Over and over again, Jesus said things like, “Whenever two or more of you agree on anything that you ask in My Name it shall be given you,” or “Whatever you ask in My Name, I will do,” or “Until now you have not asked for anything in My Name. On that day you will ask, and I do not say that I will petition the Father on your behalf; no, the Father Himself loves you, because you have believed in My Name,” or, this, in 1st John, “Now, if we ask for anything according to His will we know that He hears us, and we know that if He hears us then we have what we asked of Him.”
There are some beautiful verses that explain this very nicely. One is in John 15. “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you then you may ask for whatever you wish and it shall be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing that you are My disciples.” Another is in Romans 8. “Whoever is led by the Spirit of God is a child of God. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but the Spirit of adoption, by which we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ for God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, provided we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. … Therefore, the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that cannot be uttered before God, and He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, for the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”
Before we go into these verses, I want to share our absolute confidence that God will do far more than we could even imagine with you: “How shall God, who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, not, along with Him, freely give us all things?” That’s from Romans 8, too. God gave His Son for us. God gave His life for us. What shall He possibly withhold from us? Then, there is this. “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should go back on His word.” “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” “Sanctify them by Your Word; Your Word is Truth… I am … the Truth.” “And His name is Faithful and True.” Though God’s promises seem lunacy and nonsense to us, we can be confident that they are deepest truth, for He is YHWH, I AM WHO I AM, the ultimate Truth and source of all truth and reality, and His promises are the expression of His being – Reality.
I’d like to share with you something that I’ve observed. At least in the United States of America, a lot of Christians are taught to think or try to pray for what they don’t really desire. Or, not to ask for what they do. I was once in a group where we were supposed to share something we wanted prayer for with the rest of the group, and I asked for wisdom to walk in God’s perfect will for me. The group leader told me that I shouldn’t pray for that, since the answering would involve pain. I remember thinking something like, “Well, there’s trouble in my life already – I need it! God must want me to have it, want me to ask for it, so I’m just going to.” I have no idea how many other new – or even older – Christians, actually wanting God’s best and all, have been told the same thing or rough equivalents. It must be a scheme of the enemy’s, but I think that this mis-teaching or un-teaching about prayer is probably responsible for a great dealing of the confusion. This mis-teaching may be the result of a lot of unbelievers who want to call themselves Christians and pretend they are Christians, so they don’t want to see any Christians who act like Christians, reminding them by their lives that they aren’t Christians at all, but I don’t want to go into that here. At any rate, Christians in the United States are taught that they don’t really want to be like Jesus; they don’t really care that much about knowing God, they also want cars and houses and vacations and raises; they don’t really want the gifts of the Spirit, (think fruit, if you’re from a Protestant background) no, they’d rather have comfortable lives. They are told this so many times that some of them end up actually believing it.
Nonetheless, we do really want God’s best for us. A lot of people don’t want it, either for us or for themselves. They aren’t led by the Spirit of God, they aren’t children of God, they don’t abide in Jesus and have His words abiding in them, and they won’t receive whatever they wish for; after all, they don’t want to bear much fruit, proving themselves to be Jesus’ disciples and glorifying His Father – they aren’t His disciples. They don’t want to be co-heirs with Christ, sharing in His sufferings that they may also share in His glory, wanting to know Christ, in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death in order that, somehow, they may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3). However, we do. Even when we’re ashamed to say so, even when we’ve been taught that saying that we actually want to be conformed to the image of the Son no matter the pain is proud and self-righteous, exalting ourselves above our fellows, even when we’re embarrassed to think it to ourselves, it’s what we want. Even when we tremble when praying to know God and be made like Christ, fearing what pain may be involved in God’s answer, we actually want it. Yes, even when we come back three hours later, realizing what we were praying, and ask God to please not make it too painful, please forget those – in our heads – reckless requests and not let us get too hurt, all the while feeling embarrassed that we ever prayed what we did, we actually want what we prayed for. It’s just the flesh and the world warring against the Spirit. Ever read Romans 7? “So, if I do what I do not want to do, it is not I that does it, but sin that does it in me. Who, then, will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord,” or something like that; I might have missed a couple lines.
Aren’t we so grateful that God answers the prayers of His children, of those who are praying by His Spirit? We wouldn’t want our other prayers to be answered! Even when we’re so scared of what it might involve that we shake and sweat and run away and try not praying for half a day, deep down, we want God, we want to see Him as He is, we want His glory, no matter what it means in terms of our material life. Even, though we tremble to say it, and it is much harder here, what it means to others. We want to be living sacrifices, and we hate the fact that we so often, almost always, act like we want other things more than God. We don’t want to want those things. If we do, we aren’t Jesus’ disciples to whom these words of assurance were spoken, we aren’t those led by the Spirit of God who are the heirs of all things, for Jesus said, “Whoever would come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. Whoever would save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake will find it… If anyone loves father or mother or brother or sister or lands more than Me, he is not worthy of Me.”
The promises of God are real! I am going through this just so that we may understand what the promise really is, that we may see that it is real! When it says, “we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,” it means it. We, who have been buried with Him by baptism into death, really shall share in His glory. God will move heaven and earth to give us our heart’s desire, for we are those who delight in YHWH.
Some of the time some people spend “praying” they aren’t praying at all; they’re dutifully asking for what they think they should be praying for, what they may even have been taught to believe that they desire. Other times, we ask God to do something, and in our minds there is a whole set of particulars, but the particulars aren’t what we’re asking for, they are just the way that we are asking, perhaps a little like the believers who were praying for Peter in Acts 12 and God freed him from prison, instead of enabling him to glorify Him by witnessing to Him in his death; of course, it might not look the same to us until Heaven. And, then, there are those times that we are pleading with God for what He has promised to us, and we know that is what we are doing!
Like those believers in Acts, who were praying for God to be glorified through Peter’s life and death, through his witness, and for Peter to be strengthened, God may answer in a way that’s very different from what we expected, but He doesn’t say “no.” He just says “yes,” and what we were expecting would really have been the “no.”
“Whatever you wish.” Whatever! You can pray for whatever you wish, and you don’t have to be afraid that God will answer a prayer that isn’t for the best. Sickening thought! you don’t have to fear that God will do a lesser good because of your prayer. If what you thought you were asking for wasn’t best, God will do what is best. If you’re in Christ, – “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ,” Romans 8 – then you can pray for whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. You can come to God like a little child and ask Him for what you desire. He will grant your desire, because He loves you. He will do “abundantly beyond all you can conceive or imagine.” Never think that God is not answering you, because He is doing far more than you asked. He loves you because you are His child, His Spirit has put the very nature of His Son into you. We don’t understand why, but all over us and strung through our being remain the desires of the old life, the flesh, tormenting us – yes, I used that word on purpose – but, ultimately, anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, the old has gone and the new is here (2nd Corinthians 5). Though you tremble before His holiness, as you should, you may approach God’s throne of mercy in confidence – if you are in Christ. Ask for whatever you will. Ask for great things. Plead with Him that you might see Him. Ask Him to show you wonders of who He is. Pray Him that you may seek and desire Him and not gifts from His hand, drawing your strength and life from Him Himself. Ask to know Him and not just feelings of His presence. Pray to live in His perfect will, to show His love to all those around you. Pray Him to do for others the things you desire – that they, too may know God, may share God’s life, may look upon His face. Pray for Him to reveal His glory. Pray that His Name would be glorified. Pray that His will would be done, everywhere, in all things. Pray that His kingdom would come, in every heart and on the earth. Pray for God’s grace and provision for His will for the moment – you need never pray for God to give you future sustenance now, that is looking not to Him but to feelings, not to His face but to His hand. Pray for His forgiveness, and forgive others as He has forgiven you. Pray for protection from evil – in many translations, it is the evil one, so the primary meaning is not bodily harm, though in cases it may include that – and that you may not be led into temptation and entangled by it.
“Seek first the kingdom, and all these things shall be given to you as well.” Pursue God! God alone is good, not only, perhaps not even primarily, morally, but wholly. What is good is God (I do NOT mean all good things are God, that’s blasphemy), whether it is love and kindness or wholeness and true well-being. Pray for His glory. Pray for His will. Seek out His desires and pray for that. He will shower goodness upon you. You will have all you need and more. Where you thought your life was barren desert, you will find that He has poured out rivers of healing waters. But seek first the kingdom. If you seek water and not God, you will find that water is not water. If you seek the kingdom, if you seek Jesus Christ, you will find that all that ever happened in your life, maybe even that all that ever happened or shall happen in the whole world, was in answer to your prayers. Perhaps not in this life, but it shall be so in the next. “We know that in all things God is working for the good of those who love Him, the called according to His purpose.”
“So that by two things by which it is impossible for God to lie.” I think I might be taking this verse out of context (I’m not sure). If you want above all else to know Christ, then you can be absolutely certain that God will answer you. There is nothing He wants more than to show you Christ. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” “Those He called He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” God’s desire, throughout Scripture, has been to reveal Himself to His people. If your deepest, greatest desire is God’s, how shall He ever deny you? He is Almighty and He is for you. Here are the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians, and they embody the desire of every Christian. The same thing he wanted is what we really do want, even if we’ve been taught that we don’t or struggle with our fear, and it is doubtless that this which is desired is real and true and good, as the Psalmist says, “Thus have I seen You in Your sanctuary, to behold Your power and Your glory; because Your steadfast mercies are better than life, my lips will bless You,” for this is what Paul says:
What is more, I consider all of this rubbish in view of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have lost all things. I consider them garbage so that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own which comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, a righteousness that is of God by faith. I want to know Christ, yes, to know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His sufferings, being made like Him in His death, in order that I may also attain to the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have already attained these things or already been made perfect, but I press forward, not looking towards what is behind but straining towards what is ahead, that I may win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
This is real. This is our heart’s desire. This is what God will most assuredly give all who are His. Jesus, God and Man, the One through whom the world was made and whom upholds it by a single word, the exact representation of God and the radiance of His glory, the One who was born at Bethlehem, lived a perfect human life, triumphing in the likeness of sinful flesh and thereby condemning sin in the flesh, made to be sin upon the cross for us and triumphing in love even there, who tread our sins underfoot upon the cross, who was buried and rose again by virtue of His indestructible life and holy Person, who is ascended and sits with the Father even now, whose Spirit dwells in our hearts and in whose Spirit lives with us and within us, who shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead – this is the One we long to know. Can anyone doubt that He is good? That He is worthy of our love and worth desiring at the cost of all else, for He is all and all else is nothing? Can anyone who does doubt this think that he has known Him?
“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you.” So it is. It is real. Jesus Christ is YHWH, I AM WHO I AM. To desire YHWH is to desire uttermost Reality and Truth, very Existence and Good Himself. Who can ever have thought that YHWH is less real than His creation, that I AM WHO I AM is Goodness less substantial than the goodnesses which are simply because I AM has willed them to be? If you live in He who is YHWH, HE WHO IS, and YHWH’s words dwell in you, how shall you wish for that which is contrary to YHWH’s nature and will? For you know, in your heart as well as in your head, that all that is contrary to YHWH simply is not, or if it is it’s existence is that thing we call evil, only half real, fallen reality, fallen goodness, and undesirable. If ever you do wish for it is against your will that you wish for it, and you would not have it.
In the end, those of us who are in Christ Jesus will find that, whatever life brings, God has given us everything we desire. “… and your joy will be complete.” What we ask in His Name, by His Spirit, is that which to receive from Him is utter joy.
Copyright 2017 Raina Nightingale
2 thoughts on “(Part II) The Promises of God: Prayer – Whatever You Ask”
I thought of this a couple days ago, after I wrote this: See John chapter eleven. Mary and Martha send to Jesus. “He whom You love is sick.” “Now Jesus loved Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. So when He heard this He stayed where He was three more days.” Later, Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died. Even now I know that God will give you whatever You ask of Him.”
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