In the Bible, Jesus says to his disciples, ‘Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’ (Luke 11.10). He further urges them to ask for what they want and need in John’s gospel, saying ‘So far, you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you shall receive…’
God loves us. He is like a good father to us. So He wants us to tell him the things that we want and need.
In my early Christian life I felt very blessed by God as He seemed to be so ready to answer my prayers – even for quite trivial things. I would pray for a new tenant for a flat I was trying to let. I would pray for healing if one of the children got sick. I would never hesitate to pray. And I would expect my prayers to be answered.
But, as years went by, I found that my prayers were not always answered – even if I got down on my knees and pleaded with God.
I slowly came to see that, although God wants to hear our honest prayers for what we want as individuals, He answers prayer according to His vision and will for all people and all time. So, a prayer that is something only of selfish interest – such as that my favourite football club wins the League - makes no sense. On the other hand, a prayer that the team players do their best, that we enjoy a wonderful season of football, makes more sense.
Sometimes what is in our personal interest is not in the interest of the wider community or the world.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before he is to be crucified, Jesus prays ‘Take this cup from me.’ He does not want to die. He does not want to be tortured to death and suffer. His prayer is understandable and it is good that he has the honesty and trust to take this request straight to God.
But then Jesus goes on to pray, ‘Yet not my will but yours be done.’
It was for the sake of the whole world, for the rest of humankind, that God called Jesus to remain faithful – even to death on a cross – and to trust Him. That God was with Him and would glorify him.
Remembering to pray at the end of our prayers ‘Yet not my will but yours be done’ is a good discipline. It keeps the bigger picture in our minds. It helps us to see the wants and needs of the world from God’s perspective and not just our own.
So do please continue to ask God for what you truly want. But think about what He wants and pray for that too.