May 29, 2020
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
I would love to be able to take verse 15 all by itself, out of context, and apply it to my life.
Whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.
That sounds amazing. It’s a bit of the “name it and claim it” theology I sometimes hear from late-night cable TV preachers. We can’t own this verse without first owning verse 14. It says, “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Cue the record scratch in the midst of my celebratory victory dance. The caveat to this entire string of logic is that, first and foremost, the request has to be in line with God’s will.
James 4:3 describes the same concept saying, “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” It’s comforting to know that selfish prayers aren’t a modern phenomenon. Apparently late-night preachers were peddling this twist on God’s promises in the early church as well.
Some selfish prayers are obvious. Praying to win the lottery. Praying that your work nemesis fails spectacularly. Praying that despite a distinct lack of studying, you ace tomorrow’s test. What about selfish prayers that aren’t quite so obvious? Praying that your husband or wife pays more attention to you. Praying for your boss to notice all your hard work. Praying for your dream girl or guy to finally wake up and see you were meant to be together. Praying for your child to stop throwing tantrums.
None of these prayers are wrong, per se. But they walk a line between desiring God’s will and desiring my will to be done. I wish there was an obvious litmus test to help us distinguish between the two. There is not. Here’s what I do know, though. God answers the prayer for his will to be done. He answered it when he sent Jesus to the cross. He answered it when he delivered the Israelites from Egypt. He answers today when we pray it.
Today, as you pray, let God’s will be the foundation for each of your requests. Praying for a broken relationship? Ask God to make his will known, and then accomplished. Praying about a promotion? Invite God to be a part of the learning and interview process, not simply the outcome. Praying for relief from anxiety or depression? Pray for God to reveal himself, not simply take it all away.
See how God answers these prayers, and use them as signposts pointing towards God’s master plan for you.