Thursday, January 14, 2016

Asking and Believing, Part Two

A couple of days ago, I posted a devotion about claiming victory over our prayers, and I received an e-mail asking for more information.  Evidently, I didn't express my thoughts as clearly as I had hoped, and this being a delicate topic, I wanted to make sure that I didn't lead anyone astray.  So, I've decided to revisit the topic again today, and I will do my best to explain myself.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.  You can leave a comment below or email me privately.  I'll be happy to clear up any miscommunication on my part.

Okay, there are those who practice a "name it and claim it" gospel which basically says that if you want something, you only need to pray about it and believe that God will give it to you.  If you believe hard enough, God will grant your desires.  These people use (and misuse) Scripture, such as Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:7, and Matthew 21:22, to back up their standing.  This is where we have to be careful and compare Scripture with Scripture.  To explain it best, I'll take you back to the book of James.

The Gospels tell us "ask and ye shall receive," and that's true, but only when taken in the full context of the Bible.  James 4:2-3 goes on to say, Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.  Here James is telling us that sometimes we don't have what we want because we fail to ask God for it.  But he also points out that sometimes we still don't get what we want even when we have asked because what we're asking for is not in God's will.  That's what he means by asking amiss.  It means we're asking God for something that He does not want us to have, and God says, "No."  It's like a three-year-old child asking his mom for a revolver.  He asked, but Mom denied his request because she was looking out for him.  God does the same for us.

So, the first thing we need to remember when we pray is to make sure we're praying God's will.  If we're not sure if something is God's will or not, then we need to ask Him to let us know.  Remember, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)  If you're not sure of God's will, ask Him to make it clear to you.

Then, once you feel certain that the thing for which you're praying is God's will, pray with fervency.  Claim God's promises to give you what you ask for as long as you're not asking amiss.  And here's the catch that I discussed the other day:  Don't just believe that God can do it; believe that He will do it.  That's what James means when he says, But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (James 1:6-7)  Don't waver.  Don't doubt that God will give you what you've prayed for.  Claim God's promises and own your prayer.  Otherwise, according to James, we may or may not receive anything from God.  It's all about faith.

Think back to the many miracles that Jesus performed during his earthly ministry.  How many times did He utter the phrase, "Thy faith has made thee whole"?  People came to Him, believing with all their hearts that He could and would heal them, and because of their faith, Jesus granted their requests.

But, I think the best example of what I'm trying to explain is that of Elijah and the four hundred prophets of Baal in I Kings 18.  When Elijah proposed a contest between God and Baal, he was putting his life on the line.  There he was, for the most part alone, in the midst of 400 prophets of Baal plus other false prophets plus the evil King Ahab, who hated Elijah and would gladly watch him die a horrible death.  Elijah knew it was God's will to destroy the prophets of Baal and win over the children of Israel, so he went all out.  He allowed the prophets of Baal to go first, and as we know, nothing happened.  At that point, Elijah could have just prayed for God to send down fire to consume the sacrifice, and that, in itself, would have won the contest.  But, no.  Elijah claimed God's promises.  He went BIG!  After placing his sacrifice on the altar, he poured water and more water and more water over the sacrifice, the altar, the wood, the ground, etc.  It was all soaked!  Then, he prayed, never doubting what God was going to do.  He wasn't worried about how he would escape if God didn't answer.  He wasn't concerned with whether or not he'd look bad in front of all these people if God chose to ignore his request.  No, he prayed and believed with all his heart that God was going to send down fire per Elijah's request.  Elijah prayed in a big way, and God answered likewise.  Not only did He consume the sacrifice but also the wood, the stone, the water and even the dirt.  God honored Elijah's prayer of faith, and He'll honor yours.

Again, let me make clear that "ask and ye shall receive" doesn't mean that we can treat God like Santa Claus and hand Him a list of our wants.  That's not how it works.  God says that we should abide in Him, which means that His desires become our desires.  Once that happens, we can pray in faith, knowing that the thing for which we're praying is God's will for our lives.  And when we pray in faith, with nothing wavering, God rewards us accordingly.

I hope I have cleared up any confusion on this matter.  As I said, it is a difficult subject and one that has been twisted to suit man's philosophy.  But, if you'll sit down and compare God's Word with God's Word, I think the situation will become clearer.  Still, if you have any questions, fire away.  I don't guarantee you that I'll have an answer, but perhaps we can study it out together.

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