There is nothing that drives me crazy like people misquoting and misusing Scripture. I am not meaning the leaders who use it to manipulate people; that is a whole different category called false teachers. I am referring to the everyday “joe”, the man and woman who are just trying to get through the day. Sometimes, for our own comfort, we will twist or wrongfully apply certain promises we have been given. We fail to take into consideration the passage in which the promise is given. For example, Jesus gave us this promise:
You did not choose me, but 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)
What we grab hold of is this idea that the Father will give us whatever we ask for as long as we are asking in Jesus name. But the context does not mean that as long as we end our prayer with “in Jesus’ name” we will get whatever we asked for. God is not some fictional character that grants us three wishes. The term “in my name” is referring to the relationship we have with the Son. Read the passage as Jesus talks about our dependency on him for life as a branch is dependent on the vine. This is also the passage in which Jesus tells his disciples:
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
The relationship has developed beyond that of teacher / student, master / servant. We have a deep friendship with Jesus based on mutual love and trust. It is in this context that this promise is given, which John records Jesus giving on six separate occasions, but always in this same context.
The point here is that Jesus is promising that whatever we need to fulfill his commands, whatever we need for the mission, whatever we need to carry out the Father’s will, we can ask for in the context of this loving relationship with Jesus, and we will receive it. John, who emphasized this promise, made it very clear for us in his first letter:
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)
It comes down to understanding that our purpose here is the mission, not our own personal comfort. Really, with millions of people dying every day without knowing Jesus, are we so selfish to think that the priority is what kind of car we drive? Perhaps we should understand this passage better:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)
This is an incredible passage intended to encourage us and point us in the right direction of priorities. It is a passage based on love and trust, in the context of purpose and mission. Nowhere is there any indication that our Father is into raising spoiled, fat children. The verse taken from 1 John 5 makes it clear that we need to ask according to the Father’s will and the Father’s will is that every person would be saved. Our Father wants to equip us for this mission and there is no doubt that he also blesses us along the journey; he is a good Dad. But do not mistake these blessings for his desire to provide us with things that would destroy our dependency on Jesus and make us ineffective for the mission.
Every person is different when it comes to what would destroy them. For some people it is too much money, for others it could be a job that demands too much, for others it could be power. We have to trust our Father when he answers no to our prayers; we need to trust that it is because we have asked outside of his will. He knows us, he loves us, he wants the best for us. He also has called us to partner with him in a mission that is older than we may realize. I am not saying he wants his children poor and I am not saying the absence of money makes you holier. Each person’s walk has its own unique flavour but it is based on the same character, and sacrificial love is part of that character. We have been called, not to serve ourselves, but to serve Jesus by serving others. You cannot read the gospels and miss this. Ours is a life of service so that the Father’s will would be fulfilled. His will is that everyone would be saved and we work and live to that purpose. So go ahead and ask for what you desire but know that if you are truly connected to the vine, your desire will be to do the Father’s will.