Taking No for an Answer
“Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer,” said Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
He’s not the only one to make this observation. “There is nothing that we are so bad at all our days as prayer,” observed Alexander Whyte. “There are times in my life when I would rather die than pray,” said Thomas Shepard. “As for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so reluctant to go to God, and when it is with him, so reluctant to stay with him,” wrote John Bunyan.
These are not the observations of spiritual lightweights; they represent the experience of even the godliest among us.
One of the difficulties we face in prayer is when God doesn’t answer our prayers, or when he denies what we asked. On the one hand, we understand that God knows best and that he gives us what is ultimately good. But that doesn’t mean we don’t struggle to understand why God doesn’t answer our prayers sometimes, especially in the face of hardships we don’t understand.
I don’t know many books on unanswered prayer. That’s why Blake Long’s new book Taking No for an Answer: How to Respond When God Says No to Our Prayers is so necessary.
Long hasn’t written a theoretical book. He begins with a couple of stories of unanswered prayer from his own life. He then takes us to Scripture to learn from unanswered prayer in the lives of David, Paul, and even Jesus. He leads us to develop some qualities we need if we’re going to learn how to pray well: trust, contentment, repentance, persistence, and more. He concludes with a chapter on one of many prayers that God will always answer: praying to be more like Jesus.
The conclusion of the book reminds us that God doesn’t answer our prayers for one or both of two reasons: our good, and his glory.
This is a book that goes beyond why God doesn’t answer prayer to what’s true about God and his purposes, and how we can respond faithfully.
The books on prayer that have helped me the most are those that share the author’s own struggles with prayer and point the way forward. Long’s book does that. It reminds us of truths about God that are easy to forget when our prayers aren’t answered the way we want. This book won’t answer all your questions, but it will point you to God’s care for you and his desire for you in prayer.
It’s hard for me to imagine a Christian who wouldn’t benefit from reading this book. “It doesn’t matter if your life is collapsing or you are on top of the world,” Long reminds us. “This truth still remains: God hears you, he’s listening to you, and he’s attentive to your prayers.”
My Interview with Blake Long
I was privileged to interview Long about his book on the Gospel for Life podcast.
If you’re interested in listening to the interview, then subscribe using your favorite podcast platform, or listen to the interview below.
You can also download a transcript of the interview:
- Long’s blog Theology and Life