Before I start on this, a little fundamental question is in order. The question is: What is Faith?
There are a lot of definitions by different people based on their different circumstances that give it different meanings that quite frankly give a totally distorted meaning of what faith really is. So, what does the bible say?
"What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead." Hebrews 11:1 (TLB) Now this leads to another question: What are our wants and hopes?
You know, there are many areas in the bible where God says we should ask and we will receive. Popular among these is Matthew 7:7: Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened. We have other verses too like "Believe and receive", for some people this is actually the slogan for their Christian race. But the problem with our perception of these verses is that most of the time we choose to be blind to the other side of them. We must be very careful not to take the verses of the bible alone by themselves but relate them to the contexts, circumstances and time periods in which they occur and also, and most crucial, with other verses of scripture or chapters that talk about the same topic. People who will readily tell you to ask for any thing from God because he says so will not always tell you, whether out of ignorance or deception, that we should not ask amiss because he says so. Obviously, we should be able to know why verses like these are not all that common:
"....And I didn't tell Israel to ask me for what I didn't plan to give..." Isaiah 45:19 (TLB)
"You want what you don't have, so you kill to get it. You long for what others have, and can't afford it, so you start a fight to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask you don't get it because your whole aim is wrong-- you want only what will give you pleasure." James 4:2-3 (TLB)
There are other bible passages that describe situations that make this point, like the thorn in Paul's flesh that he prayed to be removed but God did not (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Now try this exercise: Take a few of the things you have prayed to God about in the past, some of those things that you have been asked to 'believe and receive' and compare them to the verses above. Scary right.
So, again: What is faith? Not veering off the path of the bible definition, faith is knowing what God wants and accepting it no matter how uncomfortable or painful it may be. It is, simply put, obedience and subjection to His will.
Hard as it may be to accept this, especially at some excruciatingly painful times in life, God has our very best interests at heart. "...for how well He understands us and knows what is best for us at all times." Ephesians 1:8 (TLB). So God knows what is best for us at all times.
So the question begs an answer: What are our wants and hopes?
Now I am going to say something that is really deep and some may consider outright blasphemy: saying IN JESUS NAME to some of our prayers is an utter waste of time. Sue me if you want but it is the truth and I will stand by it anytime any day because by God's grace I understand what it means to say in Jesus name.
When you say a prayer and at the end of it you say IN JESUS NAME, you are really saying: I ask for this.....BECAUSE IT IS WHAT YOU WANT. It is as simple as that. Now take a really close look at some of the things you have been asking God for, can you confidently say that they are what God wants for you?
Knowing the Will of God is a really serious issue. When you ask in His name, you are asking Him to give you what He knows is best for you. So you ask, why should I ask for what He already plans to give? Because it shows that you trust His judgement concerning your life. When God says A and you tend towards B and insist on it, what you are inadvertently saying is that you do not trust His judgement concerning whatever situation you may find yourself in. Painful but true, and we do this more times than we care to admit or even remember. Why do you think Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God's people instead of every other thing? Because He showed concern for God's concerns and somehow knew that God's Will contained giving a certain Solomon, son of David the wisdom to rule His people.
Now consider this bible passage and decide if you will continue to trust God not only in obedience to His written and implied commands but also in the things we ask for:
"We are saved by trusting. And trusting means looking forward to getting something we don't yet have--for a man who already has something doesn't need to hope and trust that he will get it. But if we must keep trusting God for something that hasn't happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently.
And in the same way--by our faith-- the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how to pray as we should; but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as he pleads for us IN HARMONY WITH GOD'S OWN WILL. And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans." Romans 8:24-28 (TLB).
May God grant us all the wisdom and grace and patience to discern what His Will is through careful study of the Word and even more careful application to our varied circumstances; and, more importantly, to refine our hopes and wants to things that conform to His will for our lives so that when we try to apply Matthew 7:7 or any other believe it and receive it verse in the Bible, we will be rest assured that we are asking for what He wants and are trusting Him to do what He wants to the ultimate end of the Glory of His great and wonderful name. Amen.
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