James 1:5-8 ESV “5If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” [emphasis added]
Jas 1:6 itself does nicely answering several important aspects of this question. Doubt is a sure way to miss God’s ear with your request. Faith is critical to receiving wisdom or just about anything else we request.
1 Jn 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. We need confidence in God (faith again) to be heard, but we also need to be making requests that are in accord with His will. God is love and love is all about others. Jesus always took care of others and gave the ultimate example of service to others. A selfish heart is not one to follow God’s will.
Jn 15:14-16 You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. In this passage Jesus reveals to his disciples the honor of being able to make requests with expectations of an answer. Surrounding verses also reveal a great deal about our end of the bargain. For one thing, Jesus is telling the disciples that they are more than mere servants, they are also friends. He declares them as friends because they do what Jesus has requested of them. He also indicates that the divine revelations of knowledge are of God (spoken through the very mouth of Jesus thus far, but later also through the Holy Spirit) and are given to them for their friendship. These guys were selected as friends because up to that point they had obeyed. The Lord knew he could expect them to continue in obedience. He had specific missions for them to perform in the future. For the purpose of carrying out the missions given by God, Jesus promises to equip them with anything they need to get their jobs done. All they need to do is ask.
There’s more meat in this passage from John 15 than we have time to explore, but consider this example from real life. If you work for an employer, you give your time and effort in exchange for pay. You are assigned specific duties. Isn’t it reasonable to expect the boss to give you the things you need to get the job done? Would you be a receptionist and not be given a phone? Sometimes our bosses don’t know what we need to do our jobs. They overlook things, penny-pinch, or they just want to see if we can figure out what we need on our own. God isn’t quite like any of those, but He does want us to rely on Him because He is true and dependable, He wants a relationship beyond boss-slave. He is faithful to us and only seeks the same courtesy in return. He gives us what we ask so we might be what we were designed to be: the workmanship of His hand to do the good work He has for us (Eph 2:10). We are not saved by works, but we were designed to live out works performed in love and obedience.
Mt 6: 9-13 Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. The prayer Jesus uses as an example is gushing with humility. We must realize that if we are making a request, it is because we are asking for something we cannot obtain on our own and we need the Lord. We must indeed be dependent and broken, asking wholly in faith. Why would you pray for something if you could get it or make it or do it yourself?
This post is an excerpt (Question 6.4) from my book Ask James one.