This page is about verses in the Bible which say that when Christians pray, they will receive whatever they ask for. There are many of these verses in several New Testament books by different authors. In the first section we list the verses and below are some interpretations of what they mean.
Verses relating to prayer Edit
(Matt 7:7-11, Luke 11:9-13) "Ask and it shall be given... ...how much more would your Father in heaven give..." Comparison of is made to parents giving good gifts to their children, and not bad. Matthew connects this to the second commandment, but Luke replaces the good gifts with the Holy Spirit.
(Matt 21:18-22, Mark 11:20-26) In response to the withered fig tree, Jesus says "Have faith in God, and believe, and.it will be yours." (Mark), or "If you have faith and do not doubt... / If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer..."
(Matt 18:15-19, Luke 17:3, John 20) The teaching session of Matthew 18 is condensed into three verses in Luke. John 20:23 is cited, although one might think of this as a reminder after Res. rather than the same event transposed. Matthew writes "If the two of you agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven", in relation to the teaching on rebuking other brothers for their sin.
(John 14:12-14, and John 15:7) These are alternately "Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even grater things... ...and I will do whatever you ask in my name..." and "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you...". The promises are bracketed by cautions of 'remaining in Christ', 'remaining in his love', and 'obeying his commandments'.
(John 16:22-24) "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." Again Jesus tells us that his Father will give us whatever we ask in his name.
(1 John 3:22-25) "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command..." A similar analogue is found by the letter, assuming the same writer. We will receive what we ask because we keep his commandments..
(1 John 5:13-15) "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him."
(James 5:15) "Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
(James 4:3) "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." James writes of his interpretation of the promises in the Gospels.
The Plain Reading Edit
These verses seem to imply that Christians will be able to perform incredible, jaw-dropping miracles - whatever is asked for will be given. Perhaps this will not occur every time, nor for every Christian, but with over 2 billion Christians alive today you would expect that at least a few of them would be granted whatever they asked.
The different verses give different requirements which must be met for God to grant whatever is requested. Some verses require that you believe your request will be granted (Mark 11:20-26, Mat 21:18-22, 1 John 3:21-24). Some verses require that you believe in Jesus (John 14:12-14) and others imply we must believe and follow Jesus (John 15:7-8). Some verses emphasise that we must follow Jesus' commands (1 John 3:22-25). The context of John 15:7-8 and John 14:12-14 both emphasise following Jesus' commands.
It seems that many mainstream interpretations of these passages put heavy focus on James 4:3 - that you can't pray selfishly. From the verses above, this seems to be a minority position. The vast majority of verses clearly say that you will get anything that is asked for, as long as you believe your request will be granted and follow Jesus.
It also seems that many mainstream interpretations say that God will only grant whatever you ask if it's in God's will. This also seems to be a minority position in the verses above. I am only aware of one verse which specifies that the prayer must be subject to God's will (1 John 5:13-15), but I'm happy to be corrected if there are more. Interestingly, 1 John 5:13-15 says "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." This idea that "we know that we have what we asked of him" does not sound like the experience of Christians, who usually ask for something and have no idea if they will get it - they wait and see. This verse seems to imply that when Christians ask for an incredible miracle, they will *know* if it is the will of God, and therefore they will know that they will get it. I have never heard a Christian describe their prayer life like this. In summary, most verses do not say that the prayers must be in accordance with the will of God. The vast majority of verses simply say that God will grant anything you ask for, as long as you believe and obey Jesus' commands.
- Praying selfishly
- There is a view that the more one's will is aligned with God's, the more likely one's prayer is to be answered (John 9:31; 1 John 5:14, Matt 6:10). This also linked to faith - the stronger one's faith the more one's will is aligned with God's (Heb 10:10; James 4:5, 4:8, 4:10). Praying selfishly is a sign that your will is not aligned with God's / faith is weak (James 4:4). In this interpretation, there is no tension between James 4:3 and the other verses.