You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)
I firmly believe in the existence of sovereign, supernatural power. And I believe it extends beyond human doubt, human explanation, human trickery, and human ability. But if Jesus promised, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14), why do things we ask and pray for remain unanswered?
Yes, God’s grants the ability to tap into His sovereign, supernatural power. Yet, the question remains, “Why is there not consistent, unquestionable, immediate, supernatural, power evidenced in the lives of everyday Christians today? Where is the immediate power to change negative circumstances, power to heal, power to free from addictions?” Many incredible, godly people suffer from one thing or another. It would seem natural to pray for the ability to “fix” whatever trouble assails them. Yet, such supernatural ability remains elusive.
Various groups, denominations, churches, or pastors proclaim they wield such power. Yet most claims generally do not hold up to close scrutiny. Please understand, I do not doubt God’s power. Nor am I judging anyone or any group. I am simply pondering why such power, so evident throughout Scripture, remains a mysterious, unquantifiable, and often unreliable rarity today.
Lack of Faith?
I refuse to believe it is merely due to a lack of faith. Several staunch Christians have endured lifelong suffering and their faith is unyielding. My father suffered from a crippling childhood accident. He even served God as a foreign missionary. And yet, physical healing never came. The Apostle Paul was thrice denied his request for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh.” Even though Lazarus was raised from the dead, he still ultimately died.
Then comes the matter of trusting God’s sovereign orchestration in the matters of life according to His purpose. He coordinates all things according to His purpose. This leads some to believe His ways are beyond changing no matter how many or how fervent the prayers. Again, though firmly believing His ability to do anything at any time, I suspect there are some humanly controllable reasons that restrict the supernatural ability to heal, cast out evil influences, or change undesirable circumstances.
After careful consideration of Scripture and close study of human nature (even my own heart), I believe supernatural power is restricted because so few can be trusted with it. Quite often, our rescuing syndrome, uncontrolled emotions, personal agendas, and limited vision limit the unleashing of such available, unlimited, and unmatched power.
#1 – Rescuing Syndrome
The innate human desire is to avoid adversity and help those experiencing it. If someone we love is hurting, we naturally want to fix his or her situation. When an associate loses his job, or a natural disaster causes a family to lose everything, or a friend is diagnosed with a terminal illness, we naturally want to remove their adversity and help get their lives back to normal.
Yet our rescue may remove them from the very crucible in which God has them as part of His transformation process. Quite often, God uses the hardships and struggles of life to refine and strengthen His followers.
If we had the ability to supernaturally change adverse circumstances, it would be tantamount to snipping open a cocoon to help the emerging butterfly. Our efforts would remove the struggle necessary to strengthen the butterfly’s wings for flight. Any temporary “rescue” from the current adversity would remove the struggle necessary for long-term growth, the development of complete reliance on God, and the transformation into Christlikeness.
#2 – Uncontrolled Emotions
Uncontrolled passions still rule too many hearts. John, the Beloved, also a son of Zebedee (known as a Son of Thunder), appeared to have a noticeable temper. Some people interpret this as a quick, passionate anger as is evidenced by his desire to burn up a Samaritan village who refused to welcome Jesus (Luke 9:51-56).
In that passionate mindset, how many of us would “call down fire from heaven” against any situation or person who disagreed with us or threatened our comfort zones? Traffic jams would instantly be ablaze. Slanderers would burst into flame. Political figures would instantly incinerate. All of which actions oppose Christ’s admonition to “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
The adversity of life is what God uses to purify the spirit, mind, soul, and body. In life’s struggles, we shift attention and priority from the insignificant things of this life to the eternality of God and His sustaining power. When in the calm, comfortable status quo of life, we tend to grow complacent and self-centered. However, in the chaotic, ferocious, and painful storms, we lift our eyes to the Storm-Walker for His strength, intervention, and calm. In the storm, He has our attention and can whisper His peace, guidance, and wisdom to our souls.
#3 – Personal Agendas
Many times, our personal agendas collide with God’s ultimate purpose. Our thoughts are not His thoughts; our ways are not His ways. Sometimes our hearts’ desires run contrary to what our loving Heavenly Father knows is best. What child doesn’t ask for every item in a toy store or whine for dessert instead of a healthy meal? If we had unlimited, cosmic power, what would preclude us from enacting whatever we wanted—plausibly competing with each other and undoubtedly opposing God’s sovereign purpose?
God specifically targets the heart’s desires. All too often, we claim Psalm 37:4 as a wishing well for our personal agendas. We believe God’s promise, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart,” means if we make Him happy enough, He will grant whatever we wish. Yet, God is not a doting grandfather who can be manipulated into granting our whims by simply endearing ourselves to Him more.
When we fully and genuinely delight ourselves in Him, and our hearts cry, “Not my will but Thine be done,” the desires of our hearts supernaturally align with His heart’s desire. Our personal agendas morph into His plan. Our mindsets are renewed into the mind of Christ.
Surrendering to His sovereign purpose and orchestration involves self-denial. Self-denial includes surrendering personal agendas, taking up His cross daily, and obediently and joyfully following Him.
#4 – Limited Vision
Human vision is immediate and finite; God’s perspective is eternal and infinite. We see the current state and desire to change uncomfortable circumstances now. God sees the future state, the potential in each person, and the struggle necessary to become who He created us to be. Our desire is to feel good now, be happy now, have no struggles now. Yet, God’s desire is our progressive transformation into Christlikeness. He wants us to become His chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, His own special people. Human eyes look on outer viewpoints; God looks on the heart.
Quite often, what human eyes find appealing, God finds appalling. Even the best human deeds are as filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). Our up is God’s down. If we had unlimited, unquestioned, unchecked power, how often would our “deceptive and desperately wicked hearts” enable what directly opposes God’s righteous standard and sovereign purpose?
For this reason, Christ urges us to “lift up your eyes” (John 4:35), get a different viewpoint, consider things from God’s perspective. Instead of rescuing people, pray that God’s purpose be fulfilled in their lives. When developing an emotional outburst based on limited outlooks, trust God for an outcome in accordance with His perfect will. Instead of pursuing personal agendas and preferences, surrender all desires and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). God’s purpose has no limitations—we can trust Him implicitly even when not understanding Him perfectly.
Until we become genuine people of God, with fully surrendered hearts, desires, agendas, and perspectives, I suspect any potential supernatural power will be self-restricted. Unless what we ask is completely according to God’s will and purpose, even when it is uncomfortable, seemingly illogical, and possibly an extension of unfavorable circumstances, I suspect what we ask will remain unanswered.
May our prayer forever be: Loving Heavenly Father, help us resist selfish desires and surrender our hearts to You. Help us align what we think we want and submit all outcomes to Your perfect will. May we trust You even though we may not always understand what You are accomplishing. Fill us with sufficient power to wholly pursue and fulfill the destinies You orchestrated before time began. Amen.
Nate, this article was excellent and so much for us to ponder in further explaining this well known Scripture of “ask anything in My name.” Many thanks and God bless.
Thank you, Miriam! Yes, it is sobering – yet doable.