Jesus made a pretty bold statement when he was on the planet: "Ask anything in my name and I will do it" (John 14:14). A wide open statement. Ask anything. Anything. Anything at all and He will do it.
What is He trying to tell us? What did he mean? Did He really mean anything?
I really think that He meant what He said - anything. However, that "anything" has a condition on it - in my name, or as another translation puts it, "according to" my name.
One thing Jesus is NOT saying is that if we tack "in Jesus name" on before we end our prayer, He is obligated to answer that prayer. I am not sure where the tradition of adding this phrase on the end of a prayer came from, but I do know that He did not mean us to use this as a "magic" phrase that will get us what we want.
So what did He mean if He didn't mean that? I believe a part of the key is found in James 4:
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2
You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot
have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you
do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
The setting of this section of the letter from James is about fighting, being self centered and trying to get the things that you want. He makes a pretty bold statement at the end of this section: you ask for things but you don't get them because all you want to do is spend it on yourself. The statement is pretty straight forward - when I ask for something that is me centered, that is for my benefit, that is for my pleasure, that fills a worldly longing deep down in my soul - I am not going to get it.
I mean, if I pray that God will use me to serve others, do you think that God will refuse to answer that prayer? If I pray for a new car because I am not content with the one that I have or I am sick of having to repair it all the time, God might think it best to not provide me a new car to "get me out of a jam". If I pray that I will understand what the Spirit is trying to tell me to help me be more obedient, I think that God will grant that request. If I pray that God will give me a different job because I do not like the environment that I am currently working in, God probably will not honor that request.
Here is the problem. It sometimes takes a TON of work to determine the "why" for what I am asking for. Why am I asking for a new car? Why am I asking for the ability to serve? Why do I want a new job? If there is any hint of me in the request, then God is not obligated to answer us; or more appropriately the answer will probably be no. Before I ask, I have to examine my heart. I have to determine if my heart is in the right spot (me or God centered).
If it is, ask for anything!