Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to Get From God Whatever You Ask

Wish-Granting Privilege
Shenron of Dragonball Z, Belldandy of Ah My Goddess!, and the Genie of Aladdin—all of them can grant anybody’s wish! Wow! 

The problem is that all of them are unreal.

But in the scriptures, in the book of John, we seem to find the same wish-granting privilege from Jehovah God: 
“And whatever you ask in my name that I will do…” (14:13)
“If you ask anything in my name I will do it.” (14:14)
“…you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (15:7b)
“…whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (15:16b)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” (16:23b)
“Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (16:24)

In these passages, it is explicitly stated that there is a way to get from God whatever we ask. But how does that happen? How do we get from God whatever we ask?

Before answering that, let me give you a warning.

Warning against Positive Confession
There are already lots of religious groups who abuse these verses and the like. Their view is often called Positive Confession, Name-and-Claim-it Theology and Word of Faith Movement. Some adherents of it esteemed here in the Philippines are Joel Osteen, Kenneth Hagin and Benny Hinn. These people will usually use the verses we quoted above to say that if we just claim or confess anything and believe it by faith, we can have it from God automatically. The chief error of this teaching is that it makes faith sovereign rather than God and it makes God a slave of our confession. That is totally contrary to what the scriptures teach. God alone is sovereign and he does nothing outside his will, even when you confessed it positively a thousand times:

“All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:35)
“…him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Eph. 1:11)
“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)
(For further discussion, go here.)

The Bible never teaches nor gives us an example of “claiming” anything from God. What we always find is “asking” God through prayer. Now, how can we make sure that God will answer our prayers? I mean, how do we make sure He will supplicate our requests?

Keys for Answered Prayers
John Piper, focusing on 1 John 3:22-23, explained it this way:
“God answers prayers for people who keep his commandments. His commandments are summed up in these two: 1) believe in the name of Jesus, and 2) love each other.” 
“He means that prayer has a specific design, and if you misuse it, it malfunctions. What is the design of prayer? Prayer is designed by God to be the effect of faith and the cause of love. Therefore if we try to pray when we really do not believe in the name of his Son, prayer malfunctions. And if we try to pray when our aim is not to love prayer malfunctions.”

So, according to Piper, God answers our prayers when we seek to magnify Christ through our faith and love.
(See the whole article here)

How do I know I magnify Christ through faith and love so that I can have my prayers answered?
I shall try to elaborate it using the context of John 14-16. We should note that Jesus said these just few hours before he died. That means, by this time, the disciples have already abandoned everything for Christ. Yet Jesus had to leave them so he comforted them with these words and repetitively mentioned their privilege of having whatever they ask. And we cannot isolate the promises from the commandments, warnings and declaratives mentioned. That’s why we need to first answer these questions if we are to claim the privilege.

1. Am I seeking to imitate the works of Christ and be used by Him so I am requesting?
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name…” (14:12-13a)
2.  Am I seeking to glorify God through my request? 
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (14:13) 
3. Am I valuing Christ’s commandments over my request?
“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (14:14,15)
4. Am I constantly being dependent on Christ and His words?
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (15:7)
5. Am I bearing lasting fruit for Christ?
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (15:16)
6. Is my joy centered on Christ rather than my request?
 “…I [Jesus] will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, 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.” (16:22-24)

Unless we have Christlike and Christ-enabled works, a Christ-glorifying heart, an obedient will, a Christ-dependent attitude, Christ-appointed fruits, and a Christ-centered joy, we cannot have whatever we ask from God because those are the things we needed to magnify Christ. 
“If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Charles Spurgeon)

One More Clarifying Truth
Neither Jesus nor the disciples prioritize this privilege. Jesus’ priority is doing the will of the Father. The disciples’ priority is following Jesus. This means that to get from God whatever you ask is to not prioritize getting from God whatever you ask.

Let me just give three reasons why he who gets this privilege doesn’t prioritize it:
1. He understands that on his own his desires are impure, corrupt and pitiable. He therefore seeks God—the One who can make his heart pure by changing his desires into His desires. 
2. He understands that his finite mind’s judgment is fallible while God’s is good, perfect and well-pleasing. He therefore seeks God’s will to be done first, and submits His will to His.
3. He understands that the greatest gift he can have from God is not anything he may still ask. The greatest gift from God is the One whom He already has—God Himself. He therefore seeks to get more of this God than to get more from this God.