During the month of September, we are answering questions we’ve received from our people. We got so many questions we couldn’t cover them all on Sunday mornings, so I’m tackling a few here on the blog. Today’s question is:
I would be interested in hearing a sermon on this Bible verse which happens to be one of my favorites: “And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” — 1 John 5:15 (NLT)
Okay, so that’s not really a question. But there’s an excellent question in there, one that I hear often:
Does God really give us whatever we ask for?
Some churches offer an unqualified YES as a response. The so-called Prosperity Gospel Churches, the Name It And Claim It theologies, have garnered tons of attention both in the traditional media and on the internet. In its crudest form, the Prosperity Gospel teaches that God wants you to experience wealth prosperity now, that all you have to do is believe, to “name” what you want and “claim” it – believe that it will happen – in Jesus’ name.
Prosperity Gospel preachers point to Jesus’ words in John, like the verse above and this one:
You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. — John 14:13 (NLT)
Critics of the Prosperity Gospel are quick to point out, however, that even the most cursory tour of the Scriptures reveal that those who follow God most closely were often the least prosperous.
Following God does not guarantee wealth and prosperity. So what do we make of those promises?
Jesus tells us to “ask for anything in [his] name.” This is why so many of us end our prayers with “in Jesus name…” And while the Prosperity Gospel people have taken this to mean that you can ask for anything you want and God will give it to you, we’d do well to ask what Jesus meant by that.
To pray “in Jesus’ name” means that we pray what Jesus would pray. That puts prayer in a wholly different focus for me. Because my prayers tend to be self-focused. I pray as I think JR. would pray (and I’m pretty sure I nail it most of the time). God, I want a Corvette. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Rarely when I pray do I stop to ask myself, WWJP? What does God want in this situation? Am I asking for the right thing? How do I know that?
I wonder if I have a healthy awe of God. Am I searching out the Scriptures to discern a proper attitude on this subject? What is the wise, life-giving attitude to have about this? And can I start praying for that?
If I don’t know where to start, I can start by praying for wisdom. James promises us,
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. — James 1:5 (NLT)
Jesus tells us to “Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.” If I spend my energies pursuing God, learning wisdom, then – according to Paul, my mind and desires will be conformed to the mind and will of Jesus. I’ll learn to pray what Jesus would pray. And then God’s will becomes my will. This is what the Psalmist meant when he wrote,
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. — Psalm 37:4 (NLT)