“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7)
Last weekend I casually prayed that the Dallas Cowboys might win their divisional play-off game against the L.A. Rams, primarily for selfish reasons; that I would have more rooting opportunities enjoying a Cowboys’ game with my kids. It didn’t happen- prayer definitely not answered.
Presenting our requests to God through prayer and petition is important, even when we aren’t sure if our prayers will be answered. But have you ever wondered why not all of our prayers get answered?
A prayerful person has on-going communication with the Lord, and builds a relationship and habit to come to Him for anything and everything. This is good because it means we are aware of His presence, believe in His power, and acknowledge the fact that He may choose to move in our area of prayer.
Philippians 4:6 reminds us to “… not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
1 Thessalonians 5:1 urges us to “pray without ceasing”.
While God desires that in every situation, man should pray (1 Tim. 2:8), there are certain conditions to the prayers He will grant. Here are just a few verses that highlight these conditions.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” John 15:7
“The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.” Proverbs 15:8
“The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” Proverbs 15:29
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…'” Matthew 6:9-10
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:3
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Ephesians 6:18
Many people try to take Bible verses on prayer completely out of context, coming to God with requests as if He were a wish-granting genie, and then getting upset or confused or discouraged when their prayers aren’t answered. But the Bible clearly teaches that the prayers He answers, are the prayers of the righteous (in Christ), in alignment with His will.
How do we meet these conditions? From the verses above, we see that we must have a relationship with Christ, be filled with the Holy Spirit, abide in His Word, and pray not with selfish motives, but according to His will and in the Spirit. And when we meet these conditions, we must also pray in faith and without doubt (James 1:6, Matt. 21:22).
How do we know what is according to God’s will? Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Being conformed to the likeness of Christ, abiding in His Word, and having a mind renewed and transformed by the Holy Spirit, will enable us to understand God’s will. It’s the only way.
The best analogy I’ve heard on this, is that the prayers God guarantees to answer are so aligned with the Father’s will, that Jesus himself would have prayed them!
And if you know the life of Jesus- how He lived, how He loved, how He served, how He submitted, how He surrendered, and how He sacrificed Himself for the sake of others- then you’ll know what type of prayers Jesus would and would not have prayed. It’s a great way to evaluate your prayers if you think about it that way!
Again, God desires that all of us pray, in every situation. I am absolutely not advocating against prayer in any way, even when we’re not sure if our prayers are aligned with His will or not. Pray regardless!!
We’re all at different stages of our faith, and God knows exactly where our hearts are. He is gracious and merciful to respond accordingly, as He has “allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3-8).
He desires that communication and relationship with us through prayer. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with praying for whatever is on our heart.
Just know that the next time we pray for a bigger house, promotion at work, winning lottery ticket, miraculous healing, or Dallas Cowboys’ win, we must fully understand that unless the request is directly in line with His will, we must not get upset at God if He chooses not to grant it. In His infinite wisdom, He knows what is best for us, and what is needed for us to bring Him glory and fulfill the Great Commandment (love God, love people) and Great Commission (make disciples of Jesus).
If we understand these fundamental truths about prayer, when we call upon His Name, we will likewise have proper expectations.
[From January 15, 2019]