As we go through the Christian life, we experience life. There will be good days; there will be bad days. As the Bible says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven … A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).
Through these times of laughter we often lift up prayers of praise; during the times of morning we offer up prayers filled with requests asking God to pull us out of life’s swamp and place us on dry, solid ground.
Attitudes about prayer have always been a wonderment to me. Some Christians have what I call an Aladdin attitude of prayer. They rub the magic lamp; God will then give them whatever they request. Just like Aladdin and his genie; the only difference being that God is not limited to only three wishes.
The line of thinking that God will give you whatever you ask for comes from several verses where Jesus explains that we will receive whatever we ask.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10, therefore, presents a problem. Paul had a physical ailment. Paul tells us he prayed to God three times about the situation and God gave the answer – He would not heal Paul. God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
As an apostle and writer of fourteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, it would seem Paul would have the inside track of an Aladdin type prayer life, but when it came to a physical healing, God answered, “No.”
So which is it? Does God grant our every wish or does He answer, “No” sometimes?
Since God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), He will not treat Paul any different than He does the rest of His children. Therefore, if God told Paul “No” He will not hesitate to tell us “No” as well. Now we are faced with a problem; what about those verses about asking and receiving whatsoever ye ask? We must be missing something.
Let us look at the verses.
Matthew 21:22, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” The word “believing” is here. Now we have a requirement – faith. Without prayers mingles with faith there is no answer.
John 11:22, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” The context of the verse will explain it. Martha is doing the talking (v21). She is talking to Jesus. These words are her opinion of Him; they are not Jesus explaining prayer to us.
John 14:13, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” More requirements just arrived, the first being asking in Jesus’ name. Praying in Jesus’ name is far more than ending your prayer with the words, “In Jesus’ name I pray; Amen.”
When we do something in someone else’s name, we are acting on their behalf. The goal of what we ask for must be what Jesus would want. It has to align with His will. Otherwise, it is not on His behalf.
The second requirement ties into the first. The answer to the prayer must ultimately give glory to the Father through the Son.
1 John 3:22, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” Here God tells us He will answer our prayers if we are doing what He says – keeping His commandments.
Items needed for answered prayer –
2. We must ask on God’s behalf; the answer must be something in God’s plan.
3. God must receive glory from His reply to the prayer.
4. We must not be living a life of sin.
In the case of Paul, it was not God’s will to heal him. No one wants to be in physical pain, but God understood Paul’s, heart. God knew Paul would be more of a servant with his “thorn in the flesh” than without. Therefore, instead of healing, God gave Paul the grace sufficient to live with his infirmity.
God will always get us out of the swamps of life. Sometimes He will pick us up out of the marsh and place us on dry ground. Sometimes, however, God will drag us through the swamp to get us to the dry land on the other side. Whichever way that will accomplish His will and give Him the most glory is what He will do.
Preacher Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Ind. Visit his website, [email protected] All scripture KJV.