Faith is an essential component of prayer. You don’t believe? Don’t expect to receive anything when you pray. It’s as simple as that.
“Without faith, it is impossible to please God because he who comes to him must believe that he exists and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).
“Let him ask without doubting, for he who doubts is as a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6).
“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways; he should not expect to receive anything from God.” (James 1:8).
However, faith doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get everything you ask for, if you pray outside the will of God. Yes, the Bible says “ask and you will receive…” (Matt 7:7) but it also says “you do not receive because you ask amiss, to consume it upon your lusts…” (James 4:3) There is always danger in taking verses of scripture in isolation, because then you only get partial truth. Even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane asked for the cup of his suffering to be taken away from him, if it was the Father’s will. He prayed, “not my will but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
We have this comforting verse in the book of Jeremiah: “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of good and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11). God loves us, and His will for us is good. It may not be something we understand, and it may not even be something we particularly want right now, but it’s what’s good for us in the long run.
The Bible also says, you do not have because you do not ask. So it’s clearly not the answer to just keep quiet and be fatalistic about life. We do have to ask; we are encouraged, no, exhorted to ask!
I therefore end up with the following suggestions:
1. Always pray and believe that God is able to answer you, if your prayer is in His will. Realise that He is Sovereign, meaning, He makes decisions which nobody can question, but that He is good. (See Shadrach Meshach and Abednego.. “Our God is able to deliver us… but if not, we will not bow down…”). (Daniel 3: 17-18). Trust in God’s ability and in His goodness.
2. Ask God for his will to be done above yours. (See Gethsemane prayer, also The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 22:42) “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”).
3. Keep praying. Pray all the time. Keep bringing up the matter until it’s resolved (Luke 18:1-8) or until you get a clear sense that God’s will is for it to remain (II Cor 12:7-10).
May God help us, increase our faith and align our desires to His so that we increasingly pray Spirit-led prayers, asking for things within God’s perfect will for our lives.