Did you know your prayers are already promised to you? Jesus says, in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Why, then, have we grown up, from childhood, with the belief that “all we can do is pray about it and leave it up to God,” as if this were some thing to do with a little shame and as a last resort?
Hebrews 4:16 reads, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The King James reads “Let us therefore come boldly.” Jeremiah 32:27 reads, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Again, in Malachi 3:10, God says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Why, then, do we approach God in prayer as if we were troubling Him, pardoning our interruption, and begging for a meager sustenance of small things, as if small and large to us were of any consequence to God Almighty?
I know why we do this. We do this because we have rarely and perhaps never experienced God’s answer to prayer for the things He seems to want us to pray for and about and to fully expect from Him.
We have never experienced the extent of God’s power, as it is written, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) But not that only, “let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8) And, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)
God’s gift of prayer is not some weak kneed comfort. It is a voice with God Most High, your King, who has promised to act on your behalf, and to comfort you, to strengthen you, to uphold you with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
Post-Script: I owe James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word podcast for sparking my interest on God’s promises and our prayers. The podcast, part of a series, was called Promise #1 – God Is Always With Me.
Post-Post-Script: You may find this further reading of value for more clarity: Why aren’t my prayers answered? I’m sure a google of the same question will yield great results.
5 thoughts on “Prayers and Promises”
I have to comment on your use of the James 1:6-8 passage. I’ve heard so many people use that to justify asking for anything (and yes, 4:3 contradicts that), but the previous verse is about asking for wisdom.
“5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea …””
Reading this literally, the passage is specifically talking about asking God in prayer for wisdom, not just any old thing. You’ve got lots of support from other verses, so I’m not arguing your main point. I’m just thinking that this passage doesn’t apply here — what do you think?
Thanks for the read! I actually did consider that. I looked at the context for each verse before committing to use it. I used James 1:6-8 because, based on other verses, the principle holds true. It seems very similar to the idea of “faith like a mustard seed.”
There are other verses, too, where the preceding verses that I didn’t quote could also break the point I was trying to make. Take John 14:13-14, for instance, Jesus is replying directly to Phillip. We might have said Jesus is only telling Phillip that anything that Phillip asks in Jesus name Jesus would do for him. Based on the whole, though, that doesn’t seem to be the principle, so I used it.
Jeremiah 32:27 has terrible context for my purposes but the principle still holds.
Malachi 3:10-12 is blatantly taken out of context in that it was talking about robbing God of tithes and contributions. Still, the promise that God would bless the people if they “checked him out on the claim” helps show us what kind of God we’re dealing with and the magnitude of what he’s encouraging us to expect as we pray to Him.
Matthew 17:20 was a response to His disciples about casting out demons. Maybe the comment about “faith as a mustard seed” was only for them and only about casting out demons?
The context of James 4:3 is actually the only verse that directly helps us understand prayers and answers to those prayers.
So, I guess I’m saying that most of these other verses must be as bad as James 1:6-8 for potentially being taken out of context but, I think, the principle remains on the whole.
Also, what of “doubt” when asking? If we take asking-with-doubt and apply its consequences strictly to the context then maybe we’re free to doubt God when asking for anything else? It’s only when asking for wisdom that we can’t doubt? Just as with “faith as a mustard seed”, it seems the real point is never to doubt God. And, of course, the whole of scripture has been for God calling us to trust Him.
I think on the whole we get a picture of the character of God that does support the principle in James 1:6-8.
Hey, I didn’t clue in before but, in James 1:6-8, “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” It seems the author, while speaking directly about asking for wisdom, knew the principle applied to “anything” else, as well. I love that the Word is inspired like that.
I wonder about this. When we are in heaven and we know and understand full faith, we will finally realize just how much we could have done on earth. And maybe its not about having supernatural powers but when our faith is full, I think it will be amazing to see what can really happen.
Ya, God promised it straight up, we don’t see it, the bible tells us why, so one day we’re really going to have our eyes opened.
I suspect in heaven, though, while we may have the ability to do anything, will we have the pressing need like we do on earth? Will we realize we wasted the potential of faith and prayer?