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God's promises and grace
- Jacob Ninan
We know the story of Jacob in the old testament who wrestled with God and would not let Him go till He blessed him (Ge.32:26). We learn from this that we have to be tenacious with God in asking Him to fulfill what He has promised to us. If we, like the fox who jumped for the grapes, give up after we have prayed just once, it shows that we don't really care that much for what we ask. But, like many other things in the Bible, it is possible for us to misunderstand this approach and as a result try to misuse it.
I am referring to the tendency to pray for something we would like to have and then to demand and insist that God should give it to us. There could be several wrong assumptions behind this. We are mistaken if we imagine that we can ask anything we like and demand that God has to give it. It is true that Mt.18:19, Jn.14:14 and 16:23 seem to promise that we can ask for anything. But if we also read 1Jn.5:14 we would get a better understanding, because that verse tells us that we can have confidence about receiving something from God only if we ask according to His will. Sometimes He may give us some things are not according to His perfect will for us, if we insist on them. But then they will actually work against us! (Ps.106:15).
Mt.18:19 says that if two of us agree about anything that we ask, we will get it from the Lord. Some people misunderstand this in such a way that they ask someone, "Could you please agree with me on such and such a thing that I want to pray for?" But in the context of 1Jn.5:14 what it means is that two people sense and agree (Greek - harmonise) in their hearts without any doubt that something is the will of God.
Another mistake is to assume that God is out there to cater to our whims and fancies. We forget the fact that He is God and Lord and that we are only created beings. Also, even as created beings we are those who deserve the judgment of hell for our sins and whom God has graciously forgiven. We have no claim to any authority over God (!) to tell Him what we want and expect that He should do it for us.
Have you noticed how men who knew God well indicate a measure of uncertainty about how God would respond to people in different situations? (Moses- Ex.32:30, Caleb - Jos.14:12, David - 2Sa.16:12, Jeremiah - La.3:29, Amos - Am.5:15, Zepheniah - Zep.2:3, Paul - Ac.17:27). This is not a lack of faith, but a recognition of God's sovereignty which takes precedence over man's plans and desires.
Even what God has clearly promised to give us can be ours only as an act of grace from God. If we recognise this it would help us to avoid fleshly kinds of 'faith,' 'boldness,' and arrogance.