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The Trouble with Asking

Christians have long recognized there to be four main components to prayer, often organized into the handy acronym ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. I want to focus in on this last category of supplication (also petition and request). I think it may be difficult for us to strike the proper balance of supplication in our prayers. In some cases, our prayers are only supplication—we neglect to praise God for who He is and what He has done for us because we are too busy asking for all the things we want Him to give us! But the other end of the spectrum is a problem, too—sometimes we don’t even present our cares and concerns to God at all! We will worry and fret over them, but we will completely neglect to ask God for His aid. Why is this the case? I think two misconceptions are at the heart of this particular bad habit.

First, we tell ourselves that God (being the all-sovereign God that He is) already knows all what we want, so there’s not point asking. In a sense, this is true. God does know what we want, and He knows it before we do. But it is very clear that God’s design is to use prayer as a means of granting us our heart’s desire. James 4:2 says that we do not have because we do not ask! God wants us to ask! Why is this God’s design? I suppose to remind us of our utter smallness and his utter bigness. Asking in prayer puts things back into perspective for us. We don’t have anything in this life unless it comes from God. You remember the words of John the Baptist: “He must increase; I must decrease.” That happens a little bit each time we ask. Therefore, in the Christian life asking is absolutely essential.

I think a second reason we fail to bring our needs to God is because we have asked in the past and He has not granted our requests. We become discouraged and therefore give up on prayer. What can be the remedy for this? Well, for one thing, we must remember that God does not answer every prayer we throw up to Him. He answers only specific prayers: those that are made in accordance to His will. “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us” (1 John 5:14). But every time God answers “no,” we learn a little more about how to pray. We can say that, even though God did not answer this specific request, He did so to teach me patience, or trust, or humility, and maybe that’s what I should have been praying for all along! So whatever God’s response may be to our petitions, we are still better off for praying!

So we do not give up on asking, we ask all the more! Yes, God already knows what we need, but He loves to hear us humbly ask for help. And when we do so according to His will, He will work mightily through our prayers. So what are you in need of, friend? It is neither too big nor too small for God. So let Him know. Indeed, in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (Phil 4:6, 1 Pet 5:7).

Jonathan Cruse