My second observation is this, Jesus says, “Ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” (7, 16) Why? That is an extraordinary promise? Why would he say such a thing? And why would he say it without all the fine print and disclaimers?
We’re too cynical. We believe that God only answers some prayers. We believe that there are lots of exclusions and rules that govern which prayers God answers. We’re products of our culture. We’ve heard the saying. “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Someone may offer us something and tell us that it is without cost, but eventually, somehow, we will have to pay for it. Nothing is really free. Our culture has trained us well to view extraordinary promises with extraordinary skepticism. I think that our cynicism regarding prayer is augmented by well-meaning Bible teachers and authors. In an effort to be balanced and guard against abuse or disappointment, some have majored on the many reasons why we can’t expect God to answer our prayers. In fact, I read an entire book dedicated to the reasons why God won’t answer our prayers if we pray the wrong way. Each chapter described another way in which we are probably praying the wrong way. When I finished reading that book, the only fact of which I was confident, was the fact that God would never have to answer any of my prayers because I would always make at least one mistake in praying. Needless to say, I wasn’t motivated to pray more. In fact, my prayer life dwindled after reading that book. Of course, there is a third reason why most of us are a bit cynical when it comes to Jesus’s extraordinary prayer promises – our own personal experiences with unanswered prayer.
Our theology of prayer certainly should account for the fact that sometimes God doesn’t give us whatever we ask for in prayer. But this is not the only fact that must be taken into account. What about the rest of the facts? Fact one – God loves to give good gifts. He is a father who truly enjoys giving. Fact two – We have experienced many answered prayers. Christians throughout time and the world are experiencing answered prayer and even miracles. Fact three – God gets glory by answering prayers so that we can bear fruit and prove to the world that we are his disciples (see verse 8). When God doesn’t grant us what we ask, it is his glory that is at stake. God takes the issue of bringing glory to himself very seriously.
All of this brings us to our second reality in this passage. Reality #2 – God wants to answer our prayers because of love, fruit, glory, and proof to the world. Allow this to sink into the mind and heart. When I pray, I’m not trying to talk God into something he doesn’t want to do!
Paul Miller writes, “All of Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Gospels can be summarized with one word: ask. His greatest concern is that our failure or reluctance to ask keeps us distant from God.” I agree, God wants us to ask and to fully believe that he wants to grant us what we ask. It only makes sense. If one of my basic life functions is to bear fruit but I can’t do that apart from God, it only makes sense that Jesus would assure me that I will have the means to get what I need from God in order to bear fruit.
It may sound like I’m preaching, but what I’m really doing is dreaming. I’m dreaming of what could happen if we really believed. Ask yourself, “What would my prayer life be like if I believed Jesus? What if I adjusted my view of reality to two accommodate the two realities Jesus proclaimed in this passage?”
You were chosen by God for the otherwise impossible tasks of changing from the inside out, being a catalyst for change in others, and permanently changing the world. Because of that assignment, you have a direct link to heaven.