Ask Steve: Name It and Claim It Theology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Steve, I have heard people use verses like Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24 to support the claim that you can ask whatever things from God and receive from Him. How would you respond to these people?

Answer: Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24 has often been misinterpreted in some sectors of evangelism. Some have used it to support a form of Prosperity and Word of Faith theology that says God will give you just about anything you want as long as you have enough faith in Him. Although a superficial reading of the text may seem to support that interpretation, a reading in context will show that Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24 does not support a prosperity, self-serving theology in anyway. These two verses teach that there is power in faith-based prayer, yet it always goes hand-in-hand with God’s sovereign workings.  

We see the first example of this in Mark 11:24 where Jesus speaks about the power of faith and the sovereign outworking of God after Jesus withers up a fig tree. Peter was astounded at such an amazing act, to which Jesus responded with his analogy of moving mountains (v. 22-23). Jesus’ point is that if believers sincerely trust in God and truly realize the unlimited power that is available through such faith in Him, they will see His mighty powers at work (Jn 14:13-14).  Jesus was not saying that believers will receive anything they wanted as long as they asked. God does not cater to the sinful desires of the flesh, because that would contradict what James said in James 4:2-3. In context of what Jesus was preaching (as well as what He taught in Matthew 17:20 and in the Sermon on the Mount), He says that there are no limits on a believer’s prayers as long as they are done in God’s will. This means that man’s faith and prayer are fully compatible with God’s sovereignty and usually works together in accomplishing God’s salvific and glorious purposes throughout history. This is a mysterious working, but not mutually exclusive. It is our duty to be faithful and obedient to the clear teachings in Scripture regarding prayer, such as what is found in Mark 11:24 and Matthew 21:22.

Whenever God’s will unfolds throughout history, whether it be the salvation of certain individuals, the dethronement of the wicked, or the aid of the poor, it usually has worked in conjunction with the fervent and faithful prayers of the saints who interceded on behalf of those people or institutions. This is what it means to pray in accordance with God’s will, to pray for what is good and holy (Matt 7:7-8). The “all things for which you pray and ask” in Mark 11:24 are the things that are prayed for and lived for according to God’s good and holy will – the good things that a Christian trusts God for, for God knows what is best for His children.

The second example of the relationship between man’s faith and God’s sovereign workings is Matthew 21:22. What is that we as Christians are to believe? It is believing in His word to tell us what is best. It is faith that He will give us what is best, not only for our lives, but also what will bring Him the most glory according to His redemptive-historical purposes. If we pray for someone’s healing or for someone’s financial well-being and God does not deliver, we must not assume that the promises of this verse failed. Rather, we must trust that the healing or financial well-being is not part of God’s larger plan that is ultimately for our good. Everything is done to conform a believer to Christlikeness, which is part of the sanctification process, and the theology in these two verses support that doctrine as well.

The “ask and you shall receive” is therefore not a formula for health and wealth as many speculate from a superficial reading of the texts. Rather, it is the Lord’s command to His children to pray in faith according to His will, and not from their own selfish motives. If they pray according to God’s instruction, God answers their prayers because He acts in conjunction with their prayers in the outworking of His sovereign plans.