God is able to do what you ask

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 8, 2008

The subject of this article is not “God will do what you ask” but that “He is able to do what you ask.” Our key verses are Ephesians 3:20-21, “God is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” These two verses were written while the Apostle Paul was in prison. In this letter he refers to himself as “the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the sake of you Gentiles” (3:1), he speaks of “my sufferings” (3:13), he calls himself “a prisoner for the Lord” (4:1) and he shares with us that he is the Lord’s “ambassador in chains” (6:20). Yet, as a prisoner who was suffering, being bound with heavy chains, he insisted that God was able to do more than he could ask or think. But, he continued suffering the hardships of prison life including being bound with chains. But notice three purposes of answered prayer in these two verses: that God might be glorified in the church, that Jesus Christ might be displayed and that the indwelling Holy Spirit might be involved in our praying.

Relating to God being able to do more than you ask, let’s remind ourselves of two other verses from Scripture in two different settings. In Genesis 18:14 God said to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Then, in Luke 1:37 God’s Angel said to the Virgin Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

Although prayer should involve other elements, such as praise, giving of thanks and confession of sins, much that our Lord Jesus taught about prayer had to do with “asking and receiving.” God is unlimited in his ability to give, but there are requirements for us to meet before our able Father gives us what we ask.

The requirements simply begin with, we must ask. The Bible says that you do not have because you do not ask. But some of us know we have asked God for something for a long time and have not received what we have asked for yet. The answer to this may be: “You ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (See James 4:2-3).

Another requirement for answered prayer is that we must read and study the Word of God for the purpose of obeying what it says. Our prayers must be supported and guided by the Word of God combined with an obedient heart. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you” (John 15:7). Again, “We ask and receive because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

Also, a requirement is to ask according to God’s will. Prayer is not for the purpose of changing God’s will to ours; rather it is to change our will to His. Remember from the Lord’s Prayer the words, “—-Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). You will recall the words of our Lord Jesus in Gethsemane, “Father, everything is possible with you. Take this cup from me, yet, not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:35). Also, the Apostle Paul found out in prayer that it was not God’s will to remove his suffering of the “thorn in the flesh” but rather for God’s ability to be displayed in the enduring of suffering (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Jesus also taught that we must pray without giving up (Luke 11: 5-13). And there are times we need to add fasting along with our asking (Matthew 17:19-21).

So, I believe that two practical things should happen today to me and to the readers of this column: (1) that we should renew your faith in the truth that we worship God who is more than able to answer your prayers; and (2) that we should seriously seek to meet God’s requirements for answered prayer as set forth in this article. The frontier of answered prayer beckons us to come.