Do you believe in the power of prayer? Or do you think that Jesus promised too much for us? He told his disciples that God will give them whatever they ask in Jesus’ name. And, yet, we don’t get everything we ask, right?
Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:23-24, NIV)
How come we don’t get everything we ask for? Why did Jesus promise this if he can’t keep it? Excellent questions. And we need to know the answers before we can fully trust God and pray believingly. Does prayer work?
The message translation gives us already some hints about what Jesus meant: This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! (John 16:23-24, MSG, emphasis added.)
Jesus had spend three years with his disciples and he was preparing them to manage on their own after his resurrection. Jesus wanted them to know that through prayer they could continue to ask him questions in the future. Jesus wanted them to know that through prayer they will continue to have a connection with him. Through prayer we are able to have conversations with God. Through prayer we are interconnected forever more.
But just like Jesus did not give everything to his disciples while he was with them, God won’t give things according to our whims but according to his will. For example, James and John asked if one of them could sit on Jesus’ right and the other on his left in heaven (Mark 10). Jesus did not grant them that. And there are many other stories when the requests of the disciples were not according to his will. Hence Jesus did not give them what they would have wanted. The same goes to our prayer requests.
God the Father is happy to hear our requests but he won’t grant us everything we want. Especially when our requests are about money, success, honor or something else that would harm us. God will give us everything we ask in Jesus’ name that is good for us and according to his will. God is indeed a prayer-hearing God. But he loves us so much that he doesn’t give us what is not good for us.
Prayer works indeed. God is not a Santa Claus and prayer is not wishful thinking. Prayer is our connection to God. We are called to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12, NIV).
Prayer is our most important task. Nothing else compares to it. Because prayer changes things. The more we pray, the more Christ-like we become. The more time we spend in prayer pray, the more alive we are. Because only Jesus has the words of eternal life. Only Jesus can resurrect our lives. We only need to ask.
Forgive us for neglecting prayer.
We believe, forgive our unbelief.
Draw us into ongoing conversation with you.
Give us joy like a river overflowing its banks.
Give us nothing but your will!
And everything in your will!
In Jesus’ name,
Marianna Frangen Stalnacke