of surrender to your will, even when it’s difficult or painful.”
Prayer Focus: Pray that the Father will give us eyes to see when he does not answer our prayers in the way we would have him answer. Pray that he will teach us the joy of surrender to his will; the joy of exchanging our desires for his good pleasure.