This morning I want to share an older commentary from Dr. Harold Sala of Guidelines International on prayer.
There is a popular belief today that if you really want something and pray about it, you will receive what you ask for. After all, people reason, didn’t Jesus say, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14)?
Vast numbers of people are convinced that prayer is as simple as asking and receiving—no strings attached. Get in your order, and stand over at the pick-up desk.
There is absolutely no questioning the fact that prayer is powerful and that God does answer the earnest prayer of a man who has been justified in His sight. A generation ago John Rice entitled his book on prayer, Asking and Receiving, demonstrating that we as His children knock on heaven’s door with our petitions and because we are His children, He bountifully showers His grace and goodness upon us. When you pray, however, there are three questions that you need to ask yourself.
- First, ask, “Is what I’m asking God to do consistent with what God has revealed in His Word?” God cannot contradict Himself.
- The second question is the flip-side of the first one. It is this: “Am I praying for God’s will in this whole matter?” Of course, we are to ask in faith, believing that God will honor His Word, yet the highest form of faith is praying as did Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done.” When you pray for God’s will and what you are praying for appears to be consistent with what God tells you in His Word, you can pray with greater confidence. Does God ever give you what you have asked for when it is less than His best for you? Psalm 106, a passage that reviews the 40 years God’s people walked in the desert, contains a sobering reference to this. It says, “So he [God] gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them” (Psalm 106:15).There is a second best, and altogether too often we are willing to settle for it instead of His very best.
- Then you should ask, “Will God be glorified in what I’m asking Him to do?” Praying that you win your game means someone else loses. Praying that your golf game is better than your opponent’s is suspect, and asking God to let you catch the biggest fish falls outside the lines of respectable requests.
Take heart in what John wrote, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). That’s enough.