One type of prayer is a prayer of request, a prayer when you ask God to help or do something for you or someone else. Can it be overdone? Are you asking enough of God? Do you have the right motives? Why do we need to ask if God knows our needs and desires?
I believe that there is a necessary tension between our identity as God’s children and respecting God for who He is- the Creator of everything. Yes you are a son or daughter of God and that comes with a wide array of benefits. At the same time we don’t have the right to disrespect God, we need to maintain a healthy fear of God. We can come boldly to God, but we need to maintain honor and humility. If you ever need a reminder of how great, powerful, and awesome God is, check out Job 38 and if you need a reminder of how great you are read Ephesians 1!
God has the absolute ability to do everything for us. Obviously that is not the world He wants. There is no question that God can deliver everything to us in an instant on a silver platter, yet that would create lazy, entitled, children. We can ask God in prayer for a new car, and there are times when that new car will simply be a gift that shows His love, but I have found that most of the time God would rather have us practice stewardship, wisdom, and diligence. God would prefer to give us the abilities, knowledge, and character rather than giving us material things that last a few years at most. God is much more interested in building and shaping you into a great person, no one can steal that from you.
There are things that we can’t do one our own. We can’t open blind eyes or raise the dead or split the red sea. The truth is that God has so much more for us than we could ever do in our own ability. We need to be asking in faith for God to do what only He can do. We have the responsibility to do what we can and God will do what we can’t. In Exodus 14 Moses finds himself and his fellow Israelites in a tough situation, trapped between the Red Sea and a quickly approaching Egyptian army.
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.
We can see that Moses had the faith that God would deliver them, but clearly it wasn’t the time to stand still and wait for God to move. It was time for Moses to take action! If Moses had not done anything other than wait and ask God for protection there’s no telling what would have happened. This is a great example of the balance of our prayer requests, God’s action, and our action. God tells Moses “Stop asking of me, go do what I told you!”
2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 2-3
James gives us four key insights into healthy prayer requests. The first one is that we don’t simply get what we desire. God knows our desires but that doesn’t mean He gives us what we desire.
Quarreling and fighting shows a lack of self-control and love. God wants us to love more than anything and will not reward our negative behaviors.
Thirdly, we have to ask. God wants us to ask Him because He desires to bless us and wants us to give Him the credit. When God does something for us He wants us to recognize that He was the one who did that, it wasn’t an accident or coincidence. He desires the credit because it shows His love towards us. If I get a random package on my door with no name on it I can’t send my thanks to anyone. God wants to put His signature on our blessing!
And lastly, we have to look at our motives. They’re in our heart and require self-examination (Proverbs 21:2). Why do you want a pay raise at work? Why do you want that new car? Is it to glorify God or glorify yourself?