“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3.
How should we pray then? What should we ask for? According to the Bible, we should be able to ask for anything, in Jesus name, and then receive it. (John 14:13) But maybe it seems like the things that we are praying for either don’t happen, don’t happen quickly enough, or don’t happen in the way that we had hoped. Why is that?
“And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1 John 5:14. So then, what is God’s will?
God’s will for us is that we should come to repentance, and not perish. (2 Peter 3:9) In other words, His desire is for us to be saved from our sin! There is a reason for the situations that we find ourselves in. Although our human understanding can’t usually comprehend it, each situation is an opportunity for us to be saved from sin. We can ask ourselves, “Why did this have to happen to me?” However, if we have that attitude, it only leads to unrest and dark thoughts. No matter what happens to us, we can be at rest and also super thankful, because we know that through this, God is going to save us!
So when we cry out to God for help, are we looking for a way out of the situation, or are we looking to be saved? Instead of asking “God, please take this situation from me,” it should be “God, show me what I can be saved from here; why did you bring me into this?” Then He can show us, for example, our lack of love for the others, impatience, envy, being anxious, or other things that are in our nature. The ruling motive in our prayers should be that God’s will is accomplished, first of all for ourselves, and second of all in our prayers for the others.
Praying for sanctification
We don’t know what is best, but we can be certain that God does! He is able to save us to the uttermost! (Hebrews 7:25) Let your requests be made known to God, (Philippians 4:6) but our chief request should be that His will is accomplished in our lives. That’s just how Jesus had it. “Not my will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.
Before Jesus was crucified He said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” John 12:27-28. It wasn’t Jesus’ prayer that He could be saved from the situation, but that He could be saved in the situation. That’s also the mind of a disciple. Whatever we come into, then our mind is “God, help me to be saved!” And when we pray in that way, we know that He hears us. He will show us what we need to be saved from, and show us what we need to be cleansed from.
We can pray for healing, for example, and it can be hard to understand why it doesn’t always happen when it’s prayed for. But maybe God is using this situation to show us anxiety, unbelief, or to expose other sins in our flesh. Not everyone will be healed, but everyone can be saved! And in this process, we have the comfort of knowing that He will never give us more than we can bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
When we understand what God wants for us, then we don’t think we’re here for “the good life” or even a comfortable life. We’re here to be saved! When we have it like that, then He will hear our prayers, we can be sure of it.