One of the things I like to do is listen to preaching. I guess it’s kind of like a baseball player who likes to watch baseball. I am a preacher who likes to listen to preaching. Sometimes when I’m listening to the radio, T.V., or internet I hear something said by a preacher that grabs my attention. It either grabs my attention because it is a tremendous blessing or it grabs my attention because it is wrong. Such is the latter case concerning a recent message I heard from a preacher on T.V.
This particular preacher was talking about prayer and the power of prayer. Then he began to make statements of a nature that insinuated God has promised to give us whatever we ask for. Verses of support for this position include Matthew 21.22 where Jesus said, “And all things, whatsoever ye ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” This is one of those favorite verses for the “name and claim it” preachers. The reasoning goes something like this, if I have enough faith (believing), then God will do whatever I ask Him. That interpretation usually fleshes out into things like God will always heal the sick if we have enough faith when we pray or God will always deliver me from difficulty if I have enough faith when I pray. If a person prays and God does not give them what they asked for, they automatically assume they did not have enough faith. Is that really what the Bible teaches? The answer is no. Let’s consider this verse with a little dose of reality based on the preponderance of scripture.
The first thing we realize right away is that faith is not a standalone principle. To have faith means to have faith in something. My faith is not measured by how sincere I am or how long I spend in prayer asking God for something. Neither is faith measure by a degree of piety. Faith is my trust in something real, something tangible. My faith is based on unconditional trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. By faith I have trusted Jesus Christ to forgive my sin and justify me before the Father. Therefore my faith is founded on His promises to me which are written in the Bible. When we follow this line of truth about faith we see immediately that my faith concerning prayer must be based on God’s promises. In other words, God will always do what I ask in prayer when I pray in accord with my faith in His promises to me. For example, the Bible tells me in James 1.5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” Based on that promise of God, I can pray for wisdom by faith knowing that God has promised in that verse to give it to me. That is praying by faith.
There is no such thing in the Bible as, “name it and claim it.” When it comes to healing, for example, it is not always God’s will to heal us from every physical ailment. Sometimes the difficulties God allows in our lives are for His glory and our spiritual edification. Consider the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12.8 we are told how the apostle Paul asked God three times to heal him of a physical ailment. I think the apostle Paul knew all about praying in faith. God’s answer to Paul’s prayer was no. Imagine that, God told Paul that He was not going to heal him and for Paul to stop asking. What was God’s reason? We are given that in verse 9, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12.9). God had His own sovereign reasons for not healing Paul and the same is true in our lives today.
So, we can pray as born again believers, knowing that God always hears us. We can pray by faith knowing that if He has promised something to us, then we can have it. However, we have no right to presume upon the sovereign purpose of God in all that He allows in our lives. We can know that our heavenly Father loves us and He has our best interest at heart. Pray with confidence, pray without ceasing, and pray with faith in God’s promises to us as His beloved children in Christ.