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Two similar questions:

  1. I have prayed, prayed and prayed about the same thing but my prayers are not answered.
  2. How we resolve the apparent conflict between what the verses say and our results in verses like John 14:14 and Matthew 21:22?

John 14:14 ESV “ If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Matthew 21:22 ESV  “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

I assume the second question refers to the apparent “blank check” that Jesus gives in these 2 verses, yet we find from experience that we don’t always receive the answer we asked for.

The topic of unanswered prayers is an important one, and one that has stumbled many of us to begin questioning God.  We ask for something, but we don’t get it.  If what I am asking for is selfish or wouldn’t be good for my life, then my Father is loving me by not giving it to me. 

But it’s harder for us when what we ask for something that is good, say someone’s health, salvation or spiritual growth, yet the answer doesn’t come in a timely fashion or doesn’t come at all.

For example, in Acts 12, the Apostle James was martyred by King Herod.  No doubt the church and James’ family prayed earnestly for him to live, yet he didn’t.  Immediately after James’ death, the Apostle Peter is imprisoned and awaiting death.  The church rallies in prayer, and through a miraculous event involving an angel, Peter is delivered.

Why did James die and Peter live?  The simple answer is, I don’t know.  And I don’t know what Peter’s wife would say to James’ widow except, “Why did my husband live and yours die?”  Both were godly men.  Prayers for both men would have been noble and holy requests.

One of the more stunning “No’s” that God ever gave to a prayer is to his own Son.  In the Garden ofGethsemane, Jesus cries out in agony in Matthew 26:39, facing the coming crucifixion.  He pleads for the Father to keep him from the hour of suffering, yet the Father says no and within hours, Jesus is crucified. 

One statement Jesus made in that agonizing prayer gives us some rich insight into prayer.  In addition to asking for the suffering to be taken away, Jesus also prays, “Yet not my will but your will be done.” Jesus, while freely asking his Father, also submits himself to whatever the Father wants.  One lesson I take out of this is, that as God’s children, we can ask for whatever we want.  But we also are to submit ourselves to in whatever he decides. 

The Father loves to give good gifts to us (Matthew 7:7-11), so we can freely ask what is on our hearts.  But at the same time, he also may choose to give us something else, even something that is painful at the moment (like his own Son’s crucifixion).  But whatever the Father does, we can hold on to the unchanging nature of God who is always good and does what is good (Psalm 119:68). 

So when prayers of ours seems to go unanswered, don’t grow discouraged.  Instead, worship your Father as a God who is always good, even when we do not understand or like the answer at the time. And keep asking!!  God has given us many commands and examples in Scriptures to pray, and he has given them to us for a reason:  he wants to bless. 

 

How do you pray for the understanding on how to recognize what godly skills you need to work on?

First, let me commend you that you desire to grow in Christ.  That is awesome!  God will honor your desire.

One of our greater callings as Christians is to grow in our character and our conduct to resemble God. Ephesians 5:1 says to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.”  A little child who knows his mom and dad love him wants to grow up to be like them.  So it is with us in our walk with God.

So where do we start?  One place to start is simply to prayerfully examine life circumstances we are going through.  Often the pressures and trials of life reveal what God wants us to grow in.  For example, if trials are “pushing my buttons” and testing my patience, the Lord may want me to grow in patience and love for others.  Or if the economy and my personal finances are prompting me to worry, the Lord may want me to grow in my quiet confidence and trust in him as my provider.

Another way to discern what we should grow in is to prayerfully seek out godly advice from mature Christians who know us well.  One question I have asked a number of times over the years is, “What is one area you think I need to grow in?”  That’s a scary and potentially humbling question to ask, but we’ll be wiser for it.  Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”

A third way is, as you daily read the Bible, pray beforehand, “Lord, is there anything today that you would like me to grow in?  And anything I need to know that would help me to grow?”  This last prayer may be the most significant, because true godliness springs from within.  Godliness is not mere external conformity but wells up from within by the power of the Holy Spirit as we abide in Christ. 

 

Why do we ask others to pray for us? In another way, is it better to have more people praying about something than one?

This question really made me think. Intuitively, it seems more people praying is better than just one person praying. But I had to ask myself and God, “Is that what the Scriptures say?”

Matthew 18:20 gives significance to 2 or 3 gathering in prayer (although this may be specifically related to the issue of a brother in sin. See the context of vs. 15-20.).

There are examples throughout Scripture of individuals praying and large groups praying. Jesus often prayed by himself (Luke 5:16), as did Peter (Acts 10:9). In contrast, throughout the book of Acts, we see small groups or the whole church praying together (Acts 1:13-14, 2:42, 3:1, 12:5). However, it should be noted that even the examples of individuals praying by themselves doesn’t mean that others weren’t also praying similarly.

I cannot think of too much else in Scriptures that definitively says, “More is better.”

I was also thinking about this topic from a dad’s perspective. I have four children, and if just one of those kids came to me with a request, I would pay attention. But if all four came to me asking the same thing, my heart would be much more warmed to give them what they asked for. Their unity would motivate me. And it would make me smile with pleasure. Similarly, God loves unity. We see unity in the Godhead, between the Father and the Son (John 17:21), and the Lord loves unity between believers (John 17:22-23, Philippians 2:1-4). So it seems to me that if his children are united in a request, that alone would bring him glory and honor, and perhaps he would be more inclined to say “yes” to the request.

 

What does praying "in Jesus' name" really mean?

Jesus told us to pray to the Father “in his name”. See John 14:13, 15:16, and 16:23-24. What this means is that we have access to God in prayer only because of the cleansing and forgiving work of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is no forgiveness, and we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). Numerous Scriptures tell us that our access to God is through the Son, our Great High Priest (e.g., Ephesians 2:18, 3:12, Hebrews 4:15, 7:25 and 13:15).

We may wonder if our prayer are invalid if they don’t end with the words, “in Jesus name.” But the point is less about the words we use and more about the attitude of the heart. Ephesians 3:12 says to approach God with freedom and confidence because of Jesus. We can never approach God with boldness because of our own righteousness. Rather, we depend entirely and eternally on Jesus’ righteousness, which is then granted to anyone who believes in him (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5:21). That is why we come to him “in Jesus’ name.”

So the next time you pray, even though the words “in Jesus’ name” are not required, nor are they magical or mystical, saying that expression can serve as a reminder that your access to God is gloriously and mercifully dependent on the work of Jesus Christ.