A friend of mine forwarded a recent devotional that is so timely as we are in the midst of prayer and fasting. It begins with:
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Hebrews 10:22-23 KJV)
That “he” in the parenthetical is God, our Father. And, He truly is faithful. The book of Hebrews was written to a people who for generations proved that faithfulness. They had been given promises that had been fulfilled.
Yet we all know of people who have made petitions to God that have not – or at least not yet – been fulfilled. How does that fit into His faithfulness? The devotional provided three questions that may be useful in understanding. In each instance, context is very important.
First question: Is God’s promise limited to specific individuals or a specific set of circumstance, or does it apply to all believers? And “believers” is a key word. Most of God’s promises are for those who make that commitment. Non-believers have made a different choice. What He has promised for them is that when we are lost, He can be found.
But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29 KJV)
Here God is speaking to the Children of Israel. Christ spoke to all mankind, the same message.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9 KJV)
The second question is: Are we asking to meet our needs or our desires. The needs should fit into a portion of the Lord’s example prayer:
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10 KJV)
Wait!! Doesn’t the Bible say He will give us the desires of our hearts? Yes.
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (Psalms 37:4 KJV)
Then, we can have anything we want? We get our desires, things we don’t need but just want? Yes. When we have delighted ourselves in the Lord. Context must be considered, for there are verses before and after that one. Go ahead, take a moment and look them up. There are conditions.
Which brings us to the third question: Is something required of us? Does the Bible tell us something is required to receive His promise? Salvation is the biggest example I can think of.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9 KJV)
There is one great condition that must be fulfilled regarding prayer to God. The newly sighted blind man speaking to the Pharisees said it well:
Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. (John 9:31 KJV)