Point of Reference
by Fred Price
I realize this scripture speaks primarily to salvation, but could it not address other areas of need as well? The confidence we feel originates in God’s blessing and provision for our afterlife certainly, but likewise promises his presence and provision while we abide here on earth; offering us mercy and grace “to help us in our times of need.” Hebrews 4:16
Jesus’ straight-forwardly said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And then reinforced what he just said by employing a common means of teaching things of importance, repeating the lesson in slightly altered form. “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7,8 A key to the success of our requests being our attitude – asking suggesting dependence, seeking suggesting yearning; knocking suggesting persistence.
This encouragement to speak plainly with a high degree of expectation of a positive response follows closely on Jesus’ teaching about prayer found in Matthew 6. Jesus insisting that we need not “babble” or overstate our case or cause like “pagans” who think that many words and “demonstrations” of need would ensure their wishes a favorable hearing. (Actually an attempt at manipulating God.) “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7,8
Jesus later says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22 But does that mean anything and everything? A deeper examination of this topic reveals there may very well be a few parameters to this request/receive system. One of them hinted at when Jesus discusses that difference between human expectations of need gratification and God’s perspective of such. “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 7:11 He reserving the right to define what is “good” and whether we’re mature and responsible to receive our gifts with grace and generosity. Experience teaching us that many times he says “yes”; at times saying ‘no;’ at other times merely asking us to wait.
If that’s true, how are we to understand Jesus emphatic statement that, “…I will do whatever you ask in my name … You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:13,14 Once more, that answer can be ascertained in a look at all the relevant scripture pertaining to this idea. Immediately preceding the above cited scripture, Jesus notably references those who not only have “faith” but are being faithful in their words and deeds. As such, they “qualify” for this guarantee of answered prayer. Which is specifically clarified in John 15:7, “ If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be give you.” To what purpose? “…to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “ John 15:8 Emphasizing this point further, he explains, “… I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” John 15:16 (Asking in his name implying oneness of purpose with him and his will. John 16:24)
All this is not to say God is capricious, changeable or inconsistent. The problem lies in our lack of comprehension, maybe more so in a lack of desire to conform our will to his. As is so often the case, scripture interprets scripture; we need to examine all applicable utterances of Christ and scripture to fully understand the message contained in an idea or teaching. That takes time, effort, and a resolve to apply what we discover. James assuring us that the Father, “…does not change like shifting shadows.” James1:16 (See also Hebrews 13:8) Contrasting Him with “believers” whose need and resolve, “…is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” That instability causing this verdict: “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord,…” James1:6-8
James further characterizes the problem as our own by writing. “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2,3John reiterating this assessment by writing, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:14 And how is that accomplished? “…we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:21-23Love of God and through him, loving our fellowman leading us to do what we do for his glory to the benefit of others. (Such as the practical examples of service Jesus listed in Matthew 25:31-45)
“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12 “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35,36
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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