When I Ask And Do Not Receive

For a couple months now, I have been praying that God would give me faith.  I want the ability to see the truths of God, and the reality of the Gospel.  For the last four years, at least, I haven’t believed.  I am still skeptical.

I read Luke 11 today, and came across verses 9-13:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

I feel that I have been doing these things, yet, it seems that I have not yet been given the ability to have faith. So then, how should I properly think about this situation, especially in light of the verses above.  Here are some options I have thought of:

  • It is not God’s will that I have faith – perhaps I am not one of the elect.
  • The element of “God’s timing” is at play here, and it is not yet time for me to be given the gift of faith.  The verses above to not specify if there is or is not an element of time involved between the asking and the receiving.
  • The God of the Bible isn’t real, otherwise I would have been given the ability to have faith already, so this is proof that it is all made up.
  • I actually am receiving what I am asking for, it is just being given slowly over time, so perhaps while others who know me might be able to see evidence of this, at this point in time, I do not.
  • I’m not asking properly.  Perhaps I don’t know what it means to pray in Jesus’ name, or with authority, or whatever it might be, and therefore my asking is ineffective.
  • I do not really understand faith, so I’m not even sure what I’m asking for or what it looks like to receive it.
  • Something else?

What do you think?  How are we to take situations where we feel we are praying for good things that it seems (to us at least) that God would have no reason to not give.  What is a healthy way to view this?


12 thoughts on “When I Ask And Do Not Receive

  1. hey josh,

    again, i really appreciate your tone here and honesty – it reminds me of a guy named nicodemus, except that from my perspective – you’re further along than he was in John 3. It seems to me that as i hear you “think” that you’re coming up with great answers – rational and logical – and you’re even searching the Scriptures to see if these things are true – which if the Bible really IS true, that’s where you’d have to go to find confirmation. But it does seem to me that there is a disconnect – for whatever reason, God, you, etc – between what the Bible says “faith” is and what you feel you are not receiving from God. When you say, “For the last four years, at least, I haven’t believed. I am still skeptical” what is it that you aren’t believing and of which you are still skeptical? i’m just curious – because there are some aspects of being a follower of Christ that MAKE you a believer and other things we’re all working on and struggle with. i’d be happy to process this out with you and have been praying for you as the Lord brings you to mind these four years. i actually feel sort of responsible since we were meeting for a while and i want to make sure i didn’t lead you astray – which i may very well have – but i want to try to help you get to Jesus any way i can. i am so thankful to God that you are seeking the truth and willing to be honest about where you are – God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. This is what it looks like to me – i can’t see your heart of course, but your actions and the tone of your seeking sure looks like an act of God granting grace to seek even if he has not yet granted you the faith to believe – as you see it.
    But i think there’s something to your bullets 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 (and 3 is logical too, just not biblical) and the fact that you’re even giving credence to how the Bible describes what you feel about your current situation, is a sort of faith in itself. So when you say you don’t believe, is there something specific that you don’t believe, like Jesus’ deity, or death on the cross for sins, atonement, inerrancy? Or is it that you’re skeptical of everything? including all religion, reality, existence, etc.

    praying for you – keep asking and it will be given to you, keep seeking and you will find, keep knocking and the door of faith will be opened to you – this is God’s promise and he is faithful
    to keep his word and able to help us ask, seek, and knock better.

    with much love for you and your family,


    • Jason – When I say I don’t believe, I mean in the reality and truth of the Bible and the God it talks about. I can get up right now and look out the window into my backyard. I see it and there’s no question that it’s real – I can see it. I might talk to a friend, and the explain to me about Vietnam and what it is like because he’s been living there the past year. I will believe him without questioning, even though I’ve never seen it myself, because I am hearing it from the actual living mouth of a person who has seen it.

      The Bible happened 2000+ years ago, so there is nothing to see with my eyes, and no living person I trust who has experienced it to validate it. There are so many things in the Bible that it says happened, but are things we have never and probably will never see today. Miracles, demonic possession, transfiguration of Jesus, talking animals, bushes burning and God speaking out of it, seas parting, walls of fire, God in a storm up on a mountain, rivers turning to blood, mana from heaven, water pouring from a rock in the desert, Jesus showing himself after death, powerful handkerchiefs that can heal, etc. So, beyond just being able to believe in God, a savior in Jesus, the work of the Spirit, salvation, forgiveness of sins, heaven, etc., I also need to believe that the list of things I listed above actually happened, in real life.

      This is what I talk about when I say I don’t believe it. I mean all of it, in its entirety. Believing it is 100% truth, and that it really happened, and that it is not just some man-made book and idea to control and subdue society.

      • ok, that’s helpful to know – thanks. i’m not trying to get all psycho-babble session here but is there any part of you that wants the Bible to be 100% true? The reason i ask is that the desire to believe the Bible and its 100% trustworthiness is a sign of God granting faith. Jesus prayed for his followers in the garden just before he did that God, his father, would not take them out of the world, but protect them and sanctify (or cleanse/purify) them in the truth. and then he says an amazing thing – “Your word is truth.” So, one of the Biblical evidences that something that happened 2,000 years ago actually happened is if Jesus’ prayers are still being answered. If no one believed in Jesus today, i think it would be a lot more plausible to doubt his claims. i realize this is just one argument for the trustworthiness of the Bible – but i think it’s a big one. If his prayers are tied to his followers continuing to believe in him today, then there is undeniable evidence to be seen, touched, heard in people today who are believing in the claims of Jesus and trusting they are true. But having said that, there is a danger in trying to calculate yourself into believing through evidence and reason/logic. i’m not saying that’s what you’re doing – i don’t know. But though there is evidence to be seen, lots of people have seen it and yet, did not believe. If Jesus was a real person, the testimony of the Scripture is that people saw him and weren’t impressed – rather, some where hacked off to the point of murder. They saw miracles and yet didn’t believe. They saw a man crucified and mocked him til he died. But Jesus gives us several answers as to why they didn’t believe, but here’s just one:


        Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

        Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.

        If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

        (John 3:4-11; John 3:12-15 ESV)

        I think this story is in the Bible in part to show us what faith looks like at the very beginning.

        I think Nicodemus WANTS to believe or else he would have stayed home that night – but instead, he came to Jesus with questions and at least enough faith to dialogue.

        But a huge part of the problem was that Nicodemus was trying to understand spiritual things with his natural mind – and he was a teacher of the law – “logically” he should have known better. BUT, Jesus met him where he was and didn’t leave him hanging – he just brings the conversation into the right category, a spiritual one.

        It’s not as though the spiritual and the physical don’t have any connection – they absolutely do according to the Bible. But they are not both able to rightly discern the reality of each other.
        Only one has the ability – and this is faith.

        The natural man has the ability to understand natural things – like you said, i can look out the window and not doubt that things are real. But that’s because i have defined reality as something i can see, right now.

        Part of believing is trusting that there are realities outside of what i can fully understand – like God – and believing is pursuing these realities with a desire to know more about their truthfulness.

        If there was not real, live, evidence that there is some “order” to this life outside of my control and that what the Bible claims is actually being lived out in me and in front of me – i think i would have a much harder time believing for myself.

        But even though – according to the Bible – that my faith is a gift from God, they way he gives it to me and works it out in me is completely evidential.

        Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of (about) Christ.

        Here’s how Paul puts the progress of faith together in Rom 10:

        ….if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

        How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

        (Romans 10:9-15 ESV)

        If it is true – according to the Bible – that believing is the “goal” then what leads up to that is:
        1) someone being sent (like Jesus from God the father and like people who believe and speak the Gospel to others – and even the Lord is sending me – and others – to you)
        2) someone “preaching” literally “heralding/proclaiming” the truth
        3) someone “hearing” (this is the miracle of faith – because natural hearing does not automatically produce faith – many have heard with their physical ears and still don’t believe)
        4) someone believing, meaning, they call out to the One of whom they have heard.

        Faith is sitting down in the chair to find rest, exhausted after a hard workout, thinking it will hold you up except this chair you can’t see with your physical eyes. It’s putting on the parachute before the plane crashes believing that it will keep you from harm/death. It’s picking up the fork and digging into a piece of cherry cheesecake (or your favorite dessert) desiring to taste the sweetness and believing that it’s as good as it looks – except you can’t see it with ordinary eyes.

        The way we see what God offers is through the truthfulness and plausibility of words.

        There are no pictures in the Bible other than word pictures.

        Here’s a questions: Do you think there is any plausibility to the testimonies found in the Bible?

        I ask this because the primary claim of Christ that people are called to believe is in his deity as the Son of God, who was/is God’s offering/sacrifice for sins. Like the serpent Moses lifted up, Jesus was lifted up as the salvation from what separates us from God and salvation to “eternal life.”

        In John 17, Jesus defines this “eternal life” as “knowing the One true and living God AND Jesus Christ whom he sent.”

        I think one of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible come from a man who believed and yet was struggling to believe:

        Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

        (Mark 9:24 ESV)

        I pray this regularly and God strengthens my faith – meaning, I am still believing that God exists, that the God of the Bible is who he says he is, that his word is true, Jesus is Lord, all that.

        Ultimately, faith is about taking someone’s word for it because you’re right, we haven’t been there before and can’t go back to see everything the Bible talks about with our physical eyes – except through the eyes of others who say they were there and wrote about it.

        Although, having been to Israel twice, i can say – first hand – that many things there bear plausible witness of what i have read in the Bible.

        This alone though would not and does not validate the trustworthiness of the Bible for me.

        I can’t fully explain it except through the self-authenticating words of the Bible itself.

        Faith is the substance of things HOPED for (trusted in) and the evidence of things NOT seen.

        I haven’t physically seen the resurrected Jesus Christ, but I believe in him – i take this to be a miracle – not of my own doing.

        But the message of the Bible – whether it’s true or not is this: it claims there is a God – and only one God – and that this God has a plan to save people from their sins – sins that didn’t exist before the creation of the world but that would be committed against God after he created humans.

        God did it anyway, knowing that there would be hell to pay and heaven to gain.

        God did it because he wanted to put himself on display to his creation and gather together a people for his own special possession. The Bible is undeniably about God and what he wants to do – i guess you could call it, “the right of being God.”

        But many will get to taste the sweetness of salvation from their rebellion against God through God’s provision – his way of escape – Jesus.

        i’ll admit – i don’t get all of it – like why didn’t God come up with another way to save everyone – or why did Jesus have to die – even Jesus asked this question in the garden – “Father, if there be any other way, let this cup (death and God’s wrath) pass from me!”

        But i know enough to keep me coming back.

        Faith is not knowing everything with exactitude, it’s knowing and trusting enough to keep you coming back for more.

        i wonder, do you feel at all desirous of these things to be true? would you like the Bible to be true?

        If you do, my understanding of the Bible’s message is that God IS at work in you – and the work that he began in you, He will complete…. Phil. 1:6

        we can’t save ourselves, but if we’re crying out for mercy and help, this is the best evidence
        we can find for the seeds of faith coming to fruition.

        sorry if i’ve rambled – i’m really trying to help.

        with much love for you and your family – which i don’t take as coming from myself. =)


  2. Hi Josh, I as always, appreciate your transparency.

    If you ask me I think you have faith, it just doesn’t look like what you think it should. Why else would you be pursuing the kingdom? You’re blessing people around you and encouraging the flock in your pursuit of Jesus, there’s something happening here and I attribute it to the holy spirit. I definitely don’t think it’s because you’re not chosen or because there is no God.

    If we define faith as “understanding completely the bible, and God, and therefore choose to enter into a relationship with that God because we know and understand it all and can make a rational decision based on these things…” no one would every attain faith.

    I also liked this idea of “persistence” mentioned in verse 8. There’s something to that also.

    I think if all christians did what you’re doing right now we would see a lot more faith, depth, and maturity among believers… not to mention less sinning. I think this seeking you’re doing now is something you will have to, and hopefully will do the rest of your life.

    It’s really hard to believe man, and I know that’s what you’re wrestling with. Believe and trust in the most basic sense. I think what you’re doing is good. Keep digging. I just remembered a quote about these things: “Raking leaves is easy, but all you get is leaves. Digging is hard, but your can find gold.”

    I think what’s happening is that you’ve realized that your whole life has been on the leaf level, and three years ago you decided to start digging, and I’m convinced you will find something great.

  3. The fact you are questioning if you have faith is a good sign. At least you are searching and not sitting around like so many apathetic souls who complain God never does anything good.

    For years I thought I didn’t have any faith; really didn’t comprehend the definition of it. Now I know what it means.

    Desperation led me to faith. When there is no other shoulder or tree to lean on, go to God. He should be the first resort but often he is in last place. I always go to God first now because I know it works!

    Are you reading the Bible?
    Do you pray?
    When you write a blog post like this one, quoting scriptures about what you think is no faith, how does it affect you?
    Is God part of your daily conversations?
    These are all acts of faith. If you didn’t think God could or would do anything for you, you wouldn’t be asking questions.

    Faith is grown; little by little and in some areas there are “leaps.” It is the process of getting to know God that built my faith up to where now I don’t get offended, intimidated or care what other people think. And believe me, it has to be faith because there is no way I could have done this myself.

    • Naphtali – Thank you for your thoughts. You bring up a couple points that are interesting to me:

      You mention that desperation let you to faith. While I don’t think that is bad or untrue, there is also an element of risk, at least for me when I think about despair. The good part about desperation is that it can be a tool to allow you to not be blinded by the comforts and business of life, and can allow you to see and think about what really matters to your life. On the other hand, sometimes the things that people can do out of desperation are not well grounded decisions, and can at times be very hastily made. Out of despair, even the thoughts and comforts provided by other religions could feel good as well.

      I do read the Bible. I pray sometimes, or at least I try to. Kind of challenging when you struggle to believe. I’m not so sure I would easily classify these two things as acts of faith if we are defining faith as believing the unseen truths of God, the Bible, and the Gospel. I know people who read the Bible but do not believe it’s fact. I know a few people who pray, but have no idea what/who they pray to, or why they really do it. I think reading the Bible and praying can be acts of faith, but they in and of themselves are not acts of faith.

  4. Josh, you are right that coming to Jesus out of desperation is not the best idea, but unfortunately we are stubborn people who often get there that way. I don’t recommend it but it worked for me.

    Faith is hard to touch or make it tangible not that it has to be like that. When I first started a serious journey with Jesus many years ago, I had zilch faith. Didn’t know how to get it, wasn’t even sure I understood the meaning of it. I do now and only because I did what you are doing now. Somehow, somewhere along the way I realized I had had faith but didn’t know it; and I say that because it grew naturally the closer I came to Jesus. I thought I would have to work at it and did for a while until I realized that wasn’t what God expected of me. He gives us faith as we seek him.

    Like many I tried to hard to find faith, or make it what I thought it was supposed to be when neither worked; it is a supernatural assurance in God.

    One great aspect of God is he meets us wherever we are; we don’t have to go chase him down or hunt for him. He is always waiting on us.

    You are doing fine my friend because you are at least questioning and seeking; just give yourself time and God time to work in you. You will find with him the most wonderful, the best relationship you could ever have. Don’t expect too much of yourself; God expects less than we do of ourselves. People try to box him in and he won’t fit. Relax, and let it happen. Believe me, it will and you will wonder how you ever felt any different.

  5. On the exact day I was going to end my life, a man said to me, “You’re going to commit suicide, right?” His words shocked me because I told no one. I wept and finally asked, “How’d you know?” His answer broke through my agnostic heart when he said, “God told me.” That day I gave my life to the Lord.

    From that day forward, I made up my mind to believe every word in the Bible. If there was something I didn’t understand, I wouldn’t doubt it, but instead, I’d wait until the Holy Spirit gave me understanding. It’s worked well for me over the last twenty-seven years.

  6. Faith is something you work at. When seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ, He will begin to reveal Himself to you, thereby gaining knowledge, wisdom, and faith.

    One of the most important things about prayer is James 1:6 But 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.

    When one is new to the Lord, it takes time and much perseverance, but well worth the journey. He will Bless you mightily if you will continue to take that step of Faith, however small, toward the upward goal of Jesus Christ.

    I pray that God will wrap His arms around you and keep you in His mighty hand for safe keeping!

    God Bless You!

    • Lady Deidre – Thank you for your thoughts. To me it seems that while James 1:6 is important, it is also true and humbling about reality. I admit that I doubt, and I’m not sure that I know anyone that never doubts. We are waves at sea being tossed by the wind. But, fortunately we have Jesus, who is able to rebuke the winds and calm the sea for us (Luke 8:24-25). That’s how I look at it. If we were able to have no doubt, you could walk outside right now and tell a mountain into the sea (Matthew 21:21).

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