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WHAT SHOULD WE ASK?
This verse is among the many co-opted by the Prosperity Gospel proponents to deceive and mislead many well-meaning Christians. Contrary to their teaching, God the Father is not a benevolent wish-granter and Jesus is not a genie, there to give us whatever we want, with the caveat, "No wishing for more wishes."
In each instance of Jesus stating we can ask what we will and it will be granted (thrice in John chapters 14-16 alone), there is a precondition attached. In this verse is is that we are abiding in Him and letting His words abide in us. The condition of the asking is that our hearts have been changed by His word and we are seeking to glorify the Father in all we do. If that is our motivation, we will not "ask amiss," as James 4:3 says. But what do we do when we don't know how to pray?
There are many situations where our human intellect can't rightly determine the mind of God, but let's look at one. Too often a loved one is near the point of death, has been suffering a long time, is ready to meet the Lord, and has indicated they want to go home to be with the Lord. Scripture enjoins us to pray for healing but when do we begin to pray instead for deliverance from pain through the gateway of death? Some call that the ultimate healing, but should we ever even take that latter option? Jesus' words don't give us clear indication, as sometimes He did not respond immediately and the sick one died (as in Lazarus' case), sometimes all it took was a touch of his garment (the woman with an issue of blood), and sometimes He responded after protracted pleading (Blind Bartimaeus).
Paul addresses this dilemma in a passage where suffering is the primary topic. In Romans 8:26-27 he says, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." He then follows with the oft-cited verse 28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Sometimes, we need to just be quiet in our own minds, seek after God and let His Holy Spirit pray through us. For those of us of Pentecostal persuasion, that may involve praying audibly in our prayer language. For others, a period of silently communing with the Spirit may be in order. In either case, one might even be prompted by the Spirit specifically how to pray after a period of prayerful contemplation. That prompting may seem counterintuitive to our own thinking. Regardless, that wisdom from above is there. Let Him help you to, "ask what you will," that the Father may be glorified, "and it shall be done for you."
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