“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” -Matthew 21:22
There was a mad rush up the stairs last night as soon as I agreed that our kids could watch the VHS video they had picked up from the library that afternoon. Being an older VHS tape, there was a lot of static sound as it played.
“Dad!!! Fix it!!”
I wish I could have fixed it, but unfortunately the tape was irreparably damaged. After a few minutes of listening to the annoying static noise I was ready to call it quits, but the kids had their hearts set on watching this video. All of a sudden my oldest son says, “I just don’t understand, I prayed, but God won’t make the noise go away.”
My heart went out to him. How many times have you and I been in the same position where we really want something from God…we’ve prayed…and no answer. Even as an adult who understands the complexities of prayer I still often find myself asking for things that are merely personal wish list kind of things, and certainly rank very low on God’s Kingdom agenda.
I know God is not a genie in a bottle. I know that I have wishes that are just not in line with God’s will. That being said, I also know that God answers prayer and that he cares deeply for me. So in light of all this what does the verse above mean and how do we apply it to our lives?
The answer to interpreting this verse would be simple if God just gave us whatever we wanted. The problem my son encountered was that God doesn’t always give us what we want, especially when what we want does not line up with His best for us.
It is important to understand that God’s disposition towards His children is grace. He always has our best in mind. I love the verse in Romans 8:32 that says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him, graciously give us all things?”. Think about that, God gave the most precious gift possible and imaginable to us, His Son. Would he then withhold from us any lesser gracious gift? Certainly not! He will give us every necessary thing in order that we might treasure him above all else. You see, God’s Kingdom agenda is that his people will enjoy and praise Him above every other thing on earth. This is what faith means: to believe that Jesus is more precious, more valuable, more worthy, more excellent than anything else and to orient our lives and desires around this truth: Jesus is Lord. So what does this mean for our prayer life. We need to orient our hearts around what is best; around God’s agenda as expressed in His Word. As we understand His plans and His designs and our prayers and our faith match up with His good pleasure than whatever we ask, we will receive, resulting in God being glorified, and us being satisfied in Him.