When you don’t get what you asked for

th-52Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

There are ways in which writers and preachers can say things that sound good, but that fail to touch life where we live it. It’s not that what we say is wrong; it’s just that it’s safe. We found the part we can say that is always true, but we avoided the more difficult questions. That’s what I realized I did with yesterday’s Catch. I chose the safe explanation. I interpreted “Ask” as living in a constant state of dependence on the Lord. And since I know that you can never go wrong depending on the Lord, I solved the problem, but not quite, and certainly not for some people.

There’s a part of “Ask and it will be given to you” that has always troubled me, and I can’t answer it still. What if I ask and it is not given? What if God doesn’t answer me at all, or what if He does, and it wasn’t what I asked for?

Here at the Catch, we talk about “connecting life to faith.” All well and good, but what if that life sucks, and what if all my asking doesn’t change a thing … then what? How do you connect that to faith?

I can think of a couple of people we are praying for on a continual basis who are dealing with chronic pain. They are asking — indeed we are all asking — for relief, and so far none has come. What do you say then? Some of you have been asking for a job, and no matter how hard you try, none has been offered yet. Still others have been asking for God to intervene in a relationship, or bring a loved one to salvation, and so far, no change. How, in light of these disappointments, can you even say these words without being a hypocrite?

Okay, I’m going to venture a possible explanation here, but I will need your help. This answer may be another “safe” way out of the dilemma, so I am asking those of you who are struggling without answers to write me and tell me if you can shed any light on this. If we’re going to connect life to faith, we want to connect it to your life and I’d like you to help us do that.

In another place in the gospels, Jesus asks what earthly father would give his child a stone if he asked for bread, and therefore how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. (Luke 11:11-13) This follows right on the tails of another time He said something to the effect of “Ask and you will receive.” Could this be a clue? What if what we will receive in any case, when we ask, is the Holy Spirit? What would that mean?

So here’s the question: Has anyone been aware of receiving the Holy Spirit when you asked for something even though you may not have received what you specifically asked for? Was it, or was it not, an answer?

We truly are all looking forward to your comments.

I hope you enjoyed following our Gideon Series as much as we did creating it. It’s amazing what God has built into these narratives when you can spend some time unwrapping them. It was exciting to hear some of the stories you told us, as Drew wrote: “Loving this series! And it’s giving me strength to do one of the things I fear most: write and submit an outline to a publisher!”

It’s also been exciting to see some of you come on as new MemberPartners, echoing Gideon’s 300. MemberPartners are the lifeblood of the Catch. There’s still time to help us reach 300. Sign up now! Click on the MemberPartner button in the upper right column.

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27 Responses to When you don’t get what you asked for

  1. Glenda L. says:

    I don’t know if this is an “answer” to your question — but what if you didn’t believe there *might* be an answer/help/relief/support. I think it’s part of the saving grace that we keep up the hopefulness of having a God we believe can/will answer our prayers. What about those who don’t believe in God? How much more hopeless is their situation because they don’t know that there *might* be an answer? If I couldn’t get up everyday knowing I am saved by the grace of God, it would hardly be worth getting up at all.

  2. Susan says:

    Andy Stanley does a wonderful sermon series called “In the Meantime”…in it he talks about Paul’s affliction and references 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ That is, if you pray and truly believe God can change your situation and does not, you should consider it a gift with a purpose and a promise. The promise is that his grace is sufficient. Sometimes the purpose is not completely clear. I begged and pleaded for years for the Lord to take away my husband’s addiction…good Christian women especially ones that work for churches do not get divorced. Well, I did. He is now sober and a better father to our kids. We have a good relationship in co-parenting thanks to forgiveness and grace. And, I am the happiest I have been in a long time. Maybe he isn’t saying “no.” He is just saying “wait.” And in the meantime…His grace is sufficient.

  3. Jackie says:

    John, you suggested that perhaps we receive the Holy Spirit “instead” of an answer…..As a baptized Christian, I already have the Holy Spirit with me, who never departs from me. However, I have found through many, many (and ongoing) experiences of either no answer, or the answer that I probably didn’t want, that during that time the Holy Spirit was there to manifest through a deeper dependence on God, a closer walk with Him, support in every way when I could not stand and unexpected blessings.

  4. Mark Seguin says:

    I was a bit hesitant to write an answer, simply becauz I think / feel I reply a bit too often, yet with tears welling up in my eyes, I can easily remember so many times asking God to please save my Mom, Dad, my sisters & brothers. My father used to call me a ‘Jesus freak,’ back when I first became a new Christian – He’d saying lovingly, but it still hurt (as most condemning/judgmental word tend to)

    Anyway, 4 – 5 yrs later, after I awoke from a coma that a bad car accident had put me in, one of my older brother’s, his wife, one of my younger sister’s and her husband had stopped by to see me in the hospital they brought me one of my favorite dinner’s – sweet & sour chicken – Has I’m thoroughly enjoying eating this dinner. Carl goes Mark (in this very serious voice) he have something to tell you and it scared the living c^&p out of me!!! 🙂

    Immediately I stopped eat to look @ him and see he has a few tears running down his cheek – I looked over to see my sister & her husband are too crying – Now I am almost too scared to sallow the food in my mouth! Thinking their trying to tell me I am going to dye soon…

    Then Carl now starts smiling sooo big & wide, he goes Mark while you’ve been in a coma – We all became Christians too! Later on that nite all by myself in the hospital room I couldn’t hardly get to sleep thinking: Isn’t that soo cool & praise God, not only for His Son and 4 answering my prayers too!!! What a very cool God we serve!

    In His own timing & without me being able to do anything! Made my brother, his wife, my sister & her husband followers & believers in the Lord! And eventually they both had three children and they too became believers!!!
    PS So did my Dad… my Mom, I like to think / believe was a born-again Christian, even though the RCC, Roman Catholic Church does call themselves or used that word – I believe one needs to know God to do certain things and my Mother lived a good & faithful life of a believer in the Lord Jesus!

  5. William says:

    I too have wrestled with this verse and similar verses, they used to leave me feeling like Christianity was just another thing that I wasn’t very good at or surely God would be attentive to my prayers….I resolved that this prayer was specific to Christ’s fledgling little band of believers at the Churches start a very necessary element in getting the thing off the ground, this was the only resolution that worked for me…I think these days that God acts through us , His body , at this particular time in world history…Could He intervene dramatically sometime in the future? I believe so…Will He? …Only He knows

  6. Linda says:

    After having prayed for my son for many years…I am about ready to give up. He is so messed up in so many areas and on so many levels. Friends have told me to keep praying that it must be Gods will for him to be saved and have a productive life…..and in the meantime it is tearing me to pieces. After my husband died 5 yrs ago everything has fallen apart. My son who is 43 can’t even support himself and My other two children are becoming increasingly hostile toward him. I feel like my family is gone. Why would God allow things to continually get worse and worse for so many years. Still praying…..

  7. Linda says:

    Dear Linda,
    I don’t know the answer to the “why”…but I do know that God continues to have his hand on you and your son. He loves you with an eternal love. I pray you will feel His comfort and love and He will fill you with hope. Don’t give up. Lean in on God. “For I am the Lord you God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear, I will help you”. (Isaiah 41:13)
    Praying for you and your son and your family.

  8. kevinm1957 says:

    Learned this from a good friend of mine, sometimes the “reason” we go through something painful in our lives is so that later on we can help someone else suffering through something the same or similar with getting through it. Now you might ask why did either of you have to suffer and not get relief when you asked for it. Well, the relationship the two of you now have would not have been possible otherwise, pretty simple, but not always comfortable.

  9. Elaine says:

    I had struggled for years with deep resentment towards my Husband when one day a few months ago I prayed so hard to God to show me what to do. God put an impression on my Heart to “Choose Love”. The strangest and most wonderful thing began to happen. I realized that the problem was not with my husband, but with me. Over a period of time I was unknowingly closing my heart off towards my husband. So I began to open my heart again. I was given a craving to delve into Gods Word. I began to see Jesus through the Word in a much deeper way. The Spirit in me was alive! Gods answer to my desperate prayer was the gift of Love through the Holy Spirit and the gift of Knowledge through His Word. So YES, I believe Gods answer to prayer is received through igniting his Spirit within us, to give us the power to change ourselves.

  10. TimC says:

    John: Thank you for tackling the difficult questions. You’re right – far too many sermons give the easy answers and leave the real questions unanswered.

    Such as Matt 6:33 Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.

    I haven’t figured that one out because I struggle to believe it at face value, when there are so many followers of Christ who are living with next to nothing.

    But I think I have figured one riddle that has puzzled me (and others). Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Many people have thought that means that if they delight in the Lord then He will give them a wonderful life with all of the possession that they desire. I don’t think so. If those are the desires of my heart, then I’m clearly not delighting myself in the Lord; I have an idol in my heart that is taking the place of God. But if I truly delight myself in the Lord, then He is the desire of my heart, and of course, He will fulfill that desire.

    And here’s another one. People say they are so “blessed” when they have an amazing vacation, or a beautiful house and other things. But Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Blessed does not equal blessed. It is far better to be Blessed than blessed.

  11. Peter Leenheer says:

    Perhaps it has something to do with what God wants. The Lord’s prayer talks about God’s things first and then ours. As for me, I spent a lot of time praying and some was answered and some not. In this life you will have trouble, God still works out everything to his end, but we could be caught in something that could be motivated by love for ourselves rather than out of love for God. Tough circumstances have me always focused on myself rather than God. Perhaps our foremost focus should be on God and then ourselves.

    I prayed to God for a wife. Man was she imperfect. For many years I looked a gift horse in the mouth so to speak. I felt cheated until I started loving her unconditionally as God loves me. My pain and anguish of her dysfunction disappeared and I prayed for her to have God’s peace. Lo and behold I got peace too.

    Hope this adds to the light that has been already shed on the subject.

  12. Tim says:

    I’ve never said this out loud but here it goes. Nothing I am about to say is based on scripture, just obvervation.
    Most of the time things work out, prayer or no prayer. Christians praise God for answers to prayer and people without faith are just happy.
    When it doesn’t work out Christians say it just wasn’t Gods plan or we don’t know the BIG picture.
    Without faith a person just admits it stinks.
    Personally, I don’t think Gods all that involved.
    I believe in being thankful but I don’t believe in “Santa” in the sky.
    The closest I believe we come to “experiencing ” God or the Holy Spirit, is in sharing love with each other.
    The life changing work that comes from faith is only evident in our love for others.
    So do I believe in prayer? I think it makes us feel better.

    • Sandie says:

      Tim – your last sentence is haunting. Lately, there is much about my prayer life that doesn’t make me feel better, in fact just the opposite. Because there is a healing I desperately seek, I have to remind my self that there are MANY answered prayers that have come about because I (and others) prayed. I can’t explain how I know that any better than this…I felt the Spirit in me leap for joy! Because of my unanswered prayer, in the past months I’ve done a lot of reading, thinking AND praying about the subject of prayer. While I don’t have any real answers, there is one thing I DO know – with no hesitation – in a very real, very deep, very true sense – my prayer(s) – and yours – make God HIMSELF feel better! I KNOW it brings him joy to hear from me! What parent doesn’t want a close relationship with their child? And God gave EVERYTHING to make the relationship I have with him possible. So, in gratitude I pray. Prayer is nothing more than communication. What relationship can exist without it? The deeper the communication, the deeper the relationship – on both ends. So, in my disappointment I pray…and I know that I and God are equally blessed…and the Spirit in me weeps quietly for joy. Blessings to you on your journey in faith.
      Jeremiah 29:11

  13. sharlene Howell says:

    When my baby was very sick, the doctors told us they didn’t think he would make it. I couldn’t sleep that night. I prayed for him and cried out to God. Eventually, I slept. When I woke up, I had no idea what God would do about answering my prayer, but still I had such joy in my heart. God had not revealed anything to me about what He was going to do, but instead He gave me the Comforter. He knew that was what I needed most.

  14. Grace says:

    My sisters answer makes complete sense to me!!

    No matter what you ask for you always end your prayer by telling God that your overriding wish is for His will to be done, not yours–just like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:42 “…Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.” (http://bible.com/546/luk.22.42.KJVA)

    If you pray in that manner, then you can be sure that God will give what you ask. He will be most happy to work things out according to His will. And when His will is accomplished, things always work out best for us, even if we don’t get what we thought we wanted or needed.

  15. Peter Leenheer says:

    Sandi I think you hit the nail on the head!!!! Seek God first, and the peace you get will get you through anything because you are in close relationship to God. If it seems God is not there, who has moved?

  16. Tim Logan says:

    WE must remember God knows what is best for us and many times when we ask for something the answer may be No. while we do not want to think that God tells us no it is truly for our best

  17. Martha Nelson says:

    I became a follower of Christ through His Salvation as a very young child. I also began a time of rebellion around age 18 that went on far longer and lower than I ever thought possible. I had made the statement, after seeing some “real sinners” that “I would NEVER do this or that!!” Well, it was like the Holy Spirit said, “Oh yeah! Well, let me just back off My restraining Hand and we will see just how “good” you really are”! This began a slippery slide to much pain and sorrow. Then there came a time – and the specifics are not necessary – when I came to the end of me and I was so distraught and discouraged and HOPELESS that I cried out to the Lord a simple “Help me or I want to DIE!” There was a sudden physical sensation of loving arms and warmth that enfolded me and a voice vividly came to the ears of my heart, “Don’t be afraid! I am with you! My grace and strength is sufficient.” The tears of relief were so healing! My Lord had just given me a taste of His LAVISH LOVE! Nothing in my circumstances had changed but I was aware that my Jesus was right there with me and would walk through every valley with me! I have never been the same since! Thank you for the opportunity to tell of His constant love and His ever present answer. “I am always with you even to the end of the earth”! Lord bless Martha Nelson

    Sent from my iPhone


  18. Elizabeth Black says:

    A little over a year ago, someone came into my life that I thought was God’s plan for my future after my husband had died. I had been married 56 years to my husband but was very lonely so I fell in love with this man or maybe I was just infatuated. Anyway a year has passed and I now believed he scammed me and after months of surgeries for me and him having a stroke, he has become evil and has called me every horrible and dirty word possible. I had prayed about this over and over and I think I did not listen to the Holy Spirit when I wanted this man to love me as I loved him. God was answering me telling me he wasn’t the right person and I was trying to do it my way while praying for God to lead me. I just wanted him to be my friend now but he instead has been so ugly towards me that I don’t believe he is the person I thought he was for over 8 years. There is so much more to this story but my point I am trying to make is, that God does know what is best for his children if we will only listen to the Holy Spirit. I was asking for someone in my life that God knew what not good. I thought he was a Christian but now I am not so sure or else he is just not living a close walk to God. I forgave him over and over and have only used kind words but I should have listened to God. When we sometimes think God is not answering our prayer, He is but not the way we ask for because in the end, He knows what we need better than we do.

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