Monday, September 2, 2013

Isn't "No" an Answer? {Reflections on Prayer}

Just a tiny little child
        Three years old,
And a mother with a heart
        All of gold.
Often did that mother say,
“Jesus hears us when we pray,
For He’s never far away;
        And He always answers.”

Now, that tiny little child
        Had brown eyes,
And she wanted blue instead
Like blue skies.
For her mother’s eyes were blue
Like forget-me-nots.  She knew
All her mother said was true.
Jesus always answered.

So she prayed for two blue eyes,
        Said, “Good night,”
Went to sleep in deep content
        And delight.
Woke up early, climbed a chair
By a mirror.  Where, oh where
Could the blue eyes be?  Not there!
        Jesus hadn’t answered.

Hadn’t answered her at all!
        Never more
Could she pray – her eyes were brown
        As before.
Did a little soft wind blow?
Came a whisper soft and low,
“Jesus answered.  He said, ‘No’;
        Isn’t ‘NO’ an answer?”
(Amy Carmichael, “Jesus Always Answers (An incident from Amy’s childhood)”)

As a very young girl, Amy Carmichael learned the simple lesson we so hate to learn:  sometimes Jesus answers, “No.”  Sometimes this devastates us, especially if we believed with all our heart we were praying according to God’s will.  The tempter moves in to accuse God to us, just as he did to Eve.  If we listen to his lies and  believe the Lord has let us down or withheld our best, if we believe He is less than strong or less than loving, we may like young Amy give up on prayer for a time.

Beloved, let us press on in prayer!  Let us persevere to learn the corollary to “Jesus always answers”; He always answers BEST.  O. Hallesby writes, “God is merciful even when He declines to give us things that we ask of Him. . . .  we need to learn this lesson over and over again, because we forget so easily.  We have by nature a great deal of confidence in ourselves and think we know best what is good for us.  And when God thinks differently in the matter, we suspect immediately that He is not concerned about us” (Prayer, 134).

In Amy’s case, the brown eyes she so disliked proved essential in her missionary career, when disguising herself as a Hindu woman was the only way to rescue a child from temple prostitution.  Even Paul heard a three-fold “No” to his pleas that his thorn be removed, so that he would more deeply know the sufficiency of God’s grace and see His greater glory.  In hindsight, neither would have traded the blessings of the “No.”  Let us follow their example and trust enough to say, “I am not offended with Thee.”

Teach me to remember, Lord,
When Thou dost answer, “No,”
Thou also sayest, soft and tender,
“Child, I love thee so.
And though the way to thee seems hard,
Desire withheld, so sweet,
For thee I’ve something better still,
So trust, and wait on Me.”

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