So the Bible says when I pray, I can ask for anything I want and if I have faith I'll get it. I ask for a winning lottery ticket, but then I don't win. So either I don't have enough faith or the Bible is lying...
A common complaint I hear from people somewhat familiar with the Bible talks of the idea of prayer. It’s a conundrum for more than a few, that we are instructed to ask for anything and it will be given to us. The obvious example is that of the winning lottery ticket. I pray to win the lottery, and then I don’t. Therefore, what? Exactly?
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
Matthew 21:22 KJV
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
John 14:14 KJV
So then, I believe that God will give me whatever I ask for. Then I ask for a winning lottery ticket and I don’t get one. Either I don’t believe hard enough, or God isn’t listening and the verse is a lie.
Some have said that I shouldn’t ask for a winning lottery ticket because I don’t know what’s best for myself; God knows what’s best for me. I should simply ask for God to use his better judgment and give me something. Here’s an article that echoes this sentiment precisely. We are encouraged to be selfless and made to feel shame for wanting something for ourselves as though altruism is a natural state of humanity.
While this is in many ways true and is in fact alluded to in Our Father, this interpretation presents two problems. First off, it isn’t supported by the above scripture whereas asking for specifics is. Second, it’s a cop-out. By failing to ask God for what we want we fail to address our desires, and God is all about introspection. It’s OK to want things for yourself. It’s normal. Denying your wants is a lie and a trap. And if God had a problem with us laying our wants bare at his feet, he would not have instructed us to do just that. Any time we try to bury our desires, they tend to come out in often harmful ways.
Delight thyself also in the Lord ; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Psalms 37:4 KJV
Here is where the winning lottery ticket can be found. As they say, be careful what you wish for as you may get it. So here I make the distinction between what I wish for and the desires of my heart. In this case what I wish for is to win the lottery, but the desires of my heart are financial security. What I really want is to not struggle so. You see the difference because according to reality TV, I can win the lottery, blow all the money in no time, and go back to struggling. Then I curse God for being so cruel.
But the act of asking God for a winning lottery ticket opens up a pathway for introspection, which allows me to discover the desires of my heart which are often obfuscated by surface thoughts. And once I can identify what those desires are, I discover ways of achieving them. I learn about wise investing and how to build a passive income. I learn what poor habits I’ve been guilty of. These things God presents to me in response to my request for a winning lottery ticket, but because I don’t win I think God isn’t listening. He listens more than you think.
So yeah, pray, and ask for anything you want. Don’t be shy; it will be given to you.