Q&A | Should I Play It Safe In My Prayers?

I have faced a number of disappointments like losing a loved one and remaining jobless despite praying in faith. Now, I struggle with that part of scripture that says that if God didn’t withhold His Son from us, why won’t He freely give us all things? Knowing from experience that I do not always get what I ask for, is it then biblical to hedge a bet in my prayers, asking for things that seem more likely to happen than not?

Yemi Osinubi: That’s a struggle we see in life and in the scriptures – both the Psalmist and Habakkuk the prophet who cried out to the Lord didn’t receive, or they just kept crying out to the Lord. So yes, in a lot of ways and a lot of times in our lives, we are faced with these instances where we don’t receive at least what we want in terms of the answers to our prayers. Yet, the Bible continues to encourage us to ask, to seek, to knock. In the parable that Jesus told about the importunate woman who kept knocking on the Judge’s door and saying “Give me justice, give me justice”. Even though this Judge was a bad character, because she kept knocking, kept asking, and kept seeking, eventually the Judge answered her. Jesus draws a parallel and says if this Judge is evil and answered, how much more will your own Heavenly Father who knows you, loves you, and cares for you give the Holy Spirit to those who ask of Him? 

And the idea is that God, as a Good God and Good Father, is always attentive to our prayers and doesn’t require us to hedge a bet in our prayers in that sense. There are many portions of scripture that talk about some of the reasons why we may not receive answers to our prayers, such as because we want to spend it on our lust and, for men, because we’re not treating our wives well and all those sorts of things. But even after we have figured out perhaps the reason why one prayer or the other may not have been answered and we’ve repented of sinful ways or called upon the elders to pray for us, the Bible still tells us to continue to pray in faith because we trust in a God and Father who orders the world and yet loves us. 

I often tell people that life happens. In life, you will have good times and bad times. You’ll have bad things happen to you, unjust things will happen to you, good things will happen to you, you’ll fall ill, you’ll get better, life will happen to you. So, the whole point of prayer is to say that while I know that life will bring things to me that I’m not happy with, things that are not pleasant, yet I am not alone in this life; I am walking with God and I’m going to call God and show my dependence on Him through thick and thin, through good and evil. So, if we get to the point where because we did not receive a particular answer, we become discouraged and then say, “you know, I’m not going to ask God about this anymore, I’m just going to focus on the things I think He’s going to give me”, then we’re trying to do God’s job and we’re showing a lack of faith. I think we should continue to call God in every situation we are in, in spite of the fact that we didn’t receive the last thing we asked Him for. We should continue to show our trust in the Lord. 

We’ve had discussions in one of our Gospel Communities where someone, in the midst of asking for healing, something we all desired, now said “but you know, Lord, if You don’t want it, Your will be done.” And we had to put a quick corrective to say “No, let God the Judge work out His own will; your job is to ask. Don’t be double-minded, thinking on the one hand I’ll cry out to the Lord, but man, the Lord is sovereign and may not want to do this, so maybe…” No! In fact, Jesus said “when the Son of Man returns to the earth, will I find faith?” Will I find people who, in spite of all the experiences and difficulties, will continue to cry out to God as Father? It’s our job, our privilege, our blessing, to continue to cry out to the Lord to give us the things that we need or want and then let Him work out His own sovereign will.  

Femi Osunnuyi: Yeah, let me just quickly add that if God answered all our prayers,  that would be an absolute problem because that would show that we are all-knowing, but not all-powerful. And in that regard, neither Him nor us would be really God. So, when God asks us to pray for our needs, it’s not first and foremost because He’s always going to answer it, it is first and foremost the expression of our relationship with Him. He’s a Father that cares and we know that. Also, thinking about your earthly fathers; when you were five, they didn’t give you everything that you asked for but the one thing your earthly father would not want is that when you are five you feel like you can never ask him for anything. He wants you to ask him for anything even when he will say no because that’s an expression of how you feel about him. So, God wants us to ask for the things that we desire and know can be good for us based on our knowledge. He wants us to always ask, that’s why you have those things in scripture. Whether God will always answer the way we want is another thing because He is not only just all-powerful, He’s all-knowing. So, many times, God does not give us the desires of our hearts because He knows what our hearts need even more than what we think we need at that time, so He says “what you need is for me not to give you this thing”.  So, what I want to push to people who have not received answers to prayers, apart from the fact that sometimes God wants us to ask more than once, other times, it’s also that God is trying to say, “Actually, I have a better plan for you”. This should not stop you from asking, from continuing to treat Him as your Father, because when He doesn’t answer you in everything but does in some other things, He is showing that He’s a true Father. Sometimes, He answers later for His own reasons and other times, He answers immediately just as any Good Father would. 

Answered by Yemi Osinubi, leader at City Church and Femi Osunnuyi, lead pastor of City Church.