Have you ever prayed earnestly for something, and it seems like you never get an answer, or the answer is “No”? I certainly have. I wish I had an exact answer for why that is, but the Lord does not always fill us in on His plans, and unless He does, we cannot understand His reasons for doing what He does. The book of Isaiah tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (vv. 8-9, ESV) With that said, I would like to offer some reasons:
- He has a plan for us, and our request does not fit in with His plan. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV) I think that sometimes, we ask the Lord for something, but it is not in His plan for us.
- Sometimes, we are not completely following His plan:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:1-9, NIV)
I think this is where I am at most of the time. It’s a question of living in Christ, and allowing Christ to live in you. This is not to question whether someone has accepted Christ; it just brings into question our motives in everything we do. What I mean is that, as Christians, all of our thoughts and actions should be filtered through Christ. Everything we say or do, we have to realize that Jesus is present with us. Every thought that we entertain, we need to realize that Jesus knows our minds. We need to constantly be asking ourselves if what we are thinking, saying or doing is glorifying Christ? What is the motive behind everything that goes on with us? Everything we do should reflect our relationship with Christ. If something that we say, do, or think goes against Jesus, then we should not be involved with it. Sometimes, we have to make a choice, go with God, or just go?
Sometimes it is not a matter of thinking things through, and making a decision. I remember hearing a Christian one time telling about smashing his thumb with a hammer. He said that he didn’t remember what he said, but he had asked for forgiveness! We need to be so ingrained with Jesus that our natural reaction to any circumstance should be pleasing to God. Instead, we sometimes react like I described above. We do something contrary to the character of Christ, and then we have to apologize to him.
If we choose to live according to God in our day-to-day lives (abide in, remain in Him) then it will reflect in our prayer lives. Verse 16 of this same chapter says, “the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (NIV) This is the key; we have to ask in Jesus’ name. This does not mean that at the end of a prayer, we say “in Jesus’ name, amen.” Rather this means that in order for our prayer to be answered in a favorable way towards us, and then what we ask for has got to be in agreement with Jesus. Of course, if we are truly living in Christ, and if He is truly living in us, then our requests are not going to be of a selfish, prideful or conceited nature (e.g. “Lord, please give me a Ferrari, for your glory! Amen.) I’m not saying that if you own a Ferrari, you are out of God’s will. The question is your motivation for asking God to grant you an expensive, showy car.
I think it boils down to:
- Living in (abiding in, remaining in) Christ, and He in us
- Asking for things in accordance with His nature
- What we are seeking needs to fall within the plan Christ has for us.
Let me know what you think.