I grew up in Iowa. I met Cathy in 1969, we started dating, fell in love, and began planning marriage. I left to go to school in Colorado in September 1970, and Cathy broke the relationship in December. I prayed fervently God would change her heart, but He said NO. In June 1971 I met Julie, and we fell in love and went steady. That fall I left permanently for Colorado, and in December Julie broke up with me. Again I prayed, and again God said NO. Then I met Judith. We ministered together, eventually dated, slowly fell in love, and were married in 1975. I later learned both Cathy and Julie had married, been divorced, and remarried. Last May Judith and I celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary. Judith has been a perfect wife, mother, business partner, and ministry support. We have served together in Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU), First Baptist Church Golden Colorado, Mountain Christian Church, Gideons International and other ministries. Although I didn’t know this at the time I was praying for Cathy and Julie, God knew all of this when he told me NO. He gave me the perfect wife for me, and kept me from making a big mistake for my life. Often, God’s NO is not rejection but redirection into a much better path.
Romans 8:26-27 says we don’t really know how to pray, so the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and sometimes God says no to us but is saying yes to the Holy Spirit. God knows what we need and what we really want, even though we don’t always pray specifically to that end.
There is a saying, “be careful what you ask for – you might get it”. The Bible gives examples of when God relented and said YES when He wanted to say NO. The consequences were always severe. In Numbers 11:18-20 the people were tired of God’s provision of manna and prayed for meat. God said YES and the people suffered a terrible plague as a result. In I Samuel 8 the people rejected God as their King and prayed for a human king. God warned them of the consequences of that in I Samuel 8:11-19, but they persisted. So God said YES in I Samuel 8:22, and the eventual result was destruction of their country, captivity, and enslavement. So God’s NO can be a great blessing in disguise.
We often forget God even said NO to His own Son’s prayer in Matthew 26:39. But Jesus left the door open for the Father’s more perfect plan. And because the answer to Jesus prayer was NO, we can all be saved. Jesus gave us the example of allowing for God’s NO and redirection to a better path, and we would be wise to do the same.