God Wants To Answer Your Prayers, Chapter 3
God Wants To Answer Your Prayers, Chapter 6

God Wants To Answer Your Prayers, Chapter 5

5. But…

Sometime after I saw that Jesus really meant what he was saying in Matthew 7:7-8, I was again meditating on it, trying to figure it out, trying to understand it, trying to understand how it worked:

“Ask and it will be given to you… For everyone who asks receives…”

Just going over it again, and again, repeating it to myself, thinking about it. As I was doing this, I think I might have been upset by an unanswered prayer, I thought, ‘But this, obviously, isn’t true.’ I talked to Jesus about it, “Jesus what you’re saying here is obviously not true. Lots of people ask and as far as they can tell it’s not given to them. Most people ask and don’t receive. What you’re saying here is obviously not true. I don’t understand.

It was pretty unsettling. It seemed to me to be some sort of Bible failure, something that proved that these weren’t the words of Jesus, or something that demonstrated that the Bible wasn’t true. I’m not saying I couldn’t dream up rationalizations which explained it all away, I could, I’m a lawyer, I’m professionally trained to dream up rationalizations, but if I was honest with myself I realized that what Jesus was saying was obviously not true.

Given you…

So I just set it aside, letting it percolate in the back of my mind.

After quite a while I realized that when I read Jesus’s words I was reading them with some unconscious assumptions about how prayer works, and these assumptions were leading me to interpret what Jesus said one way, but if I changed my assumptions about how prayer works the words of Jesus could be understood in a completely different way.

One of the assumptions involved the phrase “given you.” I was reading it as though it meant, suddenly appearing in front of you, put in your hands, or instantly delivered to your house. So when I prayed and it didn’t suddenly appear I assumed that what Jesus said wasn’t true. But while studying and meditating on Mark 11:24,

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 NIV)

It seemed to me that Jesus wasn’t saying believe that it’s suddenly in your hands, believe that it’s been delivered to your house. Jesus wasn’t telling us to believe we saw something that wasn’t there, or even believe that something is there but we can’t see it. I realized that, “have received it,” in that verse, meant something more like granted to you, or approved, instead of, suddenly appearing before you. Jesus was saying, believe that God, said yes to your prayer, granted your petition, did everything within his power for you to have the thing, believe that, act on that, hold to it, and it will be yours.

(Why should I believe that I received it? What is the basis for this belief that God granted my petition, approved my request, said Yes to my prayer? Well, that’s the question Jesus is answering in Matthew 7:7-8. You should believe that you received it because of what’s written above the entrance to the throne room of God, “Ask and it will be given to you, For everyone that asks receives.”)

Eventually I took what I had seen in Mark 11:24 and applied it to Matthew 7:7. When Jesus said, “…it will be given you…,” he meant something like, “it will be granted to you.” I’d been reading it like, ‘Ask and it will suddenly appear in your life.,’ but he meant, ask and it will be granted, ask and your request will be approved, ask and God will say, “Yes,” to your prayer.

So even if the thing I prayed about didn’t suddenly appear, that didn’t mean that God hadn’t said Yes, that didn’t mean my prayer request hadn’t been granted, that didn’t mean it hadn’t been given to me.

God’s attitude towards our prayers.

Now the second unconscious assumption I was making about prayer was related to the first, I assumed that the thing showing up in my life depended, solely, completely, only, on God. I assumed that my part of the prayer process ended with the asking. I pray and then it’s in God’s hands, was how I assumed prayer worked. In my mind the only possible hang up to answered prayer was getting God to say Yes. That must be a pretty common idea because most of our prayer rituals are focused on getting God to say yes.

Now Pastor Price had always taught us that we had a part to play when it came to receiving what we asked for in prayer, but in spite of that, I was reading Matthew 7:7 as a, sort of, way around having to do our part. Jesus said, Ask and it will be given to us, there’s nothing in there besides our asking, so if we take this literally we don’t have a part to play, at least that's what I thought.

But the minute I changed my assumptions about how prayer works and began to look at prayer as not just up to God, the minute I began to look at prayer as having a God side and a man side, I realized that when Jesus said, ask and it will be given you, he could just be focusing on the God side of the prayer.

It was then that I realized that when Jesus said “Ask and it shall be given you… for everyone that asks receives…” he wasn’t dealing with the whole prayer enchilada, he wasn’t telling us everything there was to know about prayer, he wasn’t setting out the whole prayer process. Jesus wasn’t dealing with how to pray, how to receive answers to prayer, what to pray for, when to pray. Jesus was focusing on just one piece, one extremely important piece, of the prayer story. Jesus was just focusing on how God feels about our prayers, how God responds to our prayers. Jesus was dealing with God’s attitude towards our prayers.

I went back to look at the verses in Matthew again to see if this idea fit the context and was a little surprised to discover what Jesus said in the rest of the passage even though I’d read it many times:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:9-11 NIV)

You can tell that Jesus is talking about God’s attitude towards our prayers because he proves, “Ask and it will be given you…,” is so, by comparing the attitude of a parent to a child’s requests, with our heavenly father’s attitude towards our requests. We can be sure that God’s answer will be yes, because of our attitude towards our kids’ requests. Even bad people want to give good things to their children. Even the Godfather, or some drug dealer, or mafia hit-man, wants to give good things to his children. If normal human fathers desire to give good things to their children, if even the biggest jerk in town wants to answer his kids prayers, how much more certain can we be that our Father in Heaven will give us what we ask.

God wants to answer our prayers.

When Jesus says, ask and it will be given you… for everyone who asks receives, he’s telling us that God isn’t the hang up when it comes to answered prayer, that God isn’t the one holding back the answer to our prayers, he’s telling us that we don’t have to figure out how to get God to say yes to our prayers because God wants to answer our prayers more than we want them answered. Jesus is telling us that God wants to answer our prayers.


But obviously there’s a hang up in getting our prayers answered, if God’s Yes isn't the hang up, what is?

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