When God says “no”

May 16, 2007    By: Geoff J @ 11:24 pm   Category: Personal Revelation

God sometimes tells us no when we ask him for assistance or intervention on various things. Sometimes the “no” answer is very clear. Sort of like the big ol’ “no” that the ancient prophet Mormon got when he prayed that his people might repent and be spared:

2 But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them. (Mormon 5: 2)

It is disappointing to have our petitions turned down by God. And when I say our petitions getting turned down I’m not talking about the situations when we pray for intervention but have no idea if God will actually intervene or not until the desired event happens or doesn’t — I’m talking about the times when we pray and we get the distinct impression that things ain’t gonna go the way we hoped they would. I’m talking about situations like the one Mormon was in as mentioned above. As I said, that sort of answer through revelation can be disappointing (or perhaps even deeply painful at times). But on another level it is glorious. I mean if we receive a clear “no” answer from God it means that the living God just talked to us fer cryin’ out loud. That is always a good thing right? Plus if you pray for something to happen and God says “nope, it ain’t gonna happen” then you have just been given a prophesy. You are a prophet in your own sphere of influence at that moment.

29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them! (Numbers 11:29)

That is certainly a desirable thing. And on top of all that, if the living God is willing to listen to our request and answer no today, that means he might very well be willing to listen to another request and answer yes tomorrow.

So reckon we should go for yes’s from God and seek to work miracles and change the world for the better. But when we can’t get those yes’s I say be thrilled with getting a no.


  1. I remember coming home from my mission, and my grandfather was fighting cancer. The family asked me to give him a blesing. I would have loved to give a healing blessing. The answer was no. Difficult blessing to give. But at least I knew.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — May 17, 2007 @ 5:49 am

  2. I was once asked to pray about the truthfulness of another religion. The “No” answer I received became a significant part of my testimony about the reality of God.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — May 17, 2007 @ 7:37 am

  3. I like your perspective. The best “nos” are the ones where you kneel down to pray and completely forget what you were going to pray about. Then as soon as you stop trying to pray about it, you remember what it was.

    Comment by Susan M — May 17, 2007 @ 7:55 am

  4. Good examples all. It seems to me that a major part of the good news of the restored gospel is that there is nothing stopping us from having two-way communication with God just like people did in the Biblical records. And the fact that God denies our requests on occasion is just part of the give and take in any loving personal relationship I think.

    I agree with you Susan — that “stupor of thought” version of a no answer is pretty cool. As the Lord mentioned to Oliver Cowdery: “What greater witness can you have than from God?”

    Comment by Geoff J — May 17, 2007 @ 11:20 am

  5. Sometimes the answer no is painful because we don’t listen to that answer. One time I had a really hard experience because I said in a blessing what the person wanted to hear rather than what I felt I should say.

    The challenge for me is being certain that the “yes” or the “no” are really God, and not wishful thinking. I think that is why community is just as essential in the church as revelation, as it is through our shared experiences that we ascertain the accuracy of our personal experiences.

    Comment by Matt W. — May 17, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  6. One time I got a “no” answer and I kept petitioning, saying very directly to Heavenly Father, “now wait a minute, just hear me out…” and “Don’t answer yet, Heavenly Father, just wait until I fast for awhile and THEN say this prayer again…” Seriously, I kept asking and asking until finally I got this answer “oh, it doesn’t matter… do what you want.”

    I’m serious! I’ll never know what would have happened had I followed the Lord’s counsel, but certainly I think about it. My life took another course, and I’m pretty happy, but I’ll always wonder if things would have been significantly different and I would have been a happier person. BTW, this experience has happened twice. You’d think a person would learn.

    Comment by meems — May 17, 2007 @ 6:52 pm

  7. I agree that we should find solace in the negative answers that we receive. I posted recently on the possible ill effects of a system in which the only answer we ever get is “yes”. Geoff was quick to point out my less than perfect spelling. :)

    Comment by a random John — May 17, 2007 @ 10:59 pm

  8. I have had a couple of pretty important “no” answers, and I totally agree with your sentiment here.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 17, 2007 @ 11:34 pm

  9. I’ve had a number of significant “no” messages in my life. I assure you that the pain can be pretty intense in the receipt, especially when you have every reason to expect a yes.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — May 18, 2007 @ 3:49 am

  10. For us the “no” came most unexpectedly. The son we had adopted at birth was pushing three-years-old and my wife was pusing forty. We knew that if we were going to adopt again we’d need to get the process going soon. We devoted a Fast Sunday to see if it was the right thing to do. In reality, it’s more fair to say we devoted a fast to kicking the whole thing off because being Mormon and all, I figured this was just a formality because HF would want us to increase our family in any way we could.

    And the answer was no. Actually, more than no. The answer was “Your family is complete. Be happy with what you have.”

    That was sooooooo not what I expected. My wife independently received the same inspiration. We both spent most of that Sunday trying to figure out how to tell the other one of us the feelings we’d received. What little faith it showed that I didn’t assume that my wife would get the same answer!

    Anyway, we’ve never looked back. I’ve posted on the net before that about 6 weeks later our son was diagnosed with cancer and that became a long-term trial for all of us.

    He’s very healthy now (thank you for asking), and now that we’re on the other side of that there are many days that my heart longs for more children in my home. And, of course, well-intentioned Mormons friends ask all the time why we don’t have more children. They don’t realize how much that question can hurt.

    Its at times like those I have to look back on the inspiration I was given: My family is complete and I need to be happy with what I have.

    Comment by Chad Too — May 18, 2007 @ 6:39 am

  11. Good comments all around. Stephen, your comment is so well taken that I amended the post to reflect the idea that “no” answers can be far more than just disappointing, they can sometimes be deeply painful and hard to recover from.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 18, 2007 @ 12:25 pm

  12. Patricia Holland once said in a talk at BYU, “I have discovered that the Lord’s ‘no’s’ are merely preludes to an even greater ‘yes.’ ” While that may not be true in every case, the thought of it gives me much comfort.

    Comment by Rivkah — May 18, 2007 @ 11:24 pm