What if God would give you whatever you asked from Him? What sort of things would you pray for, and therefore possess? This isn’t far-fetched, right? Didn’t Jesus promise to give us whatever we asked for (John 15:16)? It is fascinating how taking only half a verse, and out of context, can quickly morph into a presumed truth taught by so many.
It’s not just the obvious Prosperity Gospel and Word of Faith teachers who push this nonsense. I’ve heard it from supposed evangelical preachers as well. We’ll dive into the context of what Jesus said, but first, it’s worth taking a moment to answer my initial question: “If God gave you whatever you asked, what would you possess and how would your life be different?”
If you got whatever you asked for from God, would what you receive be glorifying to you or Him? It’s a good measure of how we spend our time praying. If you’re like pretty much everyone else (myself included), it will appall you to discover how much of your prayers center on selfish desires (health, money, protection, favor), and how few of your prayers are for the Kingdom of God to be advanced. We tend to pray selfish prayers, so when we think of God giving us whatever we ask, our self-serving desires go into overdrive.
But let’s take another look at John 15:16. In fact, let’s first back up a few verses and get the context of what Jesus is saying. In this passage of scripture (John 15:9-17), Jesus is talking about loving others as the Father loves Him. He even teaches us the ultimate expression of love is to lay down your life for another. He was referring to His death here but also using it as a model for us to follow. The context of the passage is to demonstrate selfless love for everyone. With that as the backdrop, we come to John 15:16.
When we don’t skip the first half of the sentence, we see the purpose of prayer should be that we might be effective in sharing the love of God with the world. The second half of the verse is simply stating if we will pray to be used by God for His purposes, God will certainly answer our prayer. And what a beautiful prayer that is! “Lord, help me love others as you love them, and make me effective in sharing the hope of Your gospel.” How many of our prayers sound like that?
If you ask God to use you for His Kingdom, He promises to answer that prayer with a resounding, “Yes!”. If you ask the Lord to help you love people as He does, the Lord will answer that prayer with a resounding, “Yes!”. If you want to apply John 15:16 correctly, then practice praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:9-13). He promises to grant us that desire because it aligns with His heart and His plan. Don’t believe the false teaching of those who use John 15:16 to promise you health, wealth, and favor. Instead, take comfort in the promise of Jesus that He will help you love others and use you to further His Kingdom here on earth. I can’t think of a better thing to ask for in prayer.