In Matthew 7:7, Jesus tells us to ask and receive. I have always read that verse as, “ask, and you will receive that which was requested.” When this verse is read in conjunction with the rest of the passage (vs 7-12), one sees that what is received is that which is best for the situation, be it for the person requesting or the person on whose behalf the request is being made. This makes much more sense.
When we realize that our life isn’t about making our current lives perfect, but about being united to God in his perfection for eternity, we can start to see that if one asks for something that slows down or detracts from the end goal, then God is going to give that which aids one more on one’s journey to union.
In addition, God’s answer to our prayer will always bring glory to his name. This glory may be about drawing someone to deeper contrition, humility, trust, love, or other spiritual fruit. For example, I recently prayed with a friend who has Alzheimers. I asked God to heal the illness, and, if for some reason, that was not God’s will, that God’s glory be shown. While God has not chosen to heal the illness, I started to see what impact my friend was having on me, despite the illness. I was growing in trust, love, patience, and humility. In other words, I better saw God’s glory. I can only surmise that others are having similar experiences in their encounters with God.
I still have hope that God may choose to heal my friend, but only if and when such healing is important for the salvation of souls in our time. Until then, my friend continues to be open to God’s will, and he lives with a substantial amount of trust and peace.
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit pondering your own prayer requests. How did you take it when you didn’t receive what you wanted? Ask him to show you how God’s glory is being revealed through the situation. Ask him to use the situation to increase your faith, hope, and love.