Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:21-22)
Relate: Two verses come to mind when I hear Martha make this bold statement of faith. In Mark Jesus promises: “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” Just a few days later, in John, Jesus will tell His disciples, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”
I wonder what Martha thought Jesus was going to ask for. The obvious answer is that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. But the very next thing Jesus says, “Your brother will rise” causes her to respond with some esoteric eschatology, “I know he will rise in the last day.” I think there are two ways to view that: 1) She was hoping Jesus would grant Lazarus some heavenly favor similar to what James and John wanted when they asked to sit at His right and left in the Kingdom. Praying for the dead, though unbiblical, is not a new custom. 2) She was hoping against hope that Jesus would still raise her brother, but when Jesus said He would bluntly, she had to be sure He was talking about exactly what she was hoping for. Either scenario does work well with the text and it is quite possible a bit of both are floating through her mind.
React: Whichever is the case, the promise Jesus will twice make that she is believing on has three conditions. God will give you whatever you ask if…
Both the times Jesus makes this promise, it is in the context of bearing fruit. In Mark, the disciples commented on the fig tree that Jesus cursed. It is then that He makes this statement. In John, Jesus is even more explicit. He says, “I have appointed you to produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for.” What we ask for should not be solely for our own benefit and pleasure but rather it should be a request that would enable us to be a blessing to the world around us. God will get it to us only if He can give it through us.
In Mark the crux of Jesus statement is on faith. “You can pray for anything and if you believe yo have received it, it’s yours.” I can pray all I want that I will win the lottery but there is not an iota of belief that I will actually win it. Especially since I never buy any tickets. (Money quickly gained is unhealthy anyways) There are other, better, things that I might pray for and even though I have my doubts, I still believe that God can, should, and maybe even will answer that prayer. That I will receive… as long as it meets the other two criteria.
The third criteria is found back in John. Jesus says, “The Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” This is a bit more than just closing out our prayer by saying, “In Jesus Name, amen.” If that was all it was about, most of us are in trouble anyways. “Jesus” isn’t really Jesus’s name. It is merely an Anglicized transliteration that vaguely sounds similar to the Hebrew (after being passed from Greek to German to us). Biblical understanding of the name is that it is a real manifestation of a person’s character and nature. So more than just saying “In Jesus name” we need to make sure that what we lines up with fits into what we know of Him. WWJD really does come into play here. Would Jesus ask for this? Do we see Him making or granting similar requests in the gospels? If He granted this request, would it bring honor to God? If the answer to any of these is no then I shouldn’t even bother praying… because I’m not really praying… I’m just being greedy.
God, I ask that all of my prayers would be always centered and grounded in who You are. Align my heart that what I desire and the requests I bring to You would always be Your will and in Your Name. Give me the boldness and audacity to believe that, whatever it is that I ask, You would accomplish it. I know that You can do it, help me to believe that You actually will. Help me to dream bigger and then give me the faith to see those dreams realized. Above all, help me to bear fruit. I know that it is only as I abide in You that I can do so. I ask that everything I ask would not be for my benefit but rather that through my prayer, the world would see Your glory.