You’ve prayed for something earnestly. Perhaps it’s a little extra to help make ends meet. Or maybe it’s a new car to replace your old one. It could be about a relationship. Maybe you’ve prayed for a loved one’s healing. Yet you haven’t seen God answer that prayer. Why doesn’t God provide what you’ve asked for?
This goes along with yesterday’s devotional about why God doesn’t always remove an issue from our lives. There are a multitude of reasons why God may answer our prayers with, “Not yet,” or an outright, “No,” but first let’s look at the verses often quoted with respect to God delivering what we ask for:
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. – John 16:23-24, ESV
At first glance it seems like the Scripture says that if we ask Jesus for it, the Father will give it to us. All we need to do is ask and we will receive. We just aren’t asking. Jesus uses the phrase, “in my name,” and that’s why we hear people sometimes end prayers with, “In Jesus’ name.” The catch here is what is meant by that phrase.
Some would preach that the reason we don’t have something we want is because we haven’t prayed enough or demonstrated enough faith. They would say that we aren’t taking this set of verses literally and powerfully and that’s why God isn’t delivering. There are some cases where this may be true, like with the father who asked Jesus to help him in his unbelief for the sake of his son. However, this set of verses isn’t about praying harder or believing more that God will give us what we ask for, because “in my name” has a specific meaning.
It means that if we ask for something Jesus would ask for, the Father will deliver. Think about how an ambassador works. The ambassador represents the nation or organization. The ambassador’s words and actions should meet the desires and agenda of whom he or she serves. So if someone is an ambassador of the United States of America, you would expect that person to deal with representatives from other countries in keeping with what the USA desires. It can be said that the ambassador goes in the name of the United States. That’s how the phrase, “in my name,” should be seen.
This raises the obvious question, “How do I know to pray for what Jesus would ask for?” Scripture is a huge help here. As we get to know the living God through Scripture, we come to understand what He is like, what He values, and what He is opposed to. We also learn His commands for us and what promises He makes towards us, as well as the conditions for those promises to be met. Having a good understanding of all that helps us consider what Jesus would ask for. Yes, there’s some work to be done here. After all, one doesn’t become an ambassador of the United States without doing a lot of work and having a lot of discussion as to what the interests of the United States are. The same is true in our role as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
If God doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers, we must consider if it’s something He would pray for and if it is, why. If we can’t answer why, if we can’t point to something solid supported by Scripture, we’re probably off-base. But what if we can and we still aren’t seeing God deliver? There are at few considerations to make.
The first is whether or not the prayer request would be of overall benefit to us. Yesterday we looked at the fact that Paul’s thorn wasn’t removed because without it Paul would become conceited. Paul realized that and he understood why God wouldn’t deliver him from his thorn. God may not deliver something we ask for because in the end it will hurt us – we will be left worse than before. Another thing to consider is that God knows and sees and understands circumstances that we don’t. He may choose not to answer our prayer in the way we like because He has something bigger at work. If you want to see this in action, read the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk learns this lesson first hand. The book of Habakkuk also reveals another reason and the last consideration I’ll mention: sin. Israel’s sin was ever-present and overwhelming. God was dealing with that, and thus couldn’t honor Habakkuk’s request. There could be a sin issue you haven’t dealt with that’s stand between you and God. The bottom line is that if God isn’t delivering on a prayer request the way we want, He has a good reason. We might not understand the reason, but we can trust that God has one. God is good.