Prayer, perhaps the single most important weapon, besides the Word of God, Christians have in their arsenal. Prayer is the direct link between us and God. It allows us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16). Yet, I fear too many times, Christians take the “If God wills it” approach to prayer. They ask but do not expect to receive; or they do not expect to receive so they don’t ask.
Why should this be? This is not what the Bible teaches. In fact quite the opposite. There are many examples to point to of people of faith walking in expectancy. Later on, I will survey a few of them but first let’s deal with some scripture that seemingly contradicts what I am advocating.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Jam 4:3).
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 Jn 5:14)
These two verses have often been used to explain seemingly unanswered prayers. But is this really what the Biblical writers meant when they penned these words? To answer this we must ask to key questions.
1. What is meant by “pleasures?”
2. What is “his will?”
To answer the first question, we must look at the context of the passage. Here, James is dealing with a “do it yourself” mentality. He mentions lusting and therefore murdering to satisfy the lust. He mentions adultery, to satisfy the needs of companionship. His point then, is that rather than WAITING (remember this word) on God to act, they are acting for themselves. This is where the wrong motives are. In fact what he is advocating, is asking God to give what you desire and WAIT for God to give it. The pleasures are the immediacy of self-gratification verses the gratification of God who gave extravagantly.
The answer to the second question, is found in 2 Peter. “It says, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (3:9). If this is the will of God, then as Christians who have come to repentance, anything we ask is according to the will of God. As the Apostle John, says God will hear us if we ask according to his will.
So what am I saying? I am saying, for Christians, its not a matter of IF God will give us what we ask, but WHEN. God’s will does not affect the gifts given rather it affects the timing of those gifts. The only question is whether or not your willing to WAIT (there’s that word again) for it. Sometimes, the gift is given immediately; other times its after years; and sometimes we have to experience death itself.
To illustrate this point let’s look at three Biblical examples:
- Abraham – Abraham placed Isaac on the table expecting God to raise him from the dead (Gen 22:1-19; Heb 11:17-19) And He will.
- David was a boy when Saul anointed him king, yet was an adult when God made him king (see suggested Chronology)
- The Roman official – He expected Jesus to heal with just a word. Jesus did (Matt 8: 5-13).
So what does it mean to walk in expectancy? For those who have accepted Jesus, it means WAITING for God to act. It means understanding that sometimes God decides to give us the gift after this life is over. It means that we believe his promise that we will receive what we ask for. It means acting as if you are waiting for God to personally deliver what you have requested. You do this because He has said that is exactly what He will do.