What God Means When He Says “No”


These were the words that stuck out to me as I read the following parable in prep for a Bible study on prayer. I admit I was a little puzzled by what Jesus seemed to be sharing.

And he said to them,Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.” (Luke 11:5-8)

I got the message — we should be persistent with our prayer. But if this is a parable on prayer, that means that God is the friend. And He’s telling me to go away. He only answers because of my endless requests.

This struck a nerve.

If you’re at all like me, at some point you may have faced this question: Are the answers that come from prayer based on our efforts? If I try hard enough, or do it often enough, then will my prayer be fruitful? Surely then it will mean something. By that logic, though, if I don’t feel anything, if I don’t see results as I expect to, then I’m not doing enough. I am not trying hard enough.


“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…” Reading Luke 11:9-13, I could see a little more light. I only have to ask. Great. But, wait… How do these verses mesh with the parable, where asking meant being an unwelcome annoyance at midnight?

When I began to dive into this with the women in my Bible study, our discussion brought me some clarity. Cue Luke 11:13:

“If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Here’s the kicker: God is so much more than a human friend. Our friends might be annoyed at our requests for midnight snacks. Our friends might, in that moment, only give in because we refuse to give up.

But if people — fallen, broken, busy as they are — can find it in them to meet our needs, to provide what we ask for, how much more likely is God — our Creator, our FATHER — to give us what we truly need, to give above and beyond what we ask for?

Here’s what’s even better than that: He will not just give us some loaves of bread. He will give us the Holy Spirit.

In those times when it seems like He’s refusing to answer our prayer, He isn’t just sitting idly, grumbling at our nerve, shocked that we would dare reach towards His majesty. He is sending the Holy Spirit to help us unite our requests to His will for us.

Sometimes, the answer to our requests is no. But it isn’t because God is too busy, or because we haven’t earned the right to have our prayers heard, or because He is trying to punish us. Sometimes, it’s because He wants to help us see that we can ask for so much more.

So in this time of applications and making plans for summer jobs, or ‘”real adult” employment, or grad school opportunities, or whatever it is that you’re facing, remember that when the answer to your prayers seems to be no, this is a crucial time to continue going to Him in prayer. This is a chance to seek other possibilities — to go to the Lord because He is our Father and ask Him if your desires are one with His. If not, ask Him to show you His will, and to send the Holy Spirit to enlighten your heart and mind and to draw you closer to Him.

If we can see Him with true eyes of faith — if we can see Him as our FATHER — prayer becomes so much more than asking for our will to be done. It truly becomes a space of growing relationship. When we knock, our Father will run to the door. He will rush to greet us. And He will never send us away empty-handed. Even when His answer is “no” to the specific request we have made, He will send the Holy Spirit to convert our hearts, to draw us to Him, to unite our will with His.

Alaina Cuka
Alaina Cuka
Alaina graduated from the University of South Dakota with a B.A. in English and a teaching certificate. Moving to La Crosse was her first time living outside of the cozy plains of South Dakota, and hiking the bluffs there is really challenging her to lose her fear of heights. She loves reading, writing, and going to concerts (and advises finding The Oh Hellos' nearest show, ASAP). Listening to people's stories is one of her favorite things; it is there that she most easily sees God.

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