In 1979 when I worked for a car dealership, a man walked up to me one day and requested an automobile. He listed the specifications: make & model, color, engine type and size, what he would pay for it, and all the rest. And he wanted it within two weeks. I chuckled and said, “You won’t get it at that price.”
Waxing eloquently about his faith, he said, “I told God what I wanted and I’m holding God to His word. The Bible says God will give us the desires of our hearts, and this is my desire. Therefore, I know I’ll get what I ask. And I want you to receive a blessing by getting it for me.”
I was flabbergasted to think a puny human could be so brash as to “hold God to His word.” God isn’t on trial. We humans are the flaky ones, and God is holding US accountable. We don’t have a right to demand anything of God.
When I asked, “Is your faith based on what you want, or on what God wants for you?” he retorted, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
I told him although he was sincere in his belief, sincerity doesn’t make something true; rather, truth substantiates faith, or exposes ignorance. Truth either validates or invalidates a person’s sincerity. So I asked him again about the object of his faith.
He laughed at my apparent ignorance, and said, “Scripture says ‘you have not because you ask not.’ I WILL get that car, everything I want on it, and at my stated price; but someone other than you will be blessed for getting it for me.” With that, he walked away.
I have many friends who tell God what they want. They say if they truly believe it, they will get it. They also tell me that not receiving what they want reveals a lack of faith.
I agree with Scripture but I disagree with their application of Scripture.
Although many of these folk have a true love for Jesus, they are taking those verses out of context. So what is the Biblical teaching?
I think some of you just tuned me out. But for those who are still reading, the interesting part comes next.
James 1:6 says to ask without wavering, and James 4:3 says we don’t get what we ask because we ask for the wrong things. So, let’s go to Jesus’ words.
Jesus said in Mark 11:24 – “Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it.” His immediate audience knew what He meant; it is we new-comers who missed it.
Jesus stated it more fully to another audience in John 14:12-13. “The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father.”
Two phrases stand out: “in My name” and “brings glory to the Father.” And this is where the rubber meets the road.
“In My name” means to ask for what Jesus would ask; and that includes 1) asking in the manner and attitude in which Jesus would ask, 2) asking specifically for what Jesus would ask, and 3) accepting the timing of God’s response. Jesus’ continuous attitude was, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, we will have Jesus’ attitude.
“Bringing glory to the Father” means that the answer to the request is to glorify God – not to primarily benefit us. Jesus never asked for a new donkey, a faster horse, or a better place to sleep. Those are not bad things, but that wasn’t what Jesus needed. God promised to meet our needs – not necessarily our wants. Psalm 37:4 instructs us that if we are in tune with God, He will give us the proper desires – the desires of our hearts.
Faith in God is not self-centered, but God-centered. True faithfulness is purposely living according to God’s word, and is revealed by a life dedicated to the Lord – not necessarily by things we have.
That man returned a month later to show me his new car. But when I pointed that many of the features he demanded were missing and that he paid about $2,000 more than he told God he would pay, he shrugged and said, “Well, I guess you can’t have it all.”
Perhaps he woke up to the truth of “asking in Jesus’ name” and maybe he didn’t. But dear reader, I hope your faith is in Jesus Christ, not in what you want. I hope your desire is to bring glory and honor to God, not merely to make yourself happy.
May God bless you as you learn what it means to truly honor our Lord.