Religious Dopers: Is it wrong to ask God for assistance?

It has always been my understanding that God wants you to serve him. As an obedient disciple, you are to make Him happy, not the other way around. Furthermore, it has also been my understanding that God is perfect and all-compassionate.

So with this in mind, is it right to ask God for anything? Should we be asking God for favors?

Case in point… I am Catholic. During the “General Intercessions” part of the Mass,

Should we be doing this? Are we not asking God to be a servant during this part of Mass? Aren’t we implying that God has been lax in the “care” department, and that He needs to be reminded to get His act together and care more?

Or am I way off base here?

You are not off base, but who would want to join a religion where the prayer consists of, “OH Great Lord, we beseech you to do what you were going to do anyway, and not let us have any say in the matter whatsoever. Amen.”

I don’t think that the intercessory prayers ask God for favors. Instead I think that it’s a way to seek sustenance from God… comfort, peace, grace, and all that. Your being a servant to God does not preclude you from going to His table and being refreshed and fulfilled.

While your original post is framed in a pretty explicitly Christian attitude, I’ll answer it anyway. :stuck_out_tongue:

In my faith, one of the primary tenets is dialogue and interaction on all levels; this is how the balance of society is maintained. A one-way interaction will come unbalanced pretty easily, because the resource-flow will drain people out. People have a responsibility to support and honor their gods, and some people are specifically called to serve; the gods, on the other hand, have a responsibility to support and honor their people.

The gods ask things of their people: love, gifts, certain forms of behaviour. The people ask things of the gods: love, gifts, certain forms of behaviour. So long as all these things are in keeping with the balance, they are appropriate, they are in their correct time. It is said that the gods gave people the powers of speech and reason and will so that they might protect themselves; asking the gods for assistance is one way of applying those gifts (and thus, in its way, a form of praise).

Yeah, you’re way off base. To ask God for something is a form of praise within itself: you are saying that you don’t have the answer and you need His help. You wouldn’t ask someone for something if you didn’t think they had it or could do it for you. So to ask God for something is to tell Him that you believe He’s able to do it, whether He does it for you or not.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’’
–Philippians 4:6

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
–Matthew 21:21

“10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:10-11
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” --Mark 11:24

“In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
–John 16:23-24

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”
– 1 John 3:21-22

So thereya go. Ask away.

SnoopyFan has beaten me to the relevant cites, and while I was visiting his (her?) home state. I frequently ask God for things; in fact, I’m asking Him for the right words to say right now. To demand that He do our will, rather than His, to me is arrogant. To blame Him for our own laxness or foolishness is wrong, but to say, “Hey God, I’ve got a long drive home, and I’m kind of tired, so if You could keep an eye out for me and the other drivers, I’d appreciate it,” is, to me, acknowledging a relationship which already exists.

My Wiccan friends speak of “energy” which can be directed and shaped by human will. I realize I’m getting into airy-fairy New Age type stuff here, but I’ve felt a sort of energy, both in formal prayer during a church service and in private prayer. What I know of Christianity doesn’t have the right words to explain this, but, again, to me, prayer is a way of taking some of that “energy”, if you will, or some of my will and seeking to blend it with and mold it to God’s Will. It is also acknowledging the superiority of God’s Will to mine: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

Jesus not only prayed, he instructed us to and told us how to (Hah! You missed one, SnoopyFan!;)) in Matthew 6 which includes the Lord’s Prayer. That, in turn, includes the line, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When I was an arrogant teenager, I thought that line was very presumptous, for who were we to ask God to give us for free that which we were supposed to be able to go out and earn. Life, uncertainty, and hard times have subsequently taught me that having one’s “daily bread” or bare necessities is rather important, and there is no sin in asking God for them.

Crafter_Man, I believe you mentioned you had children. Would you truly be happy if they never asked you for anything, even if they did so because they knew you were a loving father who willingly provides for them? Why then, would God be unhappy if His children ask Him for something?


It’s my understanding that God is sanctified above our ability to “make Him happy”. I don’t believe we can make Him anything! He being the All-powerful and all. As far as asking Him for favors, yeah, I think it’s valid. Yes, being God, He already knows what we need and want, but then we’re right back to the equal communications thing, as laid out by Lilairen. For my own spiritual well-being, the lines of communication have to be open both ways. Many Baha’i prayers, I guess written for folks like me who are having financial difficulties right now, beseech God’s help in material matters, so that we can be more focused on serving Him than on how are we going to pay our bills. IOW, having our material needs satisfied should, ideally, leave us more able to focus our attention on spiritual matters. Of course, wehn all is said and done, I can ask God for what I want until I’m blue in the face, but must add the caveat: Thy will be done.

Obviously, wehn=when. Darn it, I even previewed that!

[ul]:wink: [sup]Be careful what you pray for…[/sup][/ul]

How about this cite:

1st Chronicles 4:9-10

9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, [3] saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

I pray a similar prayer each day also thanking for giving me this day to live, love, serve and experience.

But doesn’t this prayer imply that God’s original plan might have been to not “enlarge your territory” and not keep you from pain, had it not been for your request? Such a prayer by it’s very nature implies that God’s original plan is not perfect and can be improved by the ideas of Mankind. One would have to bend over backwards to claim that this prayer of Jabez was only a prayer of thanks, IMHO.

It seems to me that we are looking at this question from the point of view of obligations, authority, insolence, and related hierarchical concepts.

If there is one thing that is both true and neglected by most believers about the God of Judaism and Christianity (perhaps Aldebaran can speak to the Islamic view here), it is that the relationship of God and man is intended to be one of love. This is stressed over and over again by the prophets, and brought to focus in the words of Jesus Himself.

It’s not a case of what God might do with or without petitionary or intercessory prayer, but of what He does do, those prayers being present in the real world in which we exist and in which He operates. And just as a parent is pleased to take his or her child somewhere he or she might have been quite willing to do without the request, but does so in response to the request, so too fulfillment of prayer is God’s loving response to a request made by finite humans for His help and compassion.

Whenever we speak of Him, we are delimited by human metaphors. Accordingly, it behooves us to use the right metaphors. And the one that He caused those inspired by Him to use over and over again is the one that He acts as a loving Father, disciplining when necessary but more inclined to provide, out of love, compassion, and mercy, not as a despot randomly granting whims but as One who comprehensively knows and loves those whom He has brought into life, like unto a father.

“When God has decreed for a creature to die in a particular place, He causes that creature’s desires to direct him to that place.”