Where does the role of “asking” or “petitioning” of God come into play when we’re talking about prayer?
Either way, it’s an aspect of prayer that I think needs to be redeemed.
HIM INSTEAD OF US
We’ve all heard that we need to be more adoring of God in our prayers; that we need to be more vertical - meaning, that our prayers need to be centered on Him, rather than on us.
Yes, there’s absolutely a necessary and vital need for humbly approaching God in reverence in our prayers.
But as we’ll see, scripture tells us to ask of God — so much so that we are to even persistently plead!
Let’s start with Luke 18:1-8 (NLT):
“One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
What do we see here? God delights and wants us to cry out day and night to Him. He loves when we depend on Him so intensely that we come to acknowledge we need Him more than anything. Jesus implicates this with His parable.
But here’s where it can get tricky.
Sometimes, we ask out of selfish and wrong motives. We’re all guilty of this. We fall into this trap of just asking out of what we want.
James 4:3 (NLT) reaffirms this:
“And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”
God knows this, and wants us to be made aware of this — and treat this kind of asking as a temptation to be identified as such and thus avoided.
LINING UP WITH GOD
But here’s the kind of asking that God invites us to participate in:
God is interested in morphing our wants and desires into the His wants and desires that He has for us.
Ours begin to line up with His.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT) says that “the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
Whenever we are in the Spirit, we become more like Jesus — like God.
So we are to be in the Spirit. What’s this have to do with prayer?
1 Corinthians 2:11 (NLT) tells us that “no one can know God's thoughts except God's own Spirit.”
The Spirit knows and discerns the very thoughts of the Father. When we are in tune with the Spirit — as we’re called to be in the 2 Corinthians passage — we are channeling a “Kingdom of Heaven” kind of power: we are, through the Spirit, getting in on the thoughts of the Father.
Our wants are morphed into His.
So, as James 1:5 (NLT) tells us, we can then “ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.”
And “He will not rebuke you for asking.”
He desires to give us what we want, when our wants are lined up — through the Spirit — with His good, pleasing, and perfect will, and the expression of such in and through each of our own lives.