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Prayer:  Why doesn’t God always give us what we ask? 

Gary Googe May 05

What did our Lord promise regarding this? Here are His words.

Matthew 7:7-11

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 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? [Emphasis added]

What are we to think of these promises our Lord gave during the time of His earthly ministry? Are they ours to claim today? Aren’t there many believers who’ve tried to claim these promises but been terribly disappointed, not getting what they requested?  Again, exactly what are we to think of that? Aren’t there people who’ve even given up on prayer because of such promises in Scripture, saying there’s nothing to it—that the promises given cannot be believed? Aren’t there many others who would say—“But you must ask according to God’s will!”? Isn’t this the stock answer people will usually hear? But is that the correct answer they should believe? Furthermore, is that the fundamental problem as to why their requests are not answered as they had hoped? It is not! But people will still ask—aren’t these promises given to be believed? Are we not to have faith that God will honor our requests as our Lord plainly promised in these passages of Scripture?

What most people fail to understand is that although ALL Scripture is FOR us, it is not all TO us or ABOUT us.  This includes all the promises given in the Bible, including those promises associated with prayer.  This simple but very important principle about rightly dividing the Scriptures is usually completely ignored.  This is because they also completely ignore an important principle of Scripture that is addressed to all of us.

2 Timothy 2:15   

15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]  

But what does “rightly dividing” mean? It means that there are many things written perfectly in the Bible that are addressed to us today, but there are others that are not. This involves not just a few but MANY things.  Here are just a few questions about this that demand correct answers.

  • In Matthew 18:19 Jesus says, “…if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” With promises like this one, why is it that so often the requests of sincere Bible-believing Christians are left unfulfilled?
  • Why do some places in the Bible talk about personal works being a part of the means to one’s salvation and entrance into God’s kingdom [James 2:24], but in other places salvation is said to be by grace alone, totally apart from works of any kind [Romans 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:8-9]?
  • Why does the Bible say all the sins of Christians have been forgiven [Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14], but in other places it says they must be confessed for forgiveness [I John 1:9] and that we must forgive others their sins if we’re to be forgiven of ours [Matthew 6:14-15]?
  • How can God judge us for our sins since it is said that Jesus Christ was judged for them all on the cross of Calvary [Golgotha] [II Corinthians 5:19 & 21; I Timothy 2:4-6; Hebrews 1:3]? Doesn’t the fundamental law of double jeopardy relate to this?  
  • Why do some Bible verses seem to indicate that one’s salvation is not forever secure [Matthew 24:13; Hebrews 6:4-6], but others do [Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 1:13]?
  • Why were the apostles and all other believers commanded to sell all their possessions and have all things in common [Luke 12:33; 18:22; Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35], but Christians do not practice this today?
  • Why does the Bible speak so clearly of baptism being a requirement as a part of salvation [Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16], but other places indicate it is totally unnecessary [I Corinthians 1:17 cf. Ephesians 4:5].
  • Why is so much made of tithing in churches when the apostle Paul clearly and thoroughly discusses spiritual giving [II Corinthians 8-9] but never even mentions tithing in any of his thirteen epistles?
  • Why does the Bible in some places say that signs will occur prior to Jesus Christ’s return to the earth [Luke 21:11; Acts 2:19-20], but other places indicate that His return has always been something that could happen at any moment?

These are all questions I address in my book—22 Key Promises You Can Count On.  But I’m afraid that most people aren’t really interested enough to research these things.  Don’t all these appear to be contradictions? They are not if you relate this principle of the right division of Scripture to them, but it is no wonder that people believe as they do.  But aren’t all these questions important? Shouldn’t we have a clear and correct answer to all of them? We should and we can!

Verses like this next one I’ll mention are commonly quoted but totally misunderstood. They are misunderstood in the sense that, again, they fail to realize that such promises are not addressed to us today.  They’re addressed to Israel in the past and, also, in a future time.  Here’s the verse.

Isaiah 65:24

24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. [Emphasis added]

Don’t many people assume that this is a promise addressed to us today? So often these promises are taken out of context, promises that are not given to us.  This is one of many clear examples of that.  Many have quoted and believed this verse believing they were going to get exactly what they asked for in prayer.  But please note the verse that immediately follows this promise. Are we to believe it also applies to us?

Isaiah 65:25  

25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord. [Emphasis added]

Do we have any lambs feeding WITH wolves today? Is any of this happening now? I believe you know the answer to that without me asking.  It is not! Does God not keep His word? He surely does! So, what are we to think of this? Answer: The passage of Scripture is addressed to Israel and will be fulfilled in a future time, namely, the time of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom.  That time will occur when Jesus Christ returns to the Earth, but not until then! There are many such promises in the Bible, not just this one.  If they’re not sorted out properly, things can be very confusing.  And that means wrong conclusions will be drawn, followed by misapplications.  It is because of this that we have denominationalism today.  There’s such a variety of beliefs as to what we’re to believe and obey today.  It is no wonder that some people think Christians are crazy for believing the Bible.

A basic but important principle all should know today is that it is the apostle Paul who is our instructor, not Peter, Moses, the apostle John, or anyone else.

Romans 11:13

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]

I have an article on our website that fully explains the ministry of this man.

Paul:  Who exactly is this man to us?  

If you haven’t read the article, I hope you’ll do that right after you read this one.

Yes, it is Paul who is OUR apostle.  And even with him it must be understood that some of the things he wrote were addressed to the people who were living in what we speak of as the transition period.  That transition period is seen clearly in the book of Acts.  People were performing works of healing, miracles, and even miraculously speaking fluently in foreign languages [or tongues] they’d never studied. Throughout that period and for a time afterward Paul was still learning and writing by special revelation.  He has thirteen letters in the Bible that we’re to focus on above all else.  Again, ALL Scripture is FOR us but not TO us or ABOUT us.

Romans 15:4  

4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. [Emphasis added]

That’s a principle you should never forget.  There are some things that even Paul wrote that are for our learning, but not necessarily for our application now.  If you attempt to do otherwise, you are making yourself subject to lots of confusion and frustration.

Now let’s get on with this subject of prayer.  In every generation, God wants His people to speak to Him through prayer every day.

1 Thessalonians 5:17  

17 Pray without ceasing. [Emphasis added]  

The apostle Paul made a habit of this just as we should.  

2 Timothy 1:3  

3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; [Emphasis added]  

A very important piece of information we all need to know is that God intercedes for us in all our prayers.  We may not ask what we need to ask, but God intercedes for us to ask exactly what should be asked.  Then it is that which God readily answers.  Note what Paul tells us about this.

Romans 8:26-27

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. [Emphasis added]

It is then that instead of always getting what we ask, we’re given what we need.  Isn’t that what’s best? Isn’t that what we really want anyway?  All our prayers are answered, but not necessarily the way we at least initially believe they should be answered.  Note what is promised in this next verse of that same passage.

Romans 8:28  

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [Emphasis added]

Actually, in the original text it is God who is the subject in this verse, not all things.  All things aren’t capable of doing anything, but God certainly is.  Therefore, it is God who works all things together for good.  Regardless of how bad things may appear, we need to always believe that.  Our knowledge of this should be reflected in our prayers.  We need to trust God, believing He always knows exactly how our prayers should be answered.

Conclusion—  

We need to pray every day without ceasing but we also need to trust God in how He answers our prayers.  When we don’t get what we request it is only because that’s not what’s best for us.  Always remember that a flat-out NO is just as much of an answer as a YES. Also, when it appears that the answer is no, it may just mean not now.  Whatever happens, as our heavenly Father, He knows exactly what’s best for us.  Let us always trust Him for that answer. But never think even for a second that He doesn’t ALWAYS answer all our prayers.

Ephesians 3:20-21  

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. [Emphasis added]

The second part of the verses we started with at the beginning of this study apply at any time even though the first part of it was given for application in another time.  These are comforting words you can relate to any situation at any time.

Matthew 7:9-11

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

11 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? [Emphasis added]

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