Asking God for Things
By Fr. Simon Esshaki
Probably all of us have experienced a time in our lives when we asked God for something and did not receive it. We could ask ourselves why Jesus would say that we should “ask and receive” if he will not give us what we ask for. Whenever there is a seeming contradiction in the Scriptures and with the way that we experience God’s providence, it does not mean that God or the Scriptures are wrong; it probably means that we are missing something.
The first thing to do in this case is to take a step back and to look at the whole of Jesus’ message in the Bible. While Jesus wants us to be safe and protected in this world, he wants something more: our salvation. A lot of the time we ask for physical things, whether it be money, success, or even physical healing for our loved ones who are sick. But Jesus shows us in the Gospel how we should ask for things from God: “Thy will be done…”
Besides taking the step back and looking at the Gospel as a whole, we should also look to the particular instances in the Gospel where Jesus says we should “ask and receive.” In the Gospel for this Sunday from John 16, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24).
As we see, Jesus does not say, “Ask anything you want and God will give it to you”. He says that we have to ask in his name. What does it mean to ask in the name of Jesus? It means to ask according to his method and in unity with him. Christ was in full unity with the Father and did the Father’s will at every moment of his life. We are also called to do the same, especially in our pleading from God.
This is not to say that we should never ask for a better earthly life or physical healing, but that when we ask, we should always keep in mind that God may have something different planned for our lives, and it is always better than our own plan. God wants to be truly happy and at peace, according to the standards that he set for us. That is he says to ask “that your joy may be full.”
God knows how our joy will be full. He is our creator and knows us better than we know ourselves. Sometimes we will experience trials in life, but it is in those trials that we can find unity with him and the peace that only he can offer us – a peace that is everlasting and will truly satisfy the longings of our hearts.