Does “ask and you shall receive” mean that we should expect to get anything from God as long as we pray for it?
The passage you are referring to is Mt 7:7 – “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” A passage from John’s gospel is similar to it: “if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (Jn 14:14).
Now, a surface reading may cause someone to believe in a “name it-claim it” or “word of faith” teaching where God is just dying to give us all the riches in the world and if we ask for something, even the most outlandish thing, He will give it to us for the simple fact that we have faith that He will. But, other passages provide the key for the proper understanding of the passages previously cited:
Jas 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, 8 unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.Jas 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
1 Jn 3:21-22 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
1 Jn 5:14 And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
We see from this that we will receive what we ask of the Lord, but only if we meet certain prerequisites:
- We must ask in faith, without doubting.
- We must not make a request that is rooted in the desires of sinful passions.
- We must ask out of a pure heart.
- We must be striving to keep His commandments and to do what pleases Him.
- Our request must be in accordance with His will
This provides the necessary context that keeps us from thinking that Mt 7:7 and similar passages mean that God will just hand over the world to us if we ask Him.
Peace of Christ to you,
Nicholas Hardesty, WIMM Board Member
Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
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