Concerns When Claiming Promises
A legitimate concern when claiming promises in prayer is the fear of putting God to the test. We remember Jesus’ rebuke of Satan when tempting Him to throw Himself off the highest point of the temple. The devil then quotes a promise (Psalm 91:11-12), implying that no harm will come to Jesus because of God’s promised care. Jesus rebukes Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16 saying, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
It would seem that our attitude is a key factor in whether we are praying in faith or demanding something from God and violating the command not to put God to the test. For, there are passages where the Lord encourages us to take Him up on His promises, to test them and see if they are true. In Malachi 3:10 He says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
When claiming promises in prayer, we are not seeking to bind God in some solemn oath, forcing Him to act according to our own desires as the devil was seeking to do when tempting Jesus. Rather, we come to Him in humility and reverence, acknowledging His Lordship over us and His right to act as He pleases. We come asking Him and pleading with Him to fulfill His promises, not demanding that He perform according to our wishes. God will not “jump through our hoops” like some trained circus animal, no matter how advantageous we may think the answers are for the advance of the Kingdom. We cannot purposely place ourselves in desperate situations and expect the Lord to deliver us. He will not be forced by us into acting a certain way. Yet, if we do find ourselves placed into desperate circumstances, we can confidently claim the promises of God for peace, strength, protection, etc. knowing that He will watch over us and care for us.
Another concern when claiming promises relates to Psalm 106:14-15: “In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them.” The fear is that perhaps the promises we are praying over and claiming are actually desires arising from our flesh. Perhaps in diligently praying over these promises God will answer, even though He knows that in answering according to my desires the answer will be harmful or not beneficial for me. Or perhaps the Lord will give me the desires of my flesh, but in doing so also punish me for my wrong motives
At first glance that is what seemed to happen to the Israelites. It would appear that they wearied God by their constant complaining about a lack of meat and having worn down His resistance to answer, God finally relented and sent an abundance of quail. But, along with the quail, He also sent a disease that killed many of them; a kind of object lesson not to ask for your desires, for you may get more than you ask for! But is this what really happened?
In Psalm 78:17-31 we find another recounting of the same incident. It says, “they willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved” (:18); the Israelites challenged God’s ability to provide for them in the midst of the desert and it says that “they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance” (:22). In response to their sinful attitudes it says, “He rained meat down on them like dust, flying birds like sand on the seashore. He made them fall inside their camp, all around their tents. They ate till they had more than enough, for he had given them what they craved. But before they turned from the food they craved, even while it was still in their mouths, God’s anger rose against them; he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel” (:27-31). Thus, we see that it was their sinful, demanding attitudes that brought the wrath of God on them, not the request itself.