Friday, August 3, 2018
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
John 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
So far in our study of prayer from Philippians 4:6, we have learned to praise God for who He is, to thank Him for what He does, to confess to Him those things we have done that are not in agreement with Him, and then to repent of those things, turning away from them and moving into agreement with God about our actions. It is at this point of agreement with God that we can engage the next type of prayer – the wonderful privilege of asking God for the desires of our hearts.
The subject of asking God for whatever we wish and expecting to get it has generated many questions. Certain phrases and promises from Scripture seem to capture our attention, and we tend to lock on to them without considering their context or mutual responsibilities. I dare say that the reason we ask about asking is selfish. Deep in our hearts is the desire to get what we want, and to believe that it’s totally right to want it. We partially read God’s Word and see that we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us.
As we mentioned in a devotional last week, we tend to believe that our identity and value are based in the physical, so we naturally apply this promise to the desires of our flesh, and we ask for prosperity and health and blessing on our physical lives. Then, when we don’t always get it, we doubt our faith, or we doubt God’s promise, or we doubt God himself. We then ask questions about asking.
Notice that in each of the following passages where Jesus promised us that we could ask anything of God and He would do it, there is a requirement that we ask from of a position of agreement with God’s perspective of the situation.
- “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22) We must believe not only that God can do it, but that He wants to do it. Just because I want a mountain moved to benefit me does not require God to oblige me. True faith in God goes beyond knowing what He is capable of and moves into the realm of agreeing with His purpose.
- Do you remember what the disciples James and John asked Jesus for in Mark 10:35? “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” They took the promise of Jesus the way we do most of the time. They wanted Jesus to do whatever they desired. Look how Jesus responded. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. … These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” We must remember that what we ask for must be in agreement with God’s predetermined purpose.
- In John 14:13 – 14, Jesus said, And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. The requirement here is that we must ask in Jesus’ name. That means we ask according to what we know to be true about the nature, character, and purpose of Jesus. That’s why prayers of praise and thanksgiving are so important before we ask anything, because it puts our hearts in touch with who Jesus is, so that our asking is in agreement with His purpose to bring glory to the Father.
- Jesus adds another qualifier to asking Him for anything in this statement – If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. Here the condition of asking is that we are abiding in Christ and His words are abiding in us. This describes true intimacy with Jesus, and all prayers of request are to be the product of such intimacy. When we ask we should do so in agreement with what He has already said and with a pure heart that is seeking Him in every aspect of our lives.
We can have God answer every prayer the way that we want it to be answered. The key is that we ask according to what we already know God wants to have happen. Every prayer that is asked according to God’s nature, character, and purpose is granted by God. The responsibility we have is to make sure our hearts and minds agree with His. That’s why prayer of praise, confession, and repentance are required before we ask anything, because it is the only way to assure that our minds are in agreement with God.
When I was growing up, I learned very quickly what my dad’s standards were, and how he would respond to different requests. I learned that there were some things I just shouldn’t ask for. The problem I had was even though I knew I couldn’t ask dad, I selfishly pursued those things I wanted anyway. My knowledge of Dad did not change my desires. I had not yet caught His character.
Unfortunately, that is true of how we relate to God. We know that the desires of our hearts are not always in agreement with God’s character, so we simply choose to exclude Him from that pursuit and reach for it on our own. Believe me, life is much more fulfilling when we let the Holy Spirit change our character so that any desire of our heart is in full agreement with God. Then we can ask anything we wish, and He will do it, because it pleases Him to fulfill His purpose in our lives.