I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. – John 14:12-14
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. – John 15:7-8
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. This is my command: Love each other. – John 15:16-17
Jesus makes some pretty strong promises regarding God’s provision for us. Essentially, Jesus promises anything that we need to accomplish what God wants. God is not a genie in a lamp, a blank check, or the winning Lotto numbers. However, He does choose us, call us to His work, and promise whatever is needed to accomplish His work.
So how do we know if our request is “acceptable”?
A great question to ask is, “Is this something Jesus would have been doing? (see John 14:12-14) What was the purpose of Jesus’ life? He lived to love God and love others. Is this your goal for asking?
Another question is “Will this help me to love others?” Jesus ties loving Him, remaining in Him, being His friend, and experiencing His joy with obeying His command. He repeatedly says that His command is to love others (see John 14:34-35, 15:12, 17). Are you loving others? Will this request help you to do that?
A third question is this, “Will this help me to bear fruit and glorify God?” If this prayer is granted, will it cause people to recognize how great God is? Will people realize that this could happen in your life only because of God (and not because of your efforts, skills, or gifts)?
The truth of many of these issues is really hard to discover. Often, God reveals the truth to us as we ask. God often uses prayer to uncover the motivation of my heart. I ask for something and try to cover the questions listed above. As I do, God begins to reveal the truth behind my request. For example, I will pray for the church to grow, wisdom to make right decisions, and the ability to preach sermons that move people to faith in God. Are these prayers wrong? No and they fit the criteria above. However, many times when I pray this, the true motivation of my request is revealed – I want this to happen so that people will think I am a great pastor, man of God, leader, etc. When that happens, I have to repent and return to God.
Don’t let indecision or doubt keep you from praying. Instead, ask God. He wants to use your prayers to glorify Himself, help you experience joy, and make you more like Jesus.