Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. –Matthew 7:7
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. –Matthew 21:22.
There's a fine line when we speak of asking for things in prayer. There's the danger of oversimplification on the one hand, and the danger of over-complicating things on the other hand. As usual, the truth of the matter seems to be somewhere in between.
Let's look at these three words: ask, believe, receive.
Why do we have to ask for what we want, when God supposedly already knows?
The reason is that you have absolutely free will, and God will do nothing to abridge that right or take away the gift in any way, shape or form. If you want help, you have to ask for it, because that signals your permission for God to get in your space. You have to agree on some level (even unconsciously) for help to be given. Conscious agreement is best, and the more consciously you live your life, the more God waits for your conscious consent.
Here's an example: You feed a baby because you know he or she is hungry. The baby will generally signal hunger by crying. The baby doesn't have the words to think this thought out and express it in words, but you get the signal. The agreement on the baby's part is purely subconscious at this point, but there is definitely an agreement. (If the baby doesn't want food, he or she will refuse to eat it.) In the same way, occasionally, we don't actually have to ask for something in words. Say you're drowning and you can't even scream for help. Still, you may be thinking, "Help!" God hears that and can respond. But again, Soul must be in agreement.
There's also the problem of what we ask for and why we are asking for it. Sure, you can ask for a sporty red convertible or a million dollars, but what are you going to do with it? Will the car make you a better person? Will you serve God with the money? Or will those things just end up making you spoiled and vain? Maybe you came into this lifetime to learn some humility, and so you only have enough money to buy a Hugo car. Or maybe you came into this lifetime to learn discipline and responsibility, but you've frittered away all your money. Now you want more? Why? So you can fritter that away, too? God knows better! And remember that when you came into this lifetime, you, as Soul, were in agreement with certain lessons. If this is your lifetime to learn humility, you agreed to it beforehand. Same goes for learning discipline, responsibility, and a host of other things.
Why do we have to change our subconscious beliefs in order to receive God's help?
Lots of people don't ask because they think they're unworthy, or they think their request is unimportant, or that they don't want to bother God with little things. You have to do the inner work necessary to change your deeply-held subconscious beliefs that keep you from asking for what you want. You have to believe that you are worthy of God's love. And you have to believe that God will help you.
The impetus for this subconscious change has to come from you. Why? God is training you to be a strong individual who can help to do God's will in the world. If you have everything handed to you on a platter, you aren't going to be very strong, are you?
A lot of people believe in God, kind of, but they seem to feel that God was a lot more active in Bible times than nowadays. One thing that people back then had that we lack today is the feeling that they could communicate directly with God. It was a two-way communication. Not only did people talk to God back then, but they listened and they heard God speak. People don't hear God speak today because they don't even listen! Or they don't recognize when God is communicating with them.
Even when they do listen, many people assume that God is going to speak in a certain way. God has a lot of ways to communicate with us, many of which are pretty surprising. God speaks to us in dreams, in the words of a song on the radio, in the words on a sign on the side of the highway, in the words of a friend or a stranger. God gives us little nudges, little intuitive bits of information that we end up discounting because they didn't come from our rational minds. Also, the answer may not come right away. We must be patient and wait upon God's reply. Everything is in Divine order, and things happen in God's time, not on our time schedule.
People also assume that if God's answer is "yes," then they're going to get exactly what they asked for. Nope, you're going to get what you need and you're going to get it God's way, not your way. If God always gave you everything you wanted, you'd be pretty spoiled, now, wouldn't you? Usually, God's way is so much more than you ever thought to ask for! Remember that God has a lot more information than you do, and God knows exactly what would be for your highest good, as well as the good of others. Once in a while, people do get exactly what they asked for – and then they realize that they asked for the wrong thing! Or they left out one small but important detail. It's best to ask for things in a general sense, and leave the details to Divine Spirit.
The best way to ask for something is to use "non-directed prayer." There was a study done once with non-directed prayer. Some mold was put on a plate of gel, then given a quick alcohol rinse to shock it. A line was drawn down the center of the plate. People prayed for one side only. Instead of asking God to make the mold grow (directed prayer, where you tell God what to do), they used non-directed prayer. They said, "God, Thy will be done." In other words, they submitted their will to God's will. If it was God's will, then the mold would grow. And grow it did. (The non-prayed-for side did not grow.) After that, an experiment was done where they used directed prayer for one side and non-directed prayer for the other side. The results were that the non-directed prayer side grew better than the directed prayer side.
So you have to believe that God will answer the prayer, but that the answer, whatever it is, will be for your highest good. (And "no" is sometimes for your highest good. Get over it.) Some people I know asked God to let a person with a terminal illness live, and the person did live a little longer – but the person also ended up suffering longer, too. Why did the people pray for the person to live longer? For themselves, not for the person who was ill!
Why do people have so much trouble receiving God's help?
Actually, I've already answered that above. People believe that they are unworthy, or that if God's answer doesn't come exactly the way they are expecting it, it doesn't count, somehow. They don't recognize the help when it comes.
You've probably heard this story, but it bears repeating:
There was a flood in the town, and one man went up on his rooftop and started to pray to God to be saved. Soon a man came by in a rowboat and shouted to the man on the roof, "Jump in, I can save you."
The stranded man shouted back, "No, it's OK, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me." The rowboat went on to help others who were stranded.
Then a motorboat came by. The fellow in the motorboat shouted, "Jump in, I can save you."
To this the stranded man replied, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith." The motorboat went on to help others.
Finally, a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, "Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety."
The stranded man yelled, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith." The helicopter pilot reluctantly flew away.
When the water rose above the rooftop, the man drowned. He went to Heaven.
"I had such faith in you," he told God, "but you didn't save me from drowning. Why?"
God said, "I did try to save you, three times. I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter. You refused all three offers of help!"
That was, of course, because the man had foolishly expected God's help to come in a certain way. He wanted direct help from God, maybe some kind of special miracle, when God had already arranged to help the man through normal channels.
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To recap, we must ask for what we want, if it is for our highest good, and allow Divine Spirit to fill in the details of our request with exactly what we need.
We must believe that God will provide for our every need, no matter how large or small.
We must receive what we are given, confident that even though it may not be what we were expecting, it is perfect for us, and it is enough. :-)