Matthew 21:22 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
This is one of Jesus’ flat statements that we have a lot of trouble accepting. Those who go whole hog on it tend to have faith in faith, rather than faith in God Himself. On the other hand, most Christians tend to discount it, failing in the very area it is talking about. There are two problems with how we approach this verse. The first is dealt with by James. “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3) We have a wide variety of motives in our praying, and since God sees our hearts, that produces a wide variety of results. Even when we are praying for something that is good and right, we may destroy the effectiveness of our prayer by wanting that thing to happen so that we will be seen as holy, having “special access” to God. We can be remarkably blind to that sort of motivation in ourselves. The second problem is the matter of timing. That subject has come up several times recently, and it’s still very true that we don’t understand God’s timing. Hebrews famously talks about all the saints who died not having seen that for which they believed. (Hebrews 11:39-40) You could call that the ultimate escape clause! It all boils down to trust, which could be called faith with shoes on. Faith can be very abstract, but trust produces action and impacts how we live. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed with perfect faith, knowing that God was fully able to rescue Him, but at the same time He was completely trusting, surrendering His human desires to the Father’s will. We can certainly do no better than to follow His example.
This whole issue of prayer can get terribly complicated. I have long held that prayer is illogical from an objective standpoint. Why would the omnipotent Creator listen and respond to what His creatures say? However, as a parent myself I understand that our heavenly Father would want to talk with His children, and that is what we are. Just as good human parents delight to respond to their children’s requests, but still won’t give them things that are bad for them, our Father delights to give us His kingdom, (Luke 12:32) but He knows far better than we do what effect things will have on us, and He doesn’t want to give us things that will be detrimental in the long run. I have wrestled with this issue much of my life, and I expect to continue to do so until I’m rid of this merely human body. I am not to fail to ask, particularly when Jesus told us to ask, seek, and knock, (Matthew 7:7-11) At the same time I am not to insist that the answers to my prayers be as I imagine them; God’s ideas are always better!
Father, I am back to the realization of how little I know about prayer, though I love it and practice it frequently with joy. May I continue to grow in my knowledge and understanding of You and Your kingdom, so that I may be a better child and more effective servant, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!