God is a Father.
There is another reason why God may say “No” to our prayers. God is a Father. When Jesus came to reveal the true nature of God he brought to the fore a name for God that had been seldom used. He says to his church, “When you pray, Say Father…”
Now I am a father. I think I am basically a sound father. I have worked at fathering my children. I have even read books on fathering. I am not a perfect father, but I have worked at trying to be a good one. But I confess to you that over the past 40 years I said “NO” to my children more than I ever said, “YES”.
That is not because I was mean. It is not because my children were bad. But my children were children. They were by very nature immature. They did not always know what was good for them. I can still hear the litany of requests, “Can I drop piano lessons?” I said “NO! because I wanted them to appreciate good music” “Can I stay up a little longer to watch that TV program?” I said “NO!” because of school the next morning. “Can I have an advance on my allowance?” I said, “NO!” I wanted them to learn how to handle money, and no money. They wanted to eat all their Hallowe’en candy the night they got it, I said “NO!” because I wanted them to have teeth when they grew up, and on it went.
Though my children could not always understand the “no’s” I gave them, I still had to give them. Why? Because I was their father and loved them profoundly.
And God’s nature and his name is Father. And we are at our very best and most adult stage remain immature. And out of his great love and his infinite wisdom he says “NO!” Listen to the insightful prayer of Henry Ward Beecher,
We Thank you God for the privilege of prayer and for your answers to prayer:
And we rejoice that you do not answer according to our petitions.
We are blind and constantly seeking things which are not best for us.
If you granted all our requests we would be ruined!
C.S. Lewis has followed up on that when he says
“God has left himself a discretionary power. Had he not done so, prayer would be an activity too dangerous for man and we should have the horrible state of things envisioned by Juvenal (the Latin poet): Enormous prayers which Heaven in anger grants.” (God in the Dock, p. 106-107)
Listen to the Psalmist as he tells of the terrible time God reluctantly answered the prayer of Israel in the wilderness, (Psalm 106:13-15)
They soon forgot God’s works
They did not wait for his counsel
But they had a strong craving in the wilderness
And put God to the test in the desert;
He gave them what they asked,
But sent a wasting disease among them.
The King James Version is even more graphic. “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” But that is not the normal work of God our Father. He loves us enough not to answer many of our prayers.
C.S. Lewis has explained that there are only two kinds of people in this world. Those who say to God, “Thy will be done!” and those to whom God reluctantly says “Your will be done.” Have it your way. But thanks be to God, he does not allow that to happen easily. He is a Father who in his great compassion and foresight says “NO!” to many of our prayers. If he answered all our prayers “we would be ruined!”