Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14; ESV)
Despite our Lord’s assurance that He will answer our prayers, many of them seem to go unanswered. This can be very discouraging, even to the writers of Scripture. The Psalmist Ethan the Ezrahite, after reminding God of His promise that He would fulfill the covenant He had made with David to establish an everlasting Kingdom, charges God:
But now you [God] have cast off and rejected; you are full of wrath against your anointed. You have renounced the covenant with your servant [David]; you have defiled his crown in the dust. You have breached all his walls; you have laid his strongholds in ruins. All who pass by plunder him; he has become the scorn of his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice. (Psalm 89:38-42)
It seemed as if God had failed to keep His promise and to answer the prayers of Israel for deliverance. How do we understand this “failure” in light of God’s promises? We need to understand that Jesus’ promises to answer prayer carried along with them several conditions. One of them was “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” His answered prayers were intended to glorify the Father. It also had to be in “His [Jesus’] Name. This is not simply a matter of uttering the name “Jesus.” This requires that our prayer requests have to be according to His will.
We see this proviso echoed in many places in the Bible. The three Jewish young men had refused to worship the king, who even gave them another chance to worship him before they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. However, they bravely answered:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is ABLE to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18.)
Notice that they hedged in saying, “Our God will save us.” Instead, they answered more humbly, “Our God… is able” to save us. Evidently, they understood that, ultimately, their rescue depended upon His will, saying, “But if not.” They understood that sometimes His will is for our martyrdom.
Jesus also understood that it depended upon the Father’s will and plan for His life. He therefore prayed:
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup [the Cross] pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
If Jesus was willing to submit to the will of the Father, so too must we. Although, it might seem that we have been given a prayer blank-check for whatever we want, Scripture is emphatic that this is not the case:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)
Our Lord will answer our prayers, but they must be according to His will and plan for our lives. Well, what is His plan for us? I think that Jesus exhibited this plan in His model prayer:
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:9-11)
Notice that God’s will must precede our own will and desires. The Lord’s Prayer also adds another condition for our prayers to be answered:
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)
This means that we have to be living for the Lord - confessing our sins and turning from them. Our Lord does guarantee to meet our needs, but this requires Him to be first in our lives:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
God does guarantee to provide for us according to His will:
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
Consequently, when I pray according to His will, I know that I “have the requests that [I] have asked of him.” When I pray for wisdom to better serve Him, I know that He will give me wisdom. It might not be provided in the time slot I have designated, but I know that I have received.
The Psalmist Ethan couldn’t see a way of escape out of what he saw as a massive failure of God – that God had promised to provide, but it seemed as if He had reneged. Yet he concluded his Psalm on higher ground:
Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen. (Psalm 89:52)
Ethan failed to grasp how he could still trust in the Lord after this profound disappointment. Nevertheless, he trusted that his God would yet show Himself faithful. Often, this same step of faith is required of us.
Author : Ps. Daniel Mann
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