Can I Pray for That?
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:1 NKJV
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 184, which asks, “For what things are we to pray?” It gives the answer, “We are to pray for all things tending to the glory of God, the welfare of the church, our own or others good; but not for any thing that is unlawful.”
Prayer is an amazing privilege. At any time you and I are welcome to come into the presence of the Creator and Sustainer of all that is or ever will be and make requests of Him according to our personal needs and desires. We do not have to be afraid of being unworthy, for as Christians we come clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We ought never to wonder if God hears us, for He not only hears us but knows our requests before we ask them (Psa. 139). And we should never doubt His love and care for us, for we have been engraved on the palms of His hands (Isa. 49:16). Precisely because God loves us and cares for us we can be certain that He will hear and answer our prayers when we come to Him with some degree of sincerity and by real faith in Jesus Christ. God’s love for us is why He will answer us and it is also why He will only do what is good for us. So let us consider some of the things that are for our good as we relate to God in prayer.
First, since in prayer we draw near to God, it is good for us to get to know God as He really is. If God allowed us to treat Him irreverently or disrespectfully that would not be good for us. Therefore, we can be certain that God will always hear us in a way that will build us up in real love for and fear of God. Love for and fear of God go together. Those who truly love God will rightly fear Him. Likewise, only those who rightly fear Him can truly love Him: “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him,” (Psa. 89:7). Isaiah prophesied that the fear of the Lord was one of those traits that would mark the Messiah when He came: “And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD,” (Isa. 11:3a). We should consider this fact when we ask God for things. God is our Father but He is also our God. Asking for things irreverently, selfishly, or flippantly is not the kind of prayer that a God who loves us can grant.
Second, we should consider what would truly be for God’s glory and for our ultimate, spiritual good when we ask for things. I may be able to convince myself that I would be a much better Christian or could serve God’s church much more effectively if I had a Lamborghini Countach, but that is probably not the case. Asking God for material things beyond our basic need for food, clothing, shelter, and health should rarely be our focus. We should be seeking to become more like God: more and more loving and doing what is good, and less and less loving and doing what is evil. Our number one prayer should be for God’s glory in our sanctification and in the sanctification of the rest of His Church. Scripture records many prayers of the apostle Paul for the churches and by far the great focus of nearly every one of those prayers is our sanctification: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 The. 5:23).
Finally, we should not hesitate to go to God when we are in great distress. If something is important to you and you are troubled by it, ask God to help you. I remember when one of our children could not find something they needed for school. It might have seemed a trite thing to many adults, but to our child it was devastating. We stopped and prayed that God would allow us to find it and He did! Then we rejoiced like the woman who lost and found one of her ten silver coins (Luke 15:8-9). God is our Father. God is good. Let us always go to Him in time of need and we will obtain mercy and find grace (Heb. 4:16).