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Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements

Prayer, Asking and Receiving (Part 1)

Specific Doctrines of the Charismatic Movement/Faith Movement
Kenotic Theology
The Anointing and Being Under Authority (Part 1)
The Anointing and Being Under Authority (Part 2)
Sickness and Healing (Part 1)
Sickness and Healing (Part 2)
Prayer, Asking and Receiving (Part 1)
Prayer, Asking and Receiving (Part 2)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 1)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 2)
Christians and Material Wealth (Part 3)
The "Rhema" and "Logos" Word (Part 1)
The "Rhema" and "Logos" Word (Part 2)
Those Who Speak in Tongues Necessarily Understand Themselves

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5

In this next section of our study, we're going to address the question of why prayers don't get answered. The reason we are going to turn our attention to this question within the context of a study on the Charismatic Movement is, of course, because of the particular doctrines that the Faith Movement has developed on this topic. In the Faith Movement, it is taught that the only limit to what you can receive is how much faith you have and how well you live and act in faith. Under this system of doctrine, prayers go unanswered, not because they are out of line with God's general or particular will, but because the person asking is not exercising enough faith or is speaking or acting in doubt. And of course, whether or not there are limits on prayer based around the fact that some desires are sinful is not an issue that is brought up by Faith Movement leaders, probably because it will only hinder the assertion that you can receive whatever you ask for.

The following are some of the statements Jesus' makes about asking and receiving that Faith Movement believers use to support the doctrine that prayer is simply a matter of using our faith to receive anything that might be asked for.

Matthew 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11:10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Mark 11:23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

John 16:23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:

Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

So, what are we to make of passages like Matthew 7:8 and Luke 11:10, which tell us that everyone who asks receives? And what do we make of passages like Matthew 21:21-22 and Mark 11:23-24, which tell us that we can even move a mountain into the see if we have enough faith and don't doubt when we ask for it? Or even Mark 11:24, which says that whatever we desire we will have it if we ask for it in prayer and believe that we have received it?

Can Christians make a new car or new house appear out of thin air just by asking and believing it? Or can Christians get a new house at half price just by asking and believing? Can Christians obtain and develop a very influential business if they ask and don't doubt? Is our faith the only limit to what God will give us?

If we took the passages above and isolated them from the rest of the New Testament teaching on prayer we might indeed answer "yes" to all of these questions, just as the Faith Movement teachers believe. But, by evaluating these general statements alongside other statements in the New Testament, we find that the answer is no. There were, in fact conditions and limitations for what Christians could receive from prayer. And these additional statements in the New Testament would have been as much a part of the early Church's understanding of prayer as the passages quote above. As we will see, the end result would have been that the early Church including the Apostles themselves would have understood that Jesus did not mean Christians could receive anything at all that they desired in their hearts so long as they had the faith for it.

Mark 10:35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. 36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? 37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. 38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? 39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: 40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

Here in Mark 10, we find James and John following the Faith Movement interpretation of asking in faith. They come to Jesus with dreams even bigger than moving a mountain. They ask him to grant them whatever they desire. But notice that Jesus first asks them what it is they desire before agreeing to grant it. In other words, from the way Jesus responds we can see that whether or not they receive the request depends in part on what it is that they are requesting. Not all desires and requests will be granted by God, no matter how bold we are in asking.

As we continue, we see in verse 37 that what James and John are asking for is to sit on the right and left sides of Jesus throne when he comes to rule the world. But in verse 40, Jesus tells them that he cannot grant this request because those determinations are made by the Father. Therefore, it is clear that there was a limit on what James and John could receive by asking. Whether or not James and John received this did not depend on how much faith they had. These appointments were made by God and no man received them simply by asking. So, here we see a very extreme example where a person's desire is not fulfilled by God because the request is not in line with God's will.

But notice that in verse 38 Jesus also tells James and John is that part of the problem is that they do not know what they are asking for. Or, in other words, they did not understand how what they were requesting fit into the context of the rest of God's overall plan. From this statement we can see that when Christians ask for things, they may not receive them when those things they request do not fit in with God's overall plans. For this reason, it is necessary for Christians to understand the overall will of God as much as possible when they pray. Otherwise, they may ask for things that do not fit and are absurd requests in light of God's overall will. In such cases, they won't receive and it may end up frustrating or even discouraging their faith because they won't know why God hasn't answered their prayer.

Acts 16:6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

Here in Acts 16, we see that Paul and Silas (see Acts 15:40) desired to go into Asia and into Bithynia but the Holy Spirit does not permit them to do so. But, Paul and Silas weren't taking a leisurely vacation trip. This trip wasn't for personal recreation. It was to preach the Gospel and, as was often the case, it may have put their very lives in danger to do so. This is a very simple and even an unselfish desire. Yet the Holy Spirit did not grant this desire. And whether or not Paul and Silas could achieve this desire was not up to them. It was not a matter of their faith. Their desire, even this selfless and ministry-oriented desire, was not in line with the will of the Holy Spirit and so it was not permitted.

1 Corinthians 16:7 For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.

And just so we don't think that Acts 16 was an isolated incident, here in 1 Corinthians 16:7 Paul again asserts that although he desires to come and stay with the Corinthians for a while, it is not up to him. Instead, just as in Acts 16, Paul states that whether or not his desire comes to pass is ultimately up to whether or not the Lord permits it to come to pass. Taken together, these two passages indicate that it was somewhat normal in the understanding of Paul and the early Christians who read these passages that even the most innocent and selfless desires were a matter of whether or not the Lord would permit them.

And not only is this true for Paul and Silas, but James also adds his testimony to the fact that our desires were a matter of whether or not the Lord permits them.

James 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

Here in James 4, James discusses such plans as going to a city, starting a business, and making a profit. James actually rebukes his audience for having such confidence. The first problem according to James in verse 14, is that tomorrow is not guaranteed to them, much less success in a business venture. They could die that very night. So, if even another day of life on earth is not guaranteed by God, then little else in this life is guaranteed to us by God either, particularly business success. And so James closes by instructing his audience that when they make plans and have desires to "do this, or that" they must remember that whether our desires or plans come to pass is not up to us, it depends upon whether or not the Lord wills it.

Therefore, both Paul and James agree that whether or not our desires come to pass (whether desires for ministry or for profit) it is not simply a matter of our having faith, but ultimately it is a matter of what God permits and wills. There are desires we can have faith for that will not come to pass because God does not will them and so does not permit them to occur.

And we have already examined in our previous sections concerning why the gifts disappeared before they were supposed to and the Charismatic doctrine concerning healing that both 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 as well as James 5:11-20 indicate clearly that even prayers regarding healing can be kept from coming to pass because of both individual sin and sin in the Church in general.