Acts 16 Lesson

When God says, "No"

The Bible teaches us to pray.

In a previous discussion from Mathew 8, we talked about:

  • Praying for ourselves.
  • Praying for others.
  • How the Spirit intercedes on our behalf when we do not know what to pray for.

Link to Virtual Bible Study's Discussion Forum on Prayer

During another study on Luke 11, we discussed how Jesus taught us to pray. During that forum discussion, we made the following observations about how to pray like Jesus:

  • Treat God with respect and reverence when you pray.
  • Pray for the things that you need in life before you pray for the things that you want.
  • Pray for forgiveness and be a forgiving person.
  • Pray that God will deliver you from the temptations in your life.

Link to Virtual Bible Study's Discussion Forum on How to Pray Like Jesus

Today in Acts 16, we are going to focus on a very specific part of prayer, how to react when the answers to our prayers is, “No.”

The Bible teaches us that God hears the prayers of the righteous.

  • “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” - 1 John 5:14.

  • “For the eyes of the Lord are towards the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” - 1 Peter 3:12.

God hears our prayers, but that does not mean that He always answers them the way that we hope He will.

God knows everything, and sees everything, and He has a plan for us. Consider the following two scriptures:

  1. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9.
  2. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11.

In Acts 16, Paul was planning to continue his work for the Lord by heading to Asia Minor. Luke writes beginning in verse 6:

They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia;  and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them;  and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.” – Acts 16:6-8.

We do not know exactly how the Spirit prevented Paul from attending those cities. Perhaps the Holy Spirit spoke to him in a dream or vision. Perhaps his efforts were simply blocked, making it impossible to go.

What we do know, is that God changed Paul’s plans. In the next verse, we read that Paul received a vision on where to go from there:

“A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” – Acts 16:9-10.

Paul’s faith and trust in God allowed him to change his plans and go where God was directing him. He did not sulk, question why, or delay getting to work on the plan that God revealed to him.

There are times where we believe we know where we are heading in life, and then suddenly a major disruption occurs and everything changes. When this happens, we can follow Paul’s example by doing these three things:

  1. Not sulking.
  2. Not questioning why.
  3. Getting to work on whatever plan God has revealed to us.

If Paul were not receptive to the changes that God asked him to make, who knows what would have happened? Paul went on to visit Europe instead of Asia Minor. This opened up an entire continent to his talents and abilities to spread the Gospel and establish churches. Paul wrote more books of the New Testament than any other writer did. All of this was made possible, because Paul embraced the changes that God brought to his life.

We can get into trouble when we listen only to ourselves, and do not seek to understand what God’s will is for us. Like Paul, we may be determined to set off in one direction, and then God changes all of that.

God wants us to communicate our thoughts, feelings and wishes. When things do not go as we planned, or when our prayers are not answered the way we hoped, we need to remember the example of Paul from Acts 16. We regroup, repurpose, and set out to do the work of the Lord.

We will conclude today’s study with the following verses from the book of James:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15.

Thank you for studying with us today!  Please join us again tomorrow as we look at Acts 17.  We will be studying about how Satan will try to thwart the plans of the righteous. May God’s blessings be upon you until then.  Amen



We can be sure if it is NOT coming from the Holy Spirit if it contradicts any scripture.

But to be really sure about something, especially if it is a big decision, I like to pray for wisdom and then trust God. James 1:5-8 says, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must 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 that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.


"Have a plan, work your plan, be successful." Great determination to serve God is what we see here from Paul and Silas.