Recently I’ve discussed our rights as God’s children to ask of Him confidently in prayer. While we can’t control the outcome of prayer, we can control our response to situations. Jesus lived in response to the Father, not in response toward the devil or circumstances. Jesus modeled dependency on the Father and the Holy Spirit. He invites us to do the same.
Confident petitionary prayer is grounded in one’s ongoing relationship with Jesus. When we choose to remain in God’s love, peace, and joy, faith grows, and prayer is assured.
However, when we allow worry and fear to control us, we limit the authority we have been given as God’s children and citizens of heaven. God wants us to ask, and to expect that as a loving Father, He will answer. Worry and fear left to rule in our minds will dilute our confidence that we have the right to ask of God.
Today I want to specifically look at the link between asking of God, or petitionary prayer, and remaining in God’s joy.
First, let’s recap from last week.
Jesus shared in John 15:1-8 the parable of the vine and the vinedresser. He states a couple of important principles in John 15:7, “If you abide (ménō) in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask (aitéo) what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
As I examined last week, we can be confident in petitionary prayer when we are 1) abiding in Christ and 2) His word is abiding in us.
Ask and Abide
The English word abide in this verse translates from the Greek word ménō. Ménō means primarily to stay in relation, to continue, to remain, to abide, and to endure. [i] Ménō implies that there is action required on our part—we are to abide, remain, endure and stand fast in the Lord.
Your born-again experience unites you with Jesus through faith and work of the Spirit. This is a spiritual reality, but you must also choose to remain in Christ, allowing His word to fill you. In other words, you must be intentional about your relationship with Him.
By choosing to remain in Him and His word, faith and trust build. You become confident He will answer prayer and meet your needs. Your understanding of God changes as your mind becomes renewed. Prayer now flows from intimacy with Jesus, and expectation for answers is the outflow of one’s abiding relationship.
The English word ask in John 15:7 is from the Greek word aitéo is used to portray a person addressing a superior. Aitéo is a verb which means to address with a question for which an answer is expected or obligatory. The person approaches and speaks to his superior with respect and honor, but understands they may insist or demand that certain needs be met. The word aitéo also expresses the idea that one possesses a full expectation to receive what was firmly requested.
The word aitéo used in this verse primarily has to do with requesting things of a physical and material nature—such as food, clothes, shelter, money and so on. Further, Jesus also stated that if we seek God’s Kingdom first, God will see to it that the material things we need are provided (see Matt. 6:33).
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus instructs the disciples in how to pray, petition, and persist in prayer.
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 NKJV)
The English word ask, in the phrase “ask, and it will be given to you,” also translates from the Greek word aitéo and is in the Greek present tense—implying continual asking.
Jesus instructs us to ask, and to continue to ask, believing that the answer will manifest. So, how long do you pray? Keep praying until you receive the answer, or the Spirit gives you assurance the prayer is answered.
Furthermore, Jesus also states in this passage of Luke that our heavenly Father only gives good things to His children,
If a son asks (aitéo) for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?(Luke 11:11 NKJV)
Sadly, many wrongly assume that God is not loving or good because of their past or current situations. Perhaps they have prayed and not received an answer in the manner or timing they desire. Human reasoning, and even the enemy, can cause one to doubt the goodness of God. This erodes one’s confidence in prayer. However, the more intimate we are with Jesus, abiding in Him and God’s word consistently, the more assured we are of the goodness of God and our prayers will be answered.
Sonship imparts confidence that our prayers will be answered by our heavenly Father. He is a good Father who gives good things to those who ask of Him!
Jesus shared in Matthew’s gospel, “How much more will your Father who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” (Matt. 7:11 NKJV) You have a right to come boldly before God and ask Him for the things you need and for the desires of your heart. In fact, He expects you to do so!
A Promise to be Debt-Free
In 1991, Carolyn and I were newly married. We attended a financial stewardship class in our church and learned key biblical principles for managing finance and furthering God’s kingdom. The last day of the course, the facilitator challenged everyone to take a moment, pray, and ask God for a one-year financial goal. As instructed, I took a moment to pray. I specifically asked the Father for His financial goal for us, and immediately received a clear impression from the Holy Spirit, “Debt Free October 1, 1992!”
The facilitator told us to write the goal on a piece of paper, pray over it, and take steps to see the goal realized in a year. Carolyn and I did just that. We began to pray to be debt-free in one year and began to ask God for His strategy to achieve the goal.
God revealed to us that we needed to sell our house and move into a rental for a season—so we did. He also showed us that we needed to sell a business we had. We advertised the sale of our business and within a few months, a buyer made an offer. We were set to close on the sale of the business on September 30, 1992, but there was an administrative delay at the bank, and we closed on October 1, 1992! God dramatically answered our prayers!
We were able to pay off any remaining debt and God provided additional “seed funds” to begin our missions work to the nations and Haiti! It began with a simple prayer, faith to believe his promise, and then the courage to act on the strategy he gave us.
God expects you to ask with confidence that He will answer!
The Connection with Prayer and Joy
Paul writes to the Philippians,
Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6 NKJV)
The English word requests is translated from a Greek word aítēma, which has at its root the word aitéo. By using aitéo in this verse, Paul also urges us to be bold, confident, and demanding as we pray. However, Paul underscores the point that our approach to God must not be rude and arrogant, but rather filled with gratefulness and thanksgiving.
This word aítēma is also used by John, “And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions (aítēma) that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:15 NKJV)
Remember, the word aitéo expresses the idea that one possesses an expectation to receive what was firmly requested. The king, over his kingdom, promises to provide: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 NKJV)
Other Scripture References for Asking from God
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask (aitéo)when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24 NKJV)
And whatever you ask (aitéo)in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13 NKJV)
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask (aitéo)the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16 NKJV)
And whatever we ask (aitéo) we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22 NKJV)
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask (aitéo) or think, according to the power that works in us,” (Eph. 3:20 NKJV)
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul gave us important insights to achieve answered prayer, remain in God’s peace and joy, and live free of worry:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!… Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need (aítēma) and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:4, 6-7 NLT
Peace should be a normal characteristic of Christians; unfortunately many find themselves filled with worry and fear instead of peace.
What does Paul first instruct the Philippian disciples to do?
He tells them to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 3:1; 4:4). Paul knew the powerful truth of how joy and rejoicing benefit the believer—including in one’s prayer life. Joy is not just a characteristic of kingdom life; it is a powerful spiritual force (Rom. 14:17). It was joy that gave Jesus the ability to endure the cross and its suffering for all of humanity (Heb. 12:2).
Joy flows from your relationship with Christ, not from your external circumstances. Joy is an enduring spiritual reality of God’s kingdom that will sustain you through challenging times. It is a characteristic entirely different from happiness. While happiness depends on “happenings” and can be fleeting when circumstances change, peace and joy flow from your relationship with God. When you are truly abiding in Christ, his peace and joy remain constant.
Joy Safeguards your Faith
Your ability to rejoice in all circumstances will safeguard your faith. God is always good, but suffering is part of your Christian walk. Difficult events happen in life, and many times you have no control over them. However, you do have control over how you react. Remember, God works everything for your good. Maintaining a right perspective on problems and suffering will keep you in a place of peace, full of God’s joy despite hardships and setbacks.
Paul modeled the importance of always rejoicing in the Lord, even in difficult circumstances.
In Acts 16, we read that Paul and Silas were wrongly imprisoned in Philippi. At midnight, they chose to pray and praise God during this impossible situation. Despite their hardship, their worship and joy in Christ positioned them for a miracle. God suddenly sent an earthquake that shook the prison, broke everyone’s chains, and opened the prison doors. They were delivered, and the Philippian jailor and his household came to Jesus that night.
Paul learned that he could be content despite circumstances (Phil. 4:11-12) and find real joy by focusing all his attention and energy on knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8) and obeying Him (Phil. 3:12-13). Paul learned the truth of Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence is fullness of joy…”
Later, in Paul’s letter to the Philippian Christians, he encouraged them to rejoice in Christ,
Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith” (Phil 3:1 NLT).
His words are just as true for us today. Whatever happens, rejoice in the Lord. Never lose your praise and never lose hope. It may be midnight, but God specializes in suddenlies!
Real joy is in your union with Jesus—abiding in His presence daily.
Your circumstances are not the problem; it is your perception of them that is the problem. Keep your focus on Jesus and let the joy of the Lord be your strength (Neh. 8:10).
Winston Churchill, former prime minister of England during WWII, said this, “if you are going through hell, keep going!” Keep your eyes and trust on Jesus; He will help you through the most difficult of circumstances. Remember, God is the Lord of breakthrough. When it looked the worst for England during WWII, God answered the prayer of His people, and a nation and world was eventually freed of evil tyranny as the allied forces landed in Normandy, France on D-Day.
The more you are in love with Jesus, the easier it is to rejoice always. When Jesus is your closest friend, His joy will have no limitations in your life. Genuine faith knows that God holds everything in his hands. You are His beloved, and He has your best interest in mind. A close relationship with Jesus will keep you in His peace, free of worry and fear. Trust Him continually and learn to rejoice in Him always.
Rejoice in your Heavenly Inheritance – Now!
Also, remember you are a citizen of heaven and ambassador of another world (See Phil. 3:10). Society and the world are your assignments, but not your permanent home. You have an eternal home and eternal purpose; Earth is your temporary residence. You have a heavenly inheritance presently and in the future. You can rejoice because resurrection life is yours—now!
After Paul told the Philippians to rejoice always, he then instructed them to pray always and not to worry.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7 NLT
Prayer promises to bring us into a place of rest and God’s peace. We are to give thanks in everything, not when the difficult circumstances are over.
Paul instructs us to tell God what we need and then to give thanks. We are to give thanks to God from a place of expectation, knowing that you have asked (aitéo), and you know that the answer is on the way. Gratitude keeps the heart postured in faith and God’s peace. Confident prayer is thankful prayer, and it silences the thoughts of worry and fear.
Twentieth-century healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth said regarding prayer,
If you want anything from God, you will have to pray into heaven. That is where it all is. If you live in the earth realm and expect to receive from God, you will never get anything.”
Pray from Heaven!
Learn to live from your union with and victory in Jesus! Pray from His ascension glory, from heaven toward earth, not from earth toward heaven. When we pray from an earthly realm and mindset, our prayers are more like “begging God” to answer. But when we pray as confident children of God whom the Father loves and desires to give good things to, our prayer life changes dramatically!
Also remember, Jesus stripped the devil of his authority, and Jesus delegated His authority to us (see Matt. 28:18-20). However, the devil regains authority through our unbelief and agreement with his lies and schemes.
When you worry, you empower fear and agree with the lies of the enemy. It opens the door to oppression and even depression. Fear activates toxic stressors—1400 physical and chemical responses, activates 30 different hormones and neurotransmitters in your body.
Worry is a manifestation of unbelief or underdeveloped or little faith. The writer of Proverbs had something to say about worry: “Anxiety (worry) in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” (Prov. 12:25 NKJV)
Anxiety or worry left to rule in your mind and emotions can lead to discouragement and depression. One of the antidotes is to rejoice always as you confidently remain in Christ and His word. (In my book, Fulfill Your Dreams, chapter seven, Worry-Free Living, I discuss worry and fear in depth).
God wants you confident in petitionary prayer. But remember, prayer is primarily your intimacy and communion with God. You rest in Him through prayer, releasing worry and receiving His peace. Paul gave a final admonition in his Philippian letter:
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Phil 4:8-9 NLT
You must adjust your thinking to heaven’s perspective—which is life-giving and positive. Get rid of negative thinking and begin to refocus on positive thoughts and behavior. You will ward off worry and fear and be confident in your relationship with God.
Practical steps to position yourself in God’s peace and joy:
1. Have a close relationship with Jesus (abide in Him)!
2. Read God’s word daily and consistently. Pray His promises over your life, family, and others.
3. Choose to worship God consistently. Praise changes the atmosphere!
4. Be connected and involved with a local church. Worship and fellowship with others help to release God’s peace and joy in our lives. In fact, you need hugs from others, this can only happen with “real relationships!”
5. Serve others. When we give of our time, talent, and treasure to serve others, God’s peace and joy flow in our lives. Your acts of love and service create a realm of heaven, which is God’s righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17)
6. Don’t hold onto unforgiveness, worry, fear or stress. Rather, choose to remain positive, hopeful and optimistic in God. Humor and laughter help relieve stress and worry significantly, “A merry heart does good, like medicine…” (Prov. 17:22 NKJV)
7. Lastly, choose to be content in all circumstances. God will never leave you nor forsake you, so remain confident in Him always!
Your prayer life will become more confident, and you will have greater boldness to ask of God. You have the right to ask and God is expecting you to!
So, pray with a demand on heaven, expecting God to answer, and cover your prayers with thanksgiving. Rejoice in God always and His peace and joy will keep you strong!
For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Do You Have the Right to Ask? Part 3”
[i]Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament(581). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2019