God is a good father … who sometimes says No
One of the hardest parts of being a Dad is saying No. Having raised four children (Bethany, the youngest and the only one left at home, is now 17) I can say that I always wanted to give my children whatever they asked for. Sometimes I wasn’t able, sometimes I didn’t think it was good for them, and sometimes (looking back, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight), I realize that it was my own lack of faith in Father’s provision that kept me from giving them a blessing that they hoped for. But I never wanted to disappoint them. That wasn’t in my heart towards them.
Once we come to know God as Father and discover the miracle of answered prayer, we sometimes don’t understand why not all requests get answered – or at least not with a “yes”. Sometimes we don’t get a “yes” because it just wouldn’t be good for us. Sometimes Father is testing our faith and perseverance before giving us the answer we seek. Sometimes he wants us to be willing to surrender the thing we are asking Him for before He can trust us with it. Sometimes we could have had a “yes” if our faith allowed us to receive the answer. Although He is always far better to us than we deserve, Father will not always override our lack of faith to give us a blessing that we are not ready to trust Him for because of our doubts and fears!
But whatever the reason why God sometimes seems to delay in answering our prayers, or seems not to answer them the way that we hope He will, the one conclusion we should never draw is that He doesn’t care. I am not nearly as good a father to my children as God is to His children, but my desire is always to say yes to them because they are my children and I want to see them blessed. The more I get to know God’s heart the more I want to be a blessing to my children. Jesus said “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11 NIV).
So when the answers to your prayers seem delayed or obscured, the one thing you should never do is stop praying – and the one conclusion you should never draw is that God doesn’t care. He cares supremely – that’s why He sacrificed His Son for you.
Although He cares about our every desire, God’s agenda is sometimes different from ours. Our agenda is often to get an answer to the immediate problem we are facing or the immediate desire that currently occupies our attention. His agenda is to see us grow up into sons and daughters who understand our inheritance and are willing and able to pay the price of sharing in His glory (Romans 8:15-17). Yes, there is a price for us to pay as there was a price for Jesus to pay. The price is our independence, our self-will, our desire to call the shots and have everything work out our way. Yes, we are promised that if we love God and are called according to His purpose, all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:28) – but not always for our convenience or our immediate gratification! God cares too much for that. But I have found that there is a tremendous blessing in always being able to go to my Father, without shame or fear, when I don’t understand what is going on around me or why things are the way they are. Without fail, once I see and embrace His perspective, my faith is increased, my fears, doubts, frustration and resentment melt away, and I can once again say, with Jesus, that my Father delights in His children and loves to give good things to those who ask Him.