I'm curious to know about some Bible verses I've heard. Well, I heard a Bible verse that said something like:
"Therefore, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe you have received it, and it will be yours"
The thing I don't understand is, is that people say God wants what is best for you. So, if you're praying for something and believe you have received it, what if it's not what God wants? And how are you supposed to "believe you have received it"? Is there anything, in particular, you are supposed to do?
"So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:22-24).
What happens far too often is that people repeat verses they hear from the top of their heads without going back to the source. Over time that wording may change to the point that the original meaning is lost. Other times a phrase is taken out of its context so that the intention is lost. The statement you give has been used to portray God as a cosmic vending machine: put in enough faith and then whatever button you push will give you what you want.
What you spotted is an inconsistency in what is being said. In context, what Jesus is stating that the disciples, and we, are to have faith in what we are asking of God. James puts it this way:
"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:5-8).
Have you ever met the kid who is selling from door to door? You open the door and he says in a timid voice, "You don't want to buy any candy, do you?" He makes some sales from sympathy, but not nearly what he could have done if he just showed some confidence.
Notice that James doesn't talk about praying about anything, he is discussing asking God for wisdom. Even if you want to generalize James' statements about prayer, notice that James said to "ask in faith." In one way this means to believe in what you are asking, but it is not just "ask with faith" it is "ask in faith." That means you pray in accordance with the teachings of God (the faith). After all, a part of our prayer is supposed to be an acknowledgment that God's will is superior to our own. "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Jesus also started out his discussion in Mark by saying, "Have faith in God." Such is what Jesus taught "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7). The conditional of abiding in Jesus and his words must be met first before we can ask what we desire and expect to receive from him.
Another verse to consider is:
"And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24).
Notice that Jesus did not say to ask anything. We are to ask in his name. That doesn't mean saying "in Jesus' name I pray" at the end of a prayer. The phrase "in his name" means with his authority. When you take a check to the bank to cash it, the bank gives you money because the check has the signature of the account holder at the bank. That person's name means he has authorized the bank to remove the funds he listed from his account. Thus, Jesus is stating that we are to pray in accordance with His will and the things we ask for will be given. "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through him" (Colossians 3:17).
John puts it this way, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him" (I John 5:14-15). The conditions that it must be according to God's will is clearly stated along with the need to ask with confidence.
A word that you sometimes see in the Bible is "lawlessness" or "iniquity." This refers to someone who acts without authority. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity'" (Matthew 7:21-23). It doesn't matter if we think that something is right or a good thing to do. If we don't have God's authority behind what we do, then it is all for naught. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3).
Thus, we when look at the whole of what is taught about asking in prayer, we see that it isn't an avenue to ask for anything and we'll receive anything. There are conditions that must be met. But when those conditions are met, we have to have confidence that God will answer, else why bother asking?