Summary: How Does God respond to our prayers?
What Does God Say When People Pray (Part 3)
2 Cor. 12:8-9
“Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Every Christian knows the sheer delight of answered prayer. Regardless of how long you’ve been saved, I know you’ve had at least one prayer answered–the “sinner’s prayer.” If you’ve been a Christian any length of time, you’ve also experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer.
You’ve read verses like, Jeremiah 33:3 NIV “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Or Ephesians. 3:20 NIV “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” and claimed them for your need. But when the dust was settled, your need remained and God had said “no.”
How can that be? Did God go back on His promises?
In our text today, Paul admits that he too experienced the frustration of unanswered prayer. Three times Paul asked God to remove a thorn in his flesh and three times, God said “no.”
What does God say when people pray? Sometimes, He says “no.”
Aren’t you glad He does? I mean, what kind of shape would your life be in today if God said “yes” to everything you ever asked from Him?
When I was a young evangelist, I met a girl who took a fancy to me. Like I am now, I was a bit brain dead back then–not really aware of her motives or intents. She would follow me from town to town to listen to me preach, or so I thought. On one occasion, she brought her mother, grandmother and aunt to meet me. Now that I think about it, it is spooky, but at the time I just thought she thought I was a great preacher. I know, you who hear me preach every week are wondering how I could have ever thought that, but I was young and oblivious.
With time, I did get a clue, especially when I got a letter from her in which she stated that she felt it was God’s will for her to marry a preacher and God told her she was supposed to marry me. I wasn’t flattered.
She was sure that God had answered her prayers and that she was supposed to marry me. One afternoon she called, after Susan and I married. My timid wife told her, “I don’t know what God has told you, but I’m telling you to leave my husband alone.”
Think about it for a minute. How could God answer this lady’s prayer and still accomplish His will for Susan and I to marry? Or a variation on the question. What if God said “yes” to every teenage boy in the 70’s that wanted to marry one of “Charlie’s Angels?”
As a loving earthly father will do, our loving heavenly father often tells us “no.” Why does God say “no?”
Some people we expect God not to answer--people like rapists or murderers.
In another place in Proverbs, the Lord said, “But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,  since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:24-25; 1:28 NIV)
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t give murders what they ask for? Wouldn’t the world be a horrible place if child molesters could get whatever they wanted from God?
But Paul was a righteous man, right? Why wouldn’t God answer his prayer? By the way, have you noticed that we call prayer unanswered when God says “no?” Isn’t “no” an answer? Why do you think that is? Could it be because we feel entitled?
Sometimes God says “no,” even to righteous people if they ask with wrong motives. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (NASB)
James also teaches that some people’s prayers are not answered because they are wavering. James 1:6-7 says, “But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,” (NASB)