Whatever You Ask? Really??
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (John 14:13-14, NIV).
When I was younger, verses like the ones above discouraged and confused me. Did Jesus really mean anything? Because I prayed for good things for me—happy relationships, health in my family, financial security—but He seemed to ignore those prayers. I wasn’t asking to win the Lottery or praying for the destruction of an enemy (or at least not very often!). I wondered, What’s the deal?!
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, ESV).
This verse, like the other one, troubled me for the same reason—God did not seem to want to give me the desires of my heart (happy relationships, health in my family, financial security), so I was unsure of what to make of these promises. I accepted the Bible as Truth, but I couldn’t reconcile His Word with my life experiences of rejection and abandonment. His Truth didn’t match up with the truth of my story.
Clearly, I was missing something. Two somethings, to be precise:
- …so that the Father may be glorified in the Son
- Delight yourself in the Lord…
He wants Jesus to be glorified. My eyes go to the wrong place. When I pray with my eyes on myself, on my personal desires, I seek salvation from difficulties. He will always answer me with salvation from myself. He will always prove His steadfast love for me, whatever it takes. The saving work of Jesus and my on-going growth (provided by the Holy Spirit) are His plan for me. God’s vision for me is greater than mine. The Lord wants to use me to do more than “be comfortable”—He wants me to share His love with others, in a personal way.
And He wants me to delight in Him. God wants me to have a delightful life—one filled with the joy, dwelling in His presence. When God is my object, my desires change. A heart focused on the Lord provides a transformational peace that enables me to love Him and others. When I delight in Him, I want that kind of peace. I want to live life His way and not my way. I’v learned that living my way doesn’t work so well.
“When we enjoy God, not just his gifts, but God himself, then the desires of our heart are shaped, are defined and created, in accord with our delight in him.” — John Piper
And when I don’t delight in Him, nothing can make me happy and I struggle, even when there are no real difficulties in my life. When I am unconcerned about glorifying Jesus, I create difficulties in my life, focusing on all the wrong things and losing my sense of purpose and connection.
So, I still pray for specific concerns: for the health and welfare of family and friends, for comfort when I’m struggling with anxiety or discouragement, for clarity when I’m off-track, for the advancement of God’s kingdom, and for the safety of those I love. I pray for God to help me accept His plan for my day, my life. And yes, occasionally, I pray for help finding a parking place.
Two Prayers That Bring Peace
But lately, God has taught me two new prayers that are changing my heart. These prayers can bring me peace in an instant. I think that these prayers hold up next to our scriptures, Psalm 37:4 and John 14:14. They are so simple that it amazes me.
Lord, show me how. I used to pray for patience when I was stressed. Now I pray that the Lord would show me how (to respond better). I used to pray for peace when I was anxious, but now I pray that the Lord would show me how (to remember His faithfulness). Most days, when I face my own shortcomings, I just pray those four words—Lord.Show.Me.How. I whisper this prayer. I think it and I write it. Sometimes I shout it or sob it. This prayer, He always answers with a YES. As soon as I pray it, I feel peace. I might not see change in myself today, but I am immediately confident that He will show me how to do things His way, little by little.
Lord, give me authentic and genuine affection. I have a rebellious heart. I’ve never gone out of my way to show love to my enemies, even though this could have heaped burning coals on their heads (Romans 12:20), which is mighty tempting! Often, I don’t even want to pray for my enemies (Matthew 5:44). When someone hurts me in a big way, I struggle.
But I know that I know that I know that this is not in keeping with the Lord’s will for me. Anger and resentment are counterfeit strongholds of self-protection. I know that I’m digging myself a deeper hole when I focus on bad feelings. Yet, I have not known how to live another way.
One day, I prayed Lord, show me how. And He gave me this simple prayer: Lord, give me authentic and genuine affection for so-and-so. And, you know what? He did! I could also pray to love others well and for a more forgiving heart (and I do pray this way, often), but authentic and genuine affection is something I can feel right away. I think feeling love is the baby step to acting in love. And the Lord has been so generous. Praying this prayer always brings me peace and turns my heart toward Him.
I think when our prayers show humility and submission—the understanding of our position in relation to the Lord—and when they honor Him and agree with His Word, He says, Yes, I will give you the desires of your heart.