“No means no!”
We’ve all heard this expression and it’s meaning is clear, right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s one case where “no” doesn’t always mean “no” and, surprisingly, it has to do with unanswered prayer!
I feel that it’s a safe assumption to state that, at one time or another, we have prayed for something and didn’t receive what we requested. These situations usually get lumped into the “unanswered” prayer category and can cause us much grief and often results in the question:
“Why didn’t God answer my prayer?”
Sometimes we fail to recognize that “no” is a valid answer to our prayers. Being a loving Father, God is not going to answer our prayer by giving us something that’s not good for us. Just like the child wanting to play with an electrical cord or a shiny knife, we sometimes desire things which will harm our spiritual well being. Fortunately for us, the Lord will deny these requests so that He can protect us from ourselves. This point is emphasized in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus adds an often ignored disclaimer to His “Ask and you shall receive” teaching:
Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. (Mt 7:9-11)
However, there is a case where an apparent “no” from God, may not mean “no”. Before you think that I’ve lost my mind, let’s look at an example. Once upon a time, there was a mother who was concerned about her son’s immoral lifestyle. He wanted to take a trip to Italy, but she was fearful of the trouble that he would encounter and possible endanger his salvation to an even greater degree. The mother prayed that her son would not be able to make the trip. Despite her petitions, the son sailed for Italy. At first glance, it appeared that her intention was denied. However, once there the son encountered a great preacher and ended up experiencing a great conversion. Her son was not only baptized, but became a great teacher and leader.
Great story, huh? What makes it better is that it’s true. The mother’s name was Saint Monica, the great preacher was Saint Ambrose and the son – Saint Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Catholic Church! Even though Monica’s particular petition was denied, her general petition was granted. What’s the point, you might ask? Simple. The point is that God always knows what’s best for us. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we’ll find peace!
Don’t be discouraged when it appears that God is not answering your prayers. He really does know what He’s doing. Console yourself with the fact that either you were asking for something harmful or…
maybe, just maybe, He plans on turning that “no” into a “yes”!