If you’ve been a praying person for any length of time, you probably know what it’s like to have God say, “No.” Sometimes in little things, other times in things that are very important to us.
The disappointment is real. But, after all, God is not a vending machine.
Yet the Bible tells us that if we ask for anything according to God’s will, we will receive it.
How do we know what God’s will is?
Sometimes the only way to find out is to pray and see. But there are some things we can know for sure are always His will – things we can confidently expect Him to give when we ask for them.
Here are some of them.
Eternal life through Christ
A close, unhindered, eternal relationship with our loving Creator is the best “yes” we could ever hope to receive. And through Christ, it’s ours for the asking.
When we repent of our sins, accept Jesus as Lord of our lives, and believe the Good News about what He did for us through His death and resurrection, we can pray for and receive that “yes”.
The God-human relationship once hindered by sin becomes restored. Every sin we’ve ever committed is forgiven, and we embark on a journey of growth. Sin loses its power over us, and we join the family of God.
The Holy Spirit
When we become Christians, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Besides marking us as Christ-followers, His presence within us provides us with everything we need to grow spiritually. He fosters qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, and sound-mindedness. He also gives us the power and guidance we need to fulfill God’s will for our lives.
When we feel overwhelmed by what God asks of us, or even simply by life itself, we can ask for the Holy Spirit to get us through. To use a common biblical phrase, we can ask to “be filled with the Holy Spirit”.
Not that He ever leaves us. Rather, sometimes we need His presence in a special way – an extra big helping of all that He is to match the bigness of whatever task or difficulty we’re facing.
And we know He will give it. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13, NIV)
Have you ever wondered whether you made the right decision, after all your study and scrutiny and debating? Have all your options ever seemed to come up equal? Have you ever longed for black and white but found only a confusion of gray?
The Bible assures us that if we ask for wisdom, God will give it. Not stingily or judgmentally, but “generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5, NIV).
This doesn’t always look like a bolt from the blue, or a heavenly spotlight blazing to life on the “correct” choice. Often it looks like time spent with wise friends, research into different options and perspectives, and careful study of Scripture. Many times it means praying for wisdom, then moving forward in these activities and trusting that the decision we make based on them is the best one.
It looks like a lifestyle of Scripture study, prayer, godly fellowship, and a spirit of humility and reliance on God. And when decisions must be made in an instant, it looks like a quick cry to God before doing the best we can with what He’s given.
Victory over temptation
Temptation to sin is a guarantee in our fallen world – at least until Jesus returns to do away with evil altogether. Even Jesus was tempted while He was on earth.
However, it is never God’s will for us to sin and give into temptation. Whenever we’re tempted and ask for His help, we can be assured He will give us either the strength to resist or a means of leaving the situation. And even before we face temptation, we can confidently ask Him to equip us with the spiritual “armor” we need to fight those battles.
Forgiveness of sins we’ve confessed and repented of, on the condition that we also forgive our fellow humans
Repentance and confession are part of accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior. We must first acknowledge our sin in order to understand and accept what Christ’s death and resurrection accomplished for us.
However, repentance and confession are also an ongoing part of Christian life. Because even after we become Christians, we still sin. We still choose to ignore the Holy Spirit’s guidance or neglect the power He offers to overcome temptation.
Although we’re now indwelt by the Spirit of God, we’re still human. A transformation has begun, but it won’t be finished until Christ’s return.
We still need forgiveness. And by God’s grace, we can have it. Just as God forgave us for our past sins when we first confessed our need for and faith in Christ, so He forgives us when we confess (and repent of) sins we make as Christians.
However, God expects us to forgive others with the same free generosity He shows when forgiving us. Having received such grace from the God of the universe, we have no right to withhold it from our fellow humans who wrong us. This is a “yes” that must be passed on – or else forfeited.
The coming of God’s kingdom
When it seems like our world is going under, and we wonder how – maybe even if – God is going to work everything out, we can find comfort in this: The kingdom of God is near. Jesus is coming back.
The future redemption of the world and God’s reign are a promise. Inevitable. Guaranteed. Even when evil seems to triumph today, we can be assured that its end is coming. And we can know that even now God’s goodness is active and sovereign. His light is shining.
Every time we choose to trust Him over our fears, act with integrity instead of by worldly standards, follow His teachings instead of our own desires, and show Christlike love instead of hate or apathy, we are showing the world what God’s kingdom looks like. We are acting like citizens of heaven on earth. We are creating an impact with eternal significance and repercussions that evil cannot obliterate.
And whatever wrongs are not righted, whatever harms are not healed now, will be so at Christ’s return. Literally to the point that the dead will be raised, never to die or suffer again.
In the meantime, God is preparing, working in ways we cannot see.
Jesus assures us many times how much God enjoys giving good things. Whatever we ask for, we can know that whatever He decides to give is best.
The better we get to know Him, the more we tend to want what He wants. And the more we realize that often the best thing we can say is, “Your will be done.”
The more we trust Him, the more content we become with whatever He gives, whenever He gives it. The more we can be like children running to our heavenly Parent to ask Him for whatever we want or need, then waiting expectantly for His response. Knowing that, whatever He decides, we are heard, loved and will be taken care of.
Whatever you pray for, know this: He hears. He considers. He will do what He deems best.
And whatever else He doesn’t give, rejoice in what He does. Because it is enough.
“Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”
– Hebrews 4:16 (CSB)