Summary: We have already looked at Jesus’s open invitation to increase our faith and pray for anything. But in this second part of Jesus’s teaching, we learn that there are criterion for how to pray for any request and see God answer that prayer.
In my last post, I began talking about God’s generosity in answering prayer. But there is more to talk about. In this post, I conclude my teaching on God’s generosity in answering prayer.
The way Matthew tells it, Jesus open-endedly teaches us that we can ask anything from God and He will answer it. We can seek Him for anything, and we will find it. And we can keep knocking, and He will open it to us. Then through questions, Jesus presents the heavenly Father as the ultimate Parrant who always provides for us.
What does the rest of the New Testament teach us about God’s generosity, asking our prayer request, and how to understand prayer? Scholars search for ways to limit Jesus’s teaching. But as I said in my first post on this passage, it’s less about us asking whatever we want and more about God’s generosity.
Let’s take this post to talk more about God’s generosity and how New Testament teaching develops because of Jesus’s teaching here. How does He teach this in other Gospels? And what does the rest of the New Testament say about prayer requests and how we approach asking God for things? Let’s get started.
Jesus’s Teaching in the Gospels
Let’s look at the other Gospels to see what Jesus says on the same approach to God’s throne and our prayer requests. Luke has a similar passage (Luke 11:9-13). His account varies slightly in the questions asked about the earthly father. Instead of bread and a fish, Luke talks about a fish and an egg (Luke 11:12).
He presents two dangers instead of one: a serpent and a scorpion. This doesn’t change the meaning of Jesus’s teaching. This earthly father is still wicked toward his son. In both Matthew and Luke, the phrase “your heavenly Father” reminds us of the Model Prayer. God is in heaven and has endless resources to answer our prayers.
Luke differs from Matthew on what we receive when we ask God for anything. Matthew has “good gifts” while Luke is more specific, saying we receive “the Holy Spirit.” Luke has an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and His works. Matthew is more general with what we receive, still open to God’s generosity. Receiving the Holy Spirit is a special gift Luke documents throughout his Gospel and Acts.
Receiving the Holy Spirit is not reducing God’s generosity. God blesses all of us with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. There is an incredible power for all of us to use in ministry and witnessing. Likewise, receiving good gifts from the Father opens us up to everything from the gifts of the Spirit to answering our requests from the Model Prayer, and beyond.
John also records Jesus’s teaching about asking God for our requests. In John 14:13–14, Jesus clarifies His statement that if we ask anything from the Father, we will receive it. Twice Jesus clarifies that we must ask anything “in His name.” This is similar to the context of Matthew where we ask for things that align with God’s Kingdom.
Asking for things in the name of Jesus takes on His reputation and Person. We don’t ask for frivolous things. We ask according to Jesus’s character and reputation. We have taken His name, and are concerned about the same things Jesus is concerned with. So, our requests have to do with fulfilling His commission and call upon us.
John further records a similar statement later in his Gospel. Jesus is teaching us about abiding in Him and how He is our source for every good work. He then says that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, we can ask anything and it will be done for us (John 15:7). Once again, we ask anything according to our relationship with Jesus. We ask for things that further His Kingdom and its mission.
He further clarifies that God’s generosity in answering our prayer requests extends to bearing good fruit that lasts the test of time because we abide in Him (John 15:16). We ask within the bounds of doing good works for Jesus’s Kingdom. These are not requests to further our agenda. Our requests fall within serving Jesus and producing good fruit for Him. They further His mission and Kingdom on earth.
Later in Matthew, Jesus says the same thing. He has just cursed a fig tree for not bearing fruit but having leaves. If it has leaves, it should have figs. When Jesus curses it, He says that it may never bear figs again. It withers and dies at His statement. Jesus teaches the disciples that if they have faith with zero doubt, anything they speak will happen. Then he mentions prayer, and anything the disciples ask in prayer, they will receive it if they ask in faith (Matthew 21:22).
In this section, Jesus teaches that when we ask something in prayer, we must ask in faith without doubt. So, He adds criteria to how we ask God for things in prayer. Now it is not a blanket statement. He asked the requirement that we must ask in faith. Earlier than Matthew 21, Jesus teaches on binding and loosing (Matthew 18:18-20). He teaches the power of our words when we bind and loose things. The same result happens in heaven.
Agreeing with our brothers and sisters in Christ has the same result as in heaven. Jesus finishes by talking once again about prayer. But He talks about agreement between two people praying. Then Jesus says that he is in the midst of two or three who agree in prayer. Asking anything in our prayers is now enhanced by agreement with other believers. The power of that agreement binds and looses things on earth, but also in heaven.
Jesus says that after He leaves the disciples, in that day the Father will give anything Jesus’s disciples ask “in His name” (John 16:23–24). Here is another criterion the Lord gives us for asking for anything. We must ask, “in His name.” This requires us to ask according to the reputation of Jesus by His name. We do not ask frivolous things that we know God will not grant. We ask according to the reputation of Jesus. We ask according to Him, things that agree with His name and reputation.
So, there are criteria for asking anything and receiving it from the Father. We must ask in Jesus’s name, according to God’s will and Kingdom purposes, and in faith without doubting. If we follow these criteria, we can ask the Father anything, and we will receive it. As we work in Jesus’s Kingdom, we will ask anything for God’s Kingdom, and we will receive it. We will ask in faith, not seeing it in reality yet, but seeing it when we ask for it in faith, expecting God to answer the prayer and to see our reality change according to our faith.
God’s Generosity in the New Testament
Jesus’s teaching affects the rest of the New Testament. James twice mentions His generosity in his first chapter. He says that if we ask God for wisdom in faith, without doubting, we will receive His wisdom (James 1:5-8). He also tells us that God does not tempt us, but rather gives us every good gift (James 1:17).
Paul teaches us that God supplies all our needs according to His lavish riches and grace (Philippians 4:19). We must walk in contentment, knowing that God will supply all our needs. This changes the way we think and pray, and our expectations in our faith. God calls us to live lives that prove He is our Provider. Paul rarely prayed for his daily needs as a persecuted missionary for Christ. His prayers focused on what the believers in the churches needed.
We have learned some criteria for how to ask God for anything. How do you ask God in your prayers? Do you pray in faith? Do you pray within the will, Kingdom purposes, and reputation of Jesus? Let this teaching challenge you to pray for anything with great faith within these guidelines.
Now that we have completed our discussion on Jesus’s teaching on answering prayer. Next, we will continue in the Sermon on the Mount with the golden rule.
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