So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:21-22)
Watching the New Hampshire primary election the thought came to me. How many have prayed for their candidate to win, and if so, how many did it in faith, without doubting? Regardless of how many prayed for their candidate, there can only be so many winners in any election. The rest, having prayed in faith, not doubting will be disappointed. Some will be disappointed in God. Did God fail them?
Some will say yes, God failed them, but even more will question their faith, and acknowledge their doubts that God is capable of doing anything. So they blame themselves, the disappointments mount, and their prayer life takes a hit. Jesus’ half-brother James put it succinctly: You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3). It is enough to forget the whole thing.
Or is it?
Many people are careful to add to their prayers: If it is your will, but even this caveat shows we acknowledge we really do not really know God’s will, and we resign us to the fate that our most sincere prayers are probably useless anyway.
Nothing could be further from the truth. God commands us to “be continually in prayer” and the promise in Matthew is repeated in Mark11:23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. And in John 16:23 the apostle quotes Jesus: “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. These are words from the Lord Jesus himself, so they must mean something, or God’s word cannot be trusted.
The answer is found in the age old question: What is the purpose of our being here on earth anyway? Does God really care? At first glance with terror, war and lawlessness spreading all over the world, God no longer cares. As one who has been reborn from above I can attest that God cares very much, and He really desires to have fellowship with us. There is nothing that compares to knowing you are loved by God and having fellowship with Him.
But back to whatever. The promise is not as ridiculous at it seems at first glance; all factions cannot get their petitions fulfilled. We must dig deeper: Jesus said in John 14:13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. And in John 15:14 Jesus states: You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. Jesus doubles downs in verse 16: You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. And the answer to how we should live is found just above in John 15:9-12:
9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
There it is: The greatest commandment, and if we abide in Him we can ask whatever, because it aligns with His perfect will.
Lest we be puffed up, this is still true: In Isaiah 55:8-9 God states:“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says 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.
Yet, the Lord Jesus states in John 16:12-13 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
There we have it: The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, enough to give us grace and lead us day by day, but not so much that we can go forward all by ourselves.