Any loving parent would say to their child at one time or another “Anything you need, I mean anything, please just ask.” Certain conditions are understood without discussion, but we still love our children unconditionally. Sometimes, we might think God loves/God loves me not depending on if our prayers are answered our way.
Matthew 21:21-22 says “…you can say to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask in prayer.” This was not a blank check as Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” prayer was not answered, but Jesus had a point. It will be as if we can move mountains when having faith in Jesus rather than denying that Jesus was the Messiah. Matthew 7:7 says “Ask and it will be given to you…” It is possible to do to others what you want done to you if only you ask God. [v12]
One of the most prevalent aspects of petition prayer in Scripture involves individual, character change. In the “whatever ask in His name you shall receive” passages in James, the context often is wisdom and endurance in trails [James 1:6-8; 4:1-3; 5:13-18; I John 3:19-22; 5:14-15]. We can ask for other things, but we are praying to the Creator of the Universe. Self-centered prayer is rather presumptuous. Jesus recognized God always had His and others best interests in mind – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
I am not trying to excuse God from the life-changing business; I just wish to make God less discouraging or confusing when our prayers aren’t answered according to our will. Scripture assumes our requests are always answered because we desire God’s will. What loving parent would not do what is always best for their children and the world? How much more our heavenly Parent!
God placed a higher priority on freedom than control. Genuine relationships cannot be coerced. God does not always intervene the way we wish and things happen that are not God’s will, but God has not abandoned us or lost control. God does not guarantee we will never suffer from the hands of others, directly or indirectly. God will not override the freedom of others because we simply ask Him to do so. God has made it His mission to win back the hearts of people by choice rather than just destroy and start over. Do we pray in hopes to manipulate God or to cooperate and ultimately trust God to run the universe how He knows best?