Preachers love to come up with pithy little outlines to describe how God answers prayer requests. So, for today’s post I thought I’d share a couple such examples. Each of these has been passed around so much that I’m not sure who originally came up with it. The outline for the first example is: “No,” “Slow,” “Grow,” and “Go.” Similarly, the outline for the second example is: “Denied,” “Delay,” “Different,” and “Direct.”
First, there is the answer “No.” This answer can be associated with the word “Denied.” It is God saying to you, “Your request is not My will and so I’m refusing to grant it.” Anytime you receive such an answer, your job is to trust in God’s wisdom and love for you and drop the request. Don’t make the mistake of trying to badger, con, or whine Him into changing His mind and granting it.
Second, there is the answer “Slow.” This answer can be associated with the word “Delay.” It is God saying to you, “I’m going to grant your request, but there will be a delay in the granting because you must wait for My timing.” While this answer is better than a “No,” it can actually be more difficult than a flat-out rejection. This is especially true if the waiting that God has in mind will entail months, years, or even decades.
Third, there is the answer “Grow.” This answer can be associated with the word “Different.” It is God saying to you, “I’m going to grant your request, but I’m going to grow your understanding of Me and My work by granting the request in a different way than the simplistic, straight-forward one that you have in mind.” God typically employs this answer when we word our request in a vague way. For example, there is a difference between saying, “God, please meet my financial need” and saying, “God, please meet my financial need by burdening my Uncle Joe to give me $500.” It’s been my experience that God almost always declines my highly specific requests but usually grants my vague ones in ways that cause me, in the end, to marvel at how He granted them.
Fourth, there is the answer “Go.” This answer can be associated with the word “Direct.” It is God saying to you, “Go your way, assured in the knowledge that I’ve already granted your request in a very direct, straight-forward way.” When Abraham sent his servant to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac, the servant came to the Mesopotamian city of Nahor and stopped by the well that was located just outside the city (Genesis 24:1-11). There, the servant prayed and made a highly specific request regarding the young woman whom He was seeking (24:12-14). (I guess the servant hadn’t read what I just said about God almost always declining my specific requests.) And how did God answer the servant’s request? Even before the servant had finished praying, the girl that God had in mind to marry Isaac was already walking toward that servant (24:15). As soon as the servant saw her, he broke into a run to strike up a conversation with her (24:16). That’s what you call an incredibly direct answer to a prayer request.
In closing, let me say that while you probably haven’t utilized these four potential headings to classify God’s answers to your prayer requests, my guess is that you have experienced each type of answer at some point in your life. As a matter of fact, the chances are high that you are living out at least one of them right now. The key is to figure out which answer God is giving you and how He is working that answer out in your life. That isn’t always easy to do, and I’ll admit that it doesn’t always fit neatly into a prepackaged sermon outline. But God will help you sort through it all if you will let Him, and He will use His answer to funnel you into His will for your life. To quote yet another pithy line that preachers love, “Prayer isn’t you getting your will done in heaven; it is God getting His will done upon the earth.” Think about that the next time you are praying, and always trust God to do the right thing by you, even if what He considers the right thing doesn’t match up with your version of it.