“Answer me, O LORD, answer me…”
1 Kings 18:37
When Elijah prayed for fire from heaven to burn the sacrifice at Mt. Carmel, he never doubted that the Lord would indeed send fire from heaven. If today someone would pray like Elijah did, we would say that there is something wrong with that person. We do not believe that if someone prays to God to send fire from heaven that God will do that. So how could Elijah do that? It is important to keep in mind that Elijah is in a unique situation. God told him to go to Mt. Carmel and he promised that he would reveal himself as the God of Israel in a mighty way. Therefore Elijah can pray like he did because God had already promised that he would do this.
Elijah confidently prays on the basis of God’s promise. That is the principle that we must follow when we pray. We do not expect the Lord to give us whatever we would like him to give us. No one can expect that if they ask God to send fire from heaven he will do that because God has not given that person such a promise. But the Biblical principle is that we may expect the Lord to give us the things that he has promised us. And so for example, the Lord God has never promised to give us prosperity and he has never promised that he would heal all our sicknesses or take away all our suffering. Now you may ask the Lord to heal your sickness and to take away your suffering. Paul for example asked to Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh but the Lord never removed it. Therefore we may ask for many of these things but the Lord does not promise that he will always give it to us. There are times when he will give healing and on many occasions he will take away our suffering but there are just as many situations in which he does not give us those things.
The Heidelberg Catechism in Question and Answer 118 says, “God has commanded us to ask for all things we need for body and soul.” The Lord Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread for the Father in heaven has promised that he will take care of our daily needs. And therefore with childlike faith we ask the Lord to provide for our daily needs and to give us our daily bread. But even more important, we never need to doubt that the Lord will provide for our spiritual needs.
The same Catechism says in Question and Answer 116, “God will give His grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask him for these gifts and thank him for them.” You never need to doubt that when you ask the Father for the Holy Spirit and you plead with him for his grace that he will forgive all of your sins. When you plead with the Lord for forgiveness, you may be sure that the Father will no longer hold your sins against you. David, in Psalm 32, says that when he confessed his sins to the Lord, then the Lord forgave the guilt of his sins. You can pray as confidently as David, and with the same assurance that the Father will not hold your sins against you when you confess them from the heart. Therefore you can also be confident that when you ask for the Spirit of God, that the Lord will give you his Spirit.
God will do so because he is a gracious and merciful God who seeks a personal relationship with all his people. His desire is that we may life with him forever more. And therefore prayer is such a necessary part of our Christian life for it is through prayer that you will receive God’s grace and his Spirit. Only through prayer can you grow in your personal relationship with the Father in heaven and enjoy the security and peace of being in his arms.