Jesus’ Outrageous Prayer Promise
by Dr. Craig Hazen
There is a passage in the Gospel of John that I remember had an impact on me about a decade ago. It is a passage that the Holy Spirit used to recharge my prayer batteries in powerful ways ever since.
The passage was John 15:7 in which the Lord said something rather remarkable and, honestly, a little hard to believe. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.”
God’s Promise Is a Theme in Scripture
And it’s not like this verse sits in isolation. There’s a notably strong theme in the New Testament illuminating this promise—see Matthew 7:7-8, John 14:12-14, Mark 11: 22-24, and more. In light of these passages, one would be hard pressed not to conclude that God is excited when we ask Him for things and is far more ready and willing to answer our prayers than we might imagine.
Why then are we reluctant to ask God? Well there are a number of reasons why we hesitate. I highlight and respond to many of these in my new book titled Fearless Prayer: Why We Don’t Ask and Why We Should. But let me offer up a couple of helpful ideas right here.
One problem we face with prayer in our generation is that we are reluctant to ask. Indeed, even many Christian leaders shy away from asking. They see such requests as a very low-level spiritual activity. But prayer is asking. We can qualify this statement if we need to by saying prayer is asking in relationship, prayer is asking in conversation, prayer is asking with the goal of making us mature in Christ, and so on. But in essence, after all the add-ons are factored in, prayer is asking.
In his book on prayer, theologian J.I. Packer wrote, “But at the core, where all people of prayer bend their knees, prayer is asking, begging God to supply felt needs. In a broad sense, asking is the very essence of praying.” The Christian philosopher Dallas Willard concurred: “The picture of prayer that emerges from the life and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels is quite clear. Basically, it is one of asking, requesting things from God.”
Jesus Taught Us to Ask
Surely the most authoritative word on prayer comes from Jesus Himself when He takes on the challenge offered up by one of His disciples to “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus then teaches them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4 and Matthew 6:9-13). And as knowledgeable commentators have pointed out through the centuries, the Lord’s Prayer is a set of six requests; six “asks” directed to “Our Father in heaven.” Prayer is fundamentally asking. Since this is true based on the authority of Jesus Himself, and since prayer is so central to a dynamic life with God, it makes sense for us to learn how to ask—to ask regularly, fearlessly, sincerely, expectantly, and humbly for His hand to move in our lives and ministries in all the right ways.
Some people are reluctant to ask God for things out of fear of being associated with the errors of the Word-Faith movement. But my attitude toward that is this: if Jesus actually told me to ask and expect Him to answer my prayer, I’m not going to let those who might abuse the text cause me to miss out on an amazing promise from the Son of God Himself.
Asking Is the Rule of the Kingdom
Indeed, if we jump back a hundred years or more (well before any name-it-and-claim-it teaching circulated) and see how excited mainstream preachers got about promises like John 15:7, we would never worry about those who might abuse them. Take for example, the great British preacher Charles H. Spurgeon. In a message entitled “Ask and Have” that he delivered in London in 1882, he said this:
Do you know, brothers and sisters, what great things are to be had for the asking? Have you ever thought of it? Does it not stimulate you to pray fervently? All heaven lies before the grasp of the asking man, all the promises of God are rich and inexhaustible, and their fulfillment is to be had by prayer. … He is waiting to be gracious, and to load us with His benefits. I will mention another truth which ought to make us pray, and that is, that if we ask, God will give to us much more than we ask. … Asking is the rule of the kingdom.
A Staggering Promise
Theologians have trouble finding words to describe the prayer promises in John 15:7 and similar passages. Some scholars use words such as “staggering, breathtaking, startling, astonishing.” The famous prayer legend George Müller put it this way: “Our difficulty seems to be this: the promise is so exceedingly great that we cannot conceive God really to mean what he clearly appears to have revealed. The blessing seems too vast for our comprehension; we stagger at the promises.”
This Is to the Father’s Glory
The very next verse, John 15:8, Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” It’s as if the Father is standing outside your prayer room right now with a basket filled with every good thing you might need—spiritual gifts, personal insight, funding, ready helpers, ministry tools—to be productive in His kingdom work. As New Testament scholar Frank Scott said over a century ago, “What a blessed promise this is to those who can fully appropriate it!”
Why Would You Not Try This Today?
There is no reason to wait. Put this amazing promise into action today. If you are abiding in Jesus, and His words are abiding in you, and you seek to bear His fruit in your life or ministry, you can count on this by the authority of the Son of God Himself, you can ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you!
Dr. Craig Hazen is the founder and director of the graduate program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. You can find out more about his new book Fearless Prayer: Why We Don’t Ask and Why We Should (Harvest House, 2018) or invite him to speak by going to www.craighazen.com.
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