Remember the Bible Series, #29
Presenting Our Requests
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
~ Philippians 4:6
I find it easy to gloss over this Scripture without considering, fully, what it means. It does sound rather generic. But look at it. While it sounds like a verse of comfort, it is something more. It is a command.
Two ideas are juxtaposed in such a way that, clearly, they are presented as opposites. The verse is in the form of “Do not do ‘A’, do ‘B’ instead.” The part that is easy to overlook is the ‘B’. Some people seem very anxious to ask God for things. Taken to extremes, it becomes ridiculous, leading to a theology where God is our servant, whose duty is to make our lives on earth more to our liking. Prosperity Theology asserts that the purpose of Christianity is to put large amounts of money into the pockets of those who worship Christ.
But God does not promise that He will make us rich, healthy, beautiful, or popular. We do not present our requests to God because He will automatically fulfill them. Prayers are always answered, but not necessarily as we think we want them to be answered.
Why? Because we do not know what is best for us. In the word of James, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3 -- See James 4:13-17.) God intends to perfect us for eternity through His grace, but our salvation may include suffering of various kinds during our earthly lives. The suffering may, in fact, be extreme; as always, we look to Christ. If God allows Himself to be tortured to death, hung up in public for ridicule, we cannot expect our own lives on earth to be a seamless procession of earthly riches!
We ask God for what we want, not because we are going to get exactly what we want, but because God tells us to. Why? I don’t know why. I do know, however, that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
There is, however, the promise of a specific benefit in this passage. God commands us to pray for what we want and not to be anxious about anything. This seems to imply that if we pray for what we want, it will assuage our anxiety. We show faith by praying for what we want, even if we do not get it. We show that we accept what God gives us — for all good things, even the basic fact of our lives — are gifts from God. But the point here is that it is not greedy to ask for what we want; just the opposite. God has commanded us to pray for our wants.
Lord, let me always pray for what I want, even if the answer is “no.” Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer