Asking For Big ThingsBy Nathan Mates
God loves to hand out gifts. There's a huge number of spiritual gifts that God hands out through the Holy Spirit-- see my writing 'Datafile: Gifts' [see my website at http://www.matesfamily.org/xtian/index.html for a link] for a list of things God hands out. But, not every gift is necessarily an explicitly spiritual gift: the gift of existing as a fallen (sinful) creature, when a Holy (sinless, and sin-hating) God is in control. Our families, jobs, Churches, and more are all gifts from God-- even when there's a lack, or an apparent problem with those.
Jesus himself says we are to ask for things: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." [John 15:7] While everyone can (and usually does) ask for things, note the qualifiers on the answering of requests. Asking for a meteor strike on the DWI (Driving While Idiot) jerk who just cut you off on the freeway will almost certainly not be answered. Why? While we're wishing that, most people have let Jesus's words slip out of their mind while they fall back into worldly ways. Thus, such requests are not in tune with God's spirit and wishes, and probably won't be answered.
Later on in the Bible, Jesus's brother James noted some additional qualifications on asking God: "You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." [James 4:2b-3] Quite simply, if our motives are wrong (see not remaining in Jesus above), God may not hand something out. God's gifts, while they can be (and sometimes are) spent on our pleasures, are not meant to be abused in such ways.
However, there are many things that are well within God's plans, big things worth asking God for-- the worst is that he'll say no. In two short verses, the author of Chronicles gives us such a case, buried in the middle of lists of genealogies: "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." And God granted his request." [1 Chronicles 4:9-10]
There's no other mention of this Jabez elsewhere in the Bible; the above is all the info we've got on him. Did he ask for big things? Absolutely. He asked to be a wealthy landowner, protected by God, and healthy. In short, he seems to be asking to be like Job, minus the torment from Satan. And we see here in God's word that God honored such a request. The only clues as to why this happened we have in this passage are this: (1) Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and (2) Jabez cried out to the God of Israel. It's not noted why or how much more honorable he was, just that he was, and yet he still took the time to bother to ask God for things. Not everyone who prays for such a thing may receive it, but Jabez was in God's plan to be blessed.
Later on, when Jesus was preaching, did people ask for big things? Yep. Luke notes this about Jesus's ministry: "At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind." [Luke 7:21] Jesus even raised Lazarus from the dead at the request of Lazarus's sisters, Mary and Martha. [John 11:1-46] What Jesus did was far beyond what anyone else (doctors, priests) of the time could be expected to do. But, in doing the great works, note that people had to ask (or have others ask on their behalf) Jesus to work things. Jesus didn't walk into a town and have everyone within the town walls instantly healed-- those who didn't ask, missed out.
Even after New Testament times, God still answers those who ask. In 1872, Henry Varley said this, almost casually: "The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to Him." One who heard those words later wrote this about it: "A man! Varley meant any man. Varley didn't say he had to be educated or brilliant, or anything else. Just a man. Well, by the Holy Spirit in me, I'll be that man." That man turned out to be D.L. Moody, one of the great revival preachers, the Billy Graham of a previous generation. [Quotes taken from _D.L. Moody: The American Evangelist_, by Bonnie C Harvey, p.7]
If I can be so bold as to rewrite Moody's words, he said to God, "I want that. I want to be that man, fully consecrated to you." Did he ask for big things? Yes. Did he receive them? Yes. Compared to the wealth and health prayer of Jabez above, Moody quite possibly asked for something more in line with God's will: to be fully like him. Moody's gifts of evangelism led hundreds of thousands to repentance-- God was glorified even more through the process.
In our own lives, there are many things we can ask God for-- from things like a calm morning commute to salvation of family members and loved ones. But, so often we get bogged down in the small things that we occasionally forget to let Heaven (not just the sky) be our limit and ask God for something within his will. Instead of praying to memorize one verse of the Bible, seek knowledge and wisdom of the Bible as a whole. Instead of praying for some more energy, pray to be filled with God's spirit beyond what you've ever experienced. God is more powerful and able to do more than any of our prayers could ever ask, so never try and limit your requests of things that please him.