Remember the Disney movie, Aladdin? Soon after the cunning thief had discovered the genie, Genie began listing the rules for Aladdin’s three wishes. “You can’t wish for more wishes!”
I’d never thought of that, then as suddenly as the brilliance of it dawned on me, Genie declared such wishing out of bounds.
At the risk of sounding irreverent, I have to ask, have you ever approached God like a genie? When we pray, we speak to the Creator of the universe, the One able to do beyond all we ask or imagine.
(Ephesians 3:20) What kind of requests do we bring? Do we come with a list of needs and wants, ever fearful of asking for too much, or asking for the wrong things? What should we ask of God?
The Bible gives clear guidelines for effective prayer–prayer that God delights to answer:
- Check your motives. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” This does not mean we can never ask God for our personal desires. I love Jesus’ response to the blind beggar who called to Him from the road side, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41) James is simply instructing us to align our desires with God’s desires, for truly we know His desires are best for us anyway!
- Begin with gratitude for the Gift that God gave us before we even asked. The Bible says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God has already given us more than we deserve. This fact gives us confidence that He hears us and will answer our prayers with goodness. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
- Check your doubt. Listen to a distraught father’s plea for Jesus to heal his son: ” ‘It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief …’ “. This God, this Savior, can do anything. Bring your mustard seed sized faith and ask for more. He is able.
- Ask God what He wants to give you. In our own small prayers, we run the risk of not asking for enough from our generous Father. When talking to the woman at the well, Jesus pointed out to her that she should have asked Him for living water, so that she would never thirst again.
- Ask for God Himself. The Bible describes a God that delights to fellowship with us, that longs to give us good things, who gave Himself to us. It tells us that God draws near to us when we seek Him; He never leaves us; He loves us. Unlike Aladdin’s genie, we don’t run out of wishes and are not forbidden to ask for more. In fact, because our Father unconditionally, permanently loves us and calls us His own, we have unlimited credit with Him through Jesus Christ. If you have God, you have access to all things.
David was called a friend of God, and he succinctly described what the primary desire of our hearts should be: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).
What have you asked God for? Is there something you are hesitant to ask Him for? What is your attitude when you approach the throne room?