Christ gave us this powerful promise in John 14:13-14:
“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
He adds in Matthew 21:22: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Further, we read this in 1 John 3:22: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
So, all of this sounds pretty straightforward. If we ask God the Father to do anything for us, He will do so, if we ask in Christ’s name (with His authority and on His behalf); if we believe that God will do it; and if we keep His commandments and do the things which are pleasing to Him.
And still, even though we might fulfill all these requirements, we still might not receive the desired answer to our prayer. Does this mean, then, that God did not hear us; that He broke His promise; or that He is displeased with us for not being obedient and faithful enough? Does this mean, then, that it makes no difference whether we believe and keep His commandments?
If there was one Man who never disobeyed God; in whom the Father was well pleased; and who had full, total and complete faith, it was Jesus Christ. He even said that He knew that His Father would always hear Him. But at one time, He did not receive the answer from God the Father which He had desired.
Even though He came for the purpose of suffering and dying for mankind, when He was faced with the reality of torture and death, He did not want to go through it. He prayed to the Father to spare Him from this terrible ordeal which was awaiting Him. He told His disciples who were with Him: “‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…’” (Matthew 26:39).
Although hoping that there could be another way to accomplish the purpose of His coming, He knew, deep down inside, that there was really no other way, and so He added: “‘… nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’” (same verse).
He submitted to God’s Will and made it His own. When Peter was willing to defend Him against the soldiers with the sword, trying thereby, however foolishly, to prevent His arrest, Jesus told him: “‘Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?’’ (John 18:11).
And so, we read in 1 John 5:14-15:
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
But how do we know whether our requests are in accordance with God’s Will? And if we don’t know, doesn’t this mean that doubts come in and diminish our faith? The answer is “No; that does not have to be the case.” When we pray to God, we must have the unconditional and unwavering faith that He will hear and answer us in the way we hope. And that He will make it abundantly clear to us if His Will differs from ours. Sometimes, that answer comes rather soon. After Jesus had finished His prayer, He knew that there was no other way; the soldiers came to arrest Him, and there was no escape.
But this realization of God’s Will, being contrary to ours, may not be manifested right away. It may take some time.
The Apostle Paul was a man after God’s own heart. He seemed to have suffered from an incurable sickness, and He asked God three times—apparently asking Him three times during the formal procedure of anointing by other ministers—to be healed from this sickness. Only after the third anointing did he know that God would not heal him, as this was not His Will. Paul describes this realization in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’”
Paul accepted God’s Will. He continued: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (same verse).
It took Paul a while to come to this conclusion. In the meantime, he had continued to ask God for healing. When we do not know yet whether God’s Will is contrary to our request, we have to continue to ask in faith. Giving up prematurely is not the answer, when God’s Will contrary to our desires had not been made clear. Christ said in Luke 18:1, 7:
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart… And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?”
God will make His Will abundantly clear to us, either immediately or in time. He may do so, for instance, by circumstances. We should know, however, that it is never God’s Will that we sin by not keeping His commandments. Even if circumstances might “indicate” that we “cannot” keep the Sabbath or the annual Holy Days, to draw the conclusion that we don’t have to would never be in accordance with God’s Will.
We are faced many times with difficult and uncertain situations. God’s Will might not be what we would like to see, and disappointment in the case of “unanswered” prayers may be the inevitable result. We all go through these emotions, but it is important to realize that God has the best for all of us in mind. And in time, we will clearly see why God’s decisions have always been the right ones.