I have been struggling a bit at the church I go to. A few weeks ago, the pastor said that prosperity preachers were false teachers. He called them a threat to the body of Christ. Before I go further, I have to say that this man genuinely loves Jesus and the people in this community. It's hard not to be drawn to him because of his passion for Christ. But like so many people who are against the "prosperity message," he frequently says things like God is not a genie or at your beck and call. One Sunday, he talked about "using God" to get what we want apart from Him.
On many levels, I really do get it. We can fall into the trap of focusing on what we want from God more than wanting God—seek His hand, not His face. But on the flip side, what healthy love relationship doesn't ask for things they want? What husband would frown on getting his wife something nice (that she asked for) for her birthday, their anniversary, or Christmas? What parent would tell their kids not to tell them what they wanted for their birthday or Christmas? Love gives, and love asks.
It took me years to learn that God loves me so much that He wants me to ask Him for the desires of my heart. He wants to give things to me as part of His expression of love for me. It is impossible for God to express His love for us to the full extent if we don't ask Him for things.
This morning the Holy Spirit prompted me to think about Jesus' first miracle. It was turning water into wine. This miracle wasn't performed to address a life-and-death situation. Turning water into wine wasn't part of his "mission" to cast out devils, heal the sick, and preach the gospel's good news and eternal life with God. He performed this first miracle because it was something His mother wanted. It was a simple desire. It wasn't wrong for her to ask.
Yes, it is possible to ask "amiss" Jam 4:2-3. But it is also possible to ask with an expectation built upon the love that exists in the relationship. God doesn't want us to stop asking because it is possible to ask with the wrong motives. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10), but the Bible also says money is a defense (Ecc 7:12). The Bible tells us to seek first the kingdom of God (Mat 6:33) and all these things will be added to us.
We must work in our hearts and minds to ensure God stays first. If we do that, as Malachi chapter 3 says, it is ok to "test me (God) in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out a blessing that there is not room enough to receive." We are to "guard our hearts" against wrong motives. But we are not supposed to stop asking God for the desires of our hearts simply because there is the possibility that we may lose sight of the Giver because of His gifts.
One of my favorite Scriptures in Romans is Romans 8:32, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" If God will give us Jesus, He can give us a good job, home, transportation, etc. But there's more to it.
A few Sundays ago, I heard another pastor in our church also imply that we don't have to ask. It's as if we can expect God to give us everything we need without asking. That implies that we all would be treated the same and have the same because God would just go around blessing us based on what He sees that we need.
There is a huge problem with that. It doesn't require any faith on our part. Heb 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." God is rewarder of faith. James 2:26 says, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Part of our "works" is asking.
It takes faith to ask. It requires us to believe that God can and will do something we couldn't do on our own. The Bible says God likes that! He wants/demands us to believe that He exists and to come to Him. Then He "rewards" us for doing so. What is the reward? The thing we asked for (see fish, stone, serpent Scriptures below).
I think people who have not learned enough about how faith works have asked and not received and concluded that it doesn't work. And since it "doesn't work," that it must be wrong to ask. I wish I could stop here, but I can't. Bear with me a little bit longer.
In the Old Testament, a man was sad because he lost a borrowed axe head in the water. It would have created a debt. The man cried out to the prophet in distress. The implication was that he asked for help (2 Ki 6). God did a miracle through a prophet. The axe-head swam back to the man to cancel the debt. A woman's sons were about to be sold into slavery to pay off her debts. She cried out to Elisha (asked for help), and Elisha said, "What can I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?" God did a miracle through a prophet to cause oil to flow to pay off her debt. When Peter asked Jesus how they would pay their taxes, Jesus miraculously told him what fish's mouth to look into to get the coin worth enough to pay off the tax debt.
God cares about the things we care about. He cares about what concerns us, like paying off our debts. He also cares about the things that make us happy, like having a good party for our guests (enough wine.) Don't believe for a second that in God's great love for you, He isn't constantly looking to express that love. If something you prayed for didn't come to pass, check your heart and faith but don't diminish the manifestations and expressions of God's love. Love asks. Faith asks. God is love. Love gives. Love answers.
"that ye be not slothful, but followers of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
"Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you…"
"Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven."
"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
1 Jhn 5:14-15
"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."
Heb 10:35-36 (NIV)
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…"
1 Jhn 3
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…"
Eph 1:18 (NIV)
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish