In Romans 8:32, Paul poses the rhetorical question:
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?
In the Gospels, we read these words from Jesus:
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.John 14:13-14
Does “anything” really mean anything? Does “all things” really mean all things?
What if I ask for a dinosaur? What if I ask for Abraham Lincoln to be raised from the dead?
You might say those would be ridiculous requests, but don’t they fall under the umbrella of “all things” and “anything”?
What about the times I’ve prayed for things, and I did not get them? Why did I not get them? Did I pray wrong? Or did God break His promise?
In the Bible, there were people who prayed, and their prayers were not answered – or at least not in the way they originally hoped they would be. Joseph was beaten up and thrown in a pit, then sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37), and we’re told in Genesis 42, that when this was happening, Joseph was crying out and begging for mercy and to be rescued. Paul prayed three times earnestly that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12), but God refused to remove it, because He wanted to use that pain in Paul’s life to shape him.
Apparently, God reserves the right to say no to some of our requests.
Another interesting Biblical text to consider is James 5:2-3, which says:
You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Two things are interesting about this passage: 1) we are told that we sometimes don’t have because we fail to ask. The implication is: ask – and you will receive. However, 2) we are told that sometimes we do ask and God doesn’t give us what we ask for, NOT because we fail to pray in Jesus’ name, but because we ask for wrong things with wrong motives, and therefore God chooses not to give it.
So then why does God say that He will give us “anything” we ask for, and that He will give us “all things”?
Consider Psalm 84:11:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
In Jesus, we have been made righteous, and we have been given the Spirit of God to empower us to walk uprightly. We’re told that God does not withhold “any GOOD thing” from the righteous, those who walk uprightly. God is committed to giving us that which is good for us. Thus, if God chooses not to give you something you ask for, you can rest assured that in His loving omniscience, He knows that thing would not actually be good for you, or perhaps it wouldn’t be good for you right now in light of what He wants to do.
What we have in God, therefore, is a Father, not a genie – and that is immeasurably better!