I was on my way home from running errands. As I approached our neighborhood, my cell phone rang. The call was from my tween-aged daughter.
“Hi, Mom. It’s Kennedy. Where are you?”
“Hey, baby! I ran some errands and will be home in just a few minutes. What’s up?”
“Well, I wanted to see if you and I could go shopping for a new bathing suit this afternoon, and—don’t say no—I’d like to get a feather in my hair. Can we, Mom?”
Oh. No. She. Didn’t!
I was taken aback by the bold expectations of my daughter.
Don’t say no? I thought. Really? C’mon girl. I’m the parent. You’re the child. Get a grip.
What I said to her was, “Honey, we are several weeks away from swim season. I’m not sure that today is a good day for all of this. And by the way, you’re free to share your heart with me and to tell me your desires, but you do not get to tell me what I can and can’t say no to.”
Later, as I considered her angle—the way she positioned her request—my heart leapt with conviction. How often do I approach God with a request wrapped up in a demand that He not tell me no?
Jesus told His disciples that they could ask for anything. He even said that when we ask in His name that what we ask for would be given to us.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14).
Let’s consider the context here. When Jesus said “You may ask me for anything,” it wasn’t an open invitation for the will of man to reign. It was an invitation for man to participate in the will of God through prayer. It was about us asking for things that will bring glory to God the Father. Asking “in my name” is all about the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven—not the whim of mankind.
Then what about the “Name-it-and-claim-it” theology?
Is God obligated to answer our prayers in the way we want Him to?
No, He’s not. Does God want you to have a million-dollar home and drive a Hummer? Not sure. Does God want you to be healed of that diagnoses, disease, or physical challenge? Possibly. I don’t know His exact plan for your life. What I do know is this: God is a good and faithful God. “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast forever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness” (Psalm 111:7-8).
All throughout Scripture we see that God is faithful. When it comes to God’s character, faithfulness doesn’t mean that He will always come through for us in the way we expect. It means He will see His plans through to completion, that He will keep His promises, that He will continue to work in our lives for our ultimate good—not necessarily our immediate happiness.
If we think that God can’t say no to us, then we’ve put ourselves on the throne and not God. Prayer is not about getting God to do what we want Him to do; it is about releasing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). It doesn’t change His mind and He’s not a genie in a bottle whose wish is our command. God is God—and He is faithful, no matter which way He moves.
I love my daughter. I mean, I really love my daughter. But just because she asks me for something doesn’t mean that I’m going to grant her request. I love her too much for that. God is our heavenly Father. Our parent. He wants mature, wise children. Not spoiled children. He loves us too much for that.
He even told His own son “no” in order to accomplish His great purposes. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus was distraught to the point of sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Crying out to God, He “knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done’” (Luke 22:41-42, ESV).
God said no to Jesus because the request of His Son did not line up with His will.
And because God said no, you and I can experience grace, forgiveness, peace, and salvation. In order for God to be glorified in His life, Jesus had to submit to the will of the Father. In order for God to be glorified in our lives, we, too, must submit to the will of the Father—and His will is always what’s best for us because He is faithful.
Coming to terms with this truth is tough, no doubt about that. At times the wounds of life leave us reeling. At times God allows trials and temptations that seem unbearable. Even in those times, God remains the same and He can be trusted. It’s a choice we have to make. And that choice is directly linked with the promise of blessing. Psalm 84:12 says, “O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”
No matter what you pray for or desire, you can trust Him, whether His answer is “No,” or “Yes.”