Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Exploring Unacceptable Degrees of Normativeness of the Book of Acts

Making the New Testament book of Acts normative instead of transitional comes from a wrong perspective and interpretation of scripture and explains much wrong doctrine and practice in professing Christianity today.   Some pin the needle on bad doctrine and practice, vis-à-vis the Charismatic movement.  Some of it is bad, but not quite as bad, e.g., revivalism.  Some is all over both professing and actual Christianity in bits and pieces or doses.   I still have some of it in my system, which I'm still getting out, so if I see it in someone else, I'm not ready to pull the trap door on him.

What do I mean by normative?  "Normative" is the word that is used in biblical interpretation and application to describe what is "applicable to us and required of us today."  I've heard the terminology of descriptive versus prescriptive.  What we read in Acts is not prescriptive.  What we read there very often does not become the rule.  It is not written for contemporary imitation.  A lot of questions relate especially to the application of Acts.

For instance, in the very first chapter the apostles fill the empty place left by Judas. The names of Joseph and Matthias are put forward, and the choice is made by drawing lots (v. 26). Is that how we are to select church leaders today?   If you say, "yes," then you are saying that Acts is normative there.  If not, then you are saying it is not always normative and in fact that Acts is not normative.  I don't know anyone who says the way they chose a new apostle is normative for choosing leaders.

Anyone who reads the Bible has to understand the concept of normative.  The dietary restrictions in the Old Testament are not normative. We don't still stone rebellious teenagers.  Christians have already become practiced at this and even gotten into some groove of application.

I want to make a particular point with this post, to help people consider what they're doing with the book of Acts.  To do that, we've got to think a bit about why and how Acts is not normative.  The main issue is miracles.  Miracles are miracles.  If they were normative, they wouldn't be miracles.  And miracles -- tongues, healings, and other supernatural events -- were signs, meaning that they had the point of authenticating, accrediting, confirming the office of the apostle, the Word of God, the new institution, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the beginning of a different era.  If miracles were normal, they wouldn't point to anything, confirm anything.

When we see a sign event, a miraculous activity in Acts, we shouldn't consider it normative, any more than we should think that leaders today should be chosen by casting lots.  No.   We're thankful for that era of miracles, the apostolic period, and we even anticipate another during the time of Jacob's trouble, the tribulation period, the seven years right before Jesus comes back to set up His kingdom.

Now let me give you a few experimental examples from Acts.  Peter and John heal a cripple sitting outside the temple in Acts 3, and throughout Acts you have many such healings and miracles.  In 5:18-19 the apostles are arrested and put in jail, but during the night an angel of the Lord opens the jail doors and brings them out.  In chapter 8 the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit after they believed and were baptized. Should we still expect “Damascus Road” conversions today like Paul had in Acts 9?  Do miracles of judgment, like the blinding of Elymas the magician in Acts 13, still occur today?   For Paul and Barnabas to go on their first missionary journey, the Holy Spirit said in 13:2:  "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."  Will words like that be spoken directly to men by God, telling them exactly what God wants them to do?  Should we expect them?

Even in Acts, certain activities are not normative all the way through the book.  James is killed and Peter is not in the same chapter.  Paul is let out of Damascus in a basket and Peter gets an angelic escort out of prison.  Not everyone instantly falls over dead for lying like Ananias and Sapphira did in Acts 5.

Making Acts normative for today is very often continuationism, that the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit have continued to this present age.  However, there are other unacceptable degrees of normativeness of the book of Acts.  I'm not going to talk about the furthest degree, Charismaticism, or even something short of that, blatant revivalism.   I would like us to think about lesser degrees that are also unacceptable.

Earlier I mentioned Acts 13:2:  "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."  Because the Holy Spirit said something in Acts 13 doesn't mean that He is still saying things.   They didn't have the New Testament, so that's how an apostle like Paul would know.  This is not normative.  The Holy Spirit isn't speaking like that today, and yet it isn't unusual for professing cessationists to say that the Holy Spirit told them something.  He didn't.  Even if he did, it is absolutely non-verifiable and dangerous.  Yet, this experience is often a testimony among independent Baptists.

I said that these "Holy Spirit-told-me" events are non-verifiable.  They're not.  But sometimes the adherents use numerical results to verify.

One subtle way "God tells people" today is "peace from God."  The Lord either "gives peace" and that means "go ahead and do it," or He apparently doesn't give peace and that means "don't do it."  These peace experiences are non-verifiable.  Now, if someone just doesn't want to do something or does want to do it, and it isn't disobedient to scripture, he is free to do that by the grace of God.  However, saying that it is some kind of message from God clashes with scripture.  If you don't have a scriptural basis one way or the other, just say that you don't want to or you didn't want to do it.  Don't say you're hearing from God about it.

Let's consider that last paragraph as it relates to obtaining of a spouse, a life's partner.  1 Corinthians 7:39 says, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."  Look at the last part of the verse.  She can marry whom she will.  As long as the marriage is between two saved people, two people in the Lord, she can marry whom she will.

Maybe someone doesn't feel right about it, but he or she shouldn't see that as God telling him or her anything.  He or she just doesn't want to do it.  It might even be a faithless fear that is leading to the "lack of peace," having nothing to do with God and totally to do with him or her.  This kind of statement is accepted carte blanche in almost every circle of Christianity today, and it is an at least soft form of continuationism.  This is an unacceptable degree of normativeness of the book of Acts.

One more.  This combines the healing that occurs in several chapters in Acts, beginning with the man in chapter 3.  In Acts 12, God got Peter out of prison.  Peter was an apostle.  On the other hand, as I mentioned before, he allowed James to be killed.  Peter comes to a house where church people are gathered and they are praying.  Some assume that they must have been praying for Peter to get out of prison.  It says nothing like that. You don't read one prayer like that in the New Testament.  I don't think we can assume that.  Neither can we assume that if we were praying for someone to get out of prison, that it is God's will.  We don't know that.  James had just been killed.  I don't believe they were praying for Peter to get out of jail, because there is no biblical basis for believing that.

God is a good God.  He can deliver someone from prison if He wills.  We can thank God for His goodness.  He can deliver someone from sickness.   However, there is no biblical basis to say that God will heal someone of a sickness.  If you knew that was God's will, you should pray for everyone to be healed from sickness and never stop praying that -- go through the phone book and every hospital in America -- knowing that God would always heal in answer to the prayer.  You don't know that.  There is no biblical basis to believe that.  What you can believe is that God is a good God and that He can heal.  Pray for the person's spiritual needs and leave his healing up to God.  If someone who is sick wants you to pray for him, you can pray for him, but there is no prescribed prayer for healing that we know will result in his healing.

Today people might say something like the following: "So and so is in prison for preaching, so let's pray that he get's out."  This is another unacceptable degree of normativeness of the book of Acts.  I'm giving it as an example, but there are many other of these types of events.

What about Philemon 1:22?  Good question.  Paul wrote, "But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you."  That's not Acts.  That's Philemon.  My answer is that Paul the apostle knew that it was God's will that he would be given to him, so he wanted him to pray that.  In the end, Paul's head was chopped off.  Was there a prayer that could have kept that from happening?  Faith comes from hearing the Word of God and God only answers a prayer of faith.  Philemon must have known that it was God's will for Paul to be released, so he had the faith to pray it.

People will pray for a great many things that they want.  If God wants you to have property and a building, then should you pray for it?  And He'll give it to you?  Do you know that?  Do you have a biblical basis for believing that?  You really don't.  I recognize that some will say that happened to them, so it must be true.  I would have said the same thing at one time.  I believe that God might cause or allow you to have a lot of different things.  It doesn't mean that you needed them or that you got them in answer to a prayer. 

Jesus said to pray for your daily bread.  Depend on and pray that God will meet your daily physical needs and then work for those.  The combination of those two is God's will.

Perhaps some readers are asking, "So what is a valid application of the book of Acts?"  Some of Acts is applicable for today, but not Acts as a whole.  It is a transitional book.  It would be worth it for you to explore whether you are not making a right application of Acts to your own life.  Acts isn't normative.


Naysayer said...

I am completely baffled as to your points on prayer. I don't understand what you're trying to say. Don't pray for things because God will do what He wants? What about the parable of the unjust judge? James 5 specifically says pray for the sick to be healed. I'm not trying to be contentious. I've been reading you for a while and I was hoping you had some clarification on that point. It seems a strange position to take.

Unknown said...

Amen. Also, if healing miracles were the norm, then why didn't Paul the Apostle heal Epaphroditus when he was sick nigh unto death? (Philippians 2:27) Or, why didn't Paul heal Trophimus whom he left at Miletum sick in 2Ti.4:20? I've also heard James 5:14-15 being used as a basis for prayer healing but context shows that has to do with spiritual sickness. This is really good Pastor Brandenburg. We most definitely need to be praying how the Bible shows "us" to pray.

Paul Brownfield

Jim Peet said...

Thoughtful and helpful

Kent Brandenburg said...


You're so naysaying. :-D But what else would we expect?

We should pray for God's will. That's the model prayer. It's 1 John 5:14-15. James 5, I recognize is the go-to passage, but I don't believe it is a prayer for the flu or a head cold. It is a prayer for someone who has been beaten up and discouraged and needs encouragement. That's the context of the passage and the meaning of the words. If it is in fact a prayer for healing of a sick person, which I don't believe it is, it stands alone (which would be strange) and it doesn't read like that. It reads like someone who is suffering for his faith and he is considering not enduring and he needs prayer to move forward.

I deal with James 5 here: http://jackhammer.wordpress.com/2007/01/17/what-is-the-new-testament-basis-for-praying-for-the-sick/

The unjust judge parable says keep praying, be persistent. It doesn't stand alone in teaching on prayer. You have to look at all the teaching, and I think that the prayer for sick to get better physically is from making Acts normative. It isn't even in Acts as a prayer, but an application of healing people. Could you show me a prayer for a sick person to get better verse in the New Testament? Outside of James 5 (seeing that I don't think that is praying for what is today known as physical sickness).

I'm not saying don't pray when someone is sick or even don't pray for that person, but what you pray shouldn't be a prayer for healing.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Paul. Thanks Jim.

Everyone else,

This really isn't an article on praying for sick people. It is a prayer on normativeness of Acts and I think there are other examples, including the wrong idea about calling. Men have the supernatural subjective "call," and this is another example of making Acts normative. I'm just saying that there are many of these. And I'm talking about normativeness in non-Charismatics and even non-revivalists. All of us should think about it.

Jim Peet said...

Is this safe to presume - that you see this as normative?

Local churches sending missionaries and missionaries reporting back to self-same church: Acts 13 (sending) Acts 18 (reporting back)

Kent Brandenburg said...


Yes. I think that there are parts that are clearly normative. That is one of them. The differentiating point looks to be the sign gifts, miracles, that are for authentication. Almost everything else is normative.

I would say that even though parts are normative, stuff like selling your property and sharing the money with the church is not required. There are other things like that in Acts that are a good example, but they are not saying this is required of a Christian without similar circumstances.


Steve Rogers said...

This is why we MUST be dispensational in our hermeneutics. Progressive revelation is a vital understanding to proper Christian living and functioning as a local church.
Modern day revivalists are leading people away from or at least in addition to the completed Word of God, and the book of Acts is often the ground used. I recently had a famous revivalist evangelist tell me that church age believers should not be surprised to "dream dreams and see visions" like the book of Acts says. What's worse, when these revivalists followers are not able to experience these "Acts of the Holy Spirit" in their local church, they check off the pastor and the church as a doctrinally dry "Holy Spirit Quenching" church, whose only hope is their experiential version of "Revival" by bringing in the "magic Acts evangelist." When he doesn't, they'll eventually leave, hopping from church to church until they get that "Acts Revival" feeling in the services.

JimCamp65 said...

Bro. Rogers,

I wish you'd make that fellows name known. That is woefully
close to full Charismatic delusion.

Jim Camp

Tom Balzamo said...

Quite thought provoking, especially considering how often the "Physical" section of prayer lists is often the most full section. I know that's not the main "take away" of your post. But, it makes me wonder about our prayer habits that we've adopted after generations of repetition at prayer meetings, and just how many things a normative approach to Acts has influenced our thought processes and therefore practices.

Tom Balzamo said...

Quite thought provoking, especially considering how often the "Physical" section of prayer lists is often the most full section. I know that's not the main "take away" of your post. But, it makes me wonder about our prayer habits that we've adopted after generations of repetition at prayer meetings, and just how many things a normative approach to Acts has influenced our thought processes and therefore practices.

Steve Rogers said...


Because it was not a personal and private conversation, but in the dialog of a public online blog, I will post the exchange here for you to see and evaluate yourself. I think the whole series posted at this Revivalist Blog, contains the kind of error that Bro. B is writing about. Like him, I too am working some of these errors out of my system, so I don't just cut these guys off.


Steve Rogers said...

Brother Brandenburg,

Perhaps you could review these articles and write a critique of them as example of the error of making Acts normative.


John Clark said...

This is an interesting post and has me thinking. Over the past 7 years or so I have been training my mind the think differently (scriptually) from where my old church (mild revivalist) stood on certain subjects. This has got me thinking about missions and missionaries. I as taught that a missionary has to have a "call", the "missionary's call" to go to certain people or land and there start a church. This post has caught my attention about the Spirit calling Paul and Barnabas. I was always uneasy about the teaching of the "call" through the passage but just believed it because the atmosphere in the church directed my belief in the teaching. I was wondering what your thoughts are on the "missionary's call" or are missionary's called to a specific people or land. It would be nice to read a post(s) on missions and missionaries in general that are scripturally sound. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

From the Revival Focus Blog:

"The objective Word of God teaches the subjective reality of the Holy Spirit’s leadership. This is an “objective subjectivism.” There is an objective biblical basis for the subjective leading of the Holy Spirit. The key is staying within the biblical boundaries."

The objective words of God teaches absolute truth and therefore the Holy Spirits leadership is also objective and not subject to each Christians "interpretation". If they meant by "subjective" in light of the body of Christ that each Christian being "members in particular" and therefore each is called to different ministries, then I would agree. But the Spirit of God is not subjective to truths such as sound doctrine and principles such as speech, music, dress, work habits, eating (overwieght), drinking, and many such things. We all need to improve in many areas of our lives, but the standard is JESUS CHRIST and as Paul said, "I die daily" in his desire not to glory in his flesh, but rather to "take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Jon Gleason said...

Kent, you said (in response to Jim) that the missionary-local church passages (Acts 13 and 18) are normative. I disagree, I say they aren't normative.

Please prove me wrong from Scripture, and give a Scriptural basis for how you determine which parts of Acts are normative and which aren't. :)

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor Brandenburg,

I entirely agree with you on the need to be careful in Acts and upon the misinterpretation many make of many texts.

I am wondering if you really meant to say, in relation to people who are sick, "what you pray shouldn't be a prayer for healing," as if it is wrong to pray for healing, or if you really meant something like "the only thing to pray for shouldn't be healing" or even "the most important thing shouldn't be healing." (Feel free to clarify, if you have time.)

While God didn't heal Paul of the thorn in the flesh, I see no place where Paul's prayer was viewed as wrong.

I read the Jackhammer article back when it was written, and am thankful for the thoughtful consideration of the context. I'm wondering why v. 13's "Is any among you afflicted?" is not a different question from v. 14's "Is any sick among you," so that v. 14's question is a third question in a series, rather than a repetition of v. 13's question. Obviously "if any be merry" is a different question, not a repetition of the first question, although I suppose people can be merry when being afflicted, like Paul and Silas were in jail, Acts 16.

It also looks to me like in James 5, however the guy got there, whether from persecution or not, the person is still sick and weak. He is so sick/weak that he can't go to the elders but they need to come to him, and give him his medicine in the name of the Lord. If he needs medicine, he sure looks like he is sick. Then through the prayer of faith he is raised up from his sickbed.

I don't want to take this post off topic, so if you don't wish to reply, that is fine, and if you do reply, I may not reply to your reply.

On another topic, I don't know if you have ever read Peter Master's Steps for Guidance. It seems like a balanced view of Biblical guidance to me, avoiding continuationistic mysticism and also avoiding "do whatever you want if you feel like it and it doesn't go against explicit Scripture." He argues that having peace in guidance for major decisions is part of God's providential guidance without advocating any kind of charismatic concept that I can see--he appears to explicitly guard against it.

Besides, I know Peter Masters is right, because when I read his book I didn't need to study the passages he referenced--I just had a warm fluttery feeling, so I knew it was true.


Jon Gleason said...

Brother Ross, "fluttery" makes me uncomfortable, but your comment gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. Is that good enough?

III John 2 provides another example of praying for health. Gaius was not known to be ill, but if it is good to pray for the health of our brothers and sisters, it is certainly good to pray for healing when they are ill.

As to James 5, we know from other passages (such as I Cor. 11) that illness, even unto death, can be the chastening of the Lord. And here in these three verses (extending to verse 16) on prayer, healing, and illness we also have a reference to sin, confession, and forgiveness. And a few verses later, we have a reference to sin unto death.

This is indeed a separate question from "Is any afflicted?" This passage is dealing with chastening illness. And pray for spiritual needs is primarily in view in this case, but prayer for the physical need is included -- thus, the references to both healing and forgiveness. We struggle with this because James doesn't lay things out in the same linear logical fashion as Paul. But this is James' style all the way through. He was not a Westerner nor influenced by Western thought / logical training.

As to "peace in guidance," I've not read Peter Masters' book, but I suspect he cited Romans 12:2 and Hebrews 5:14. Not every believer has a good memory and is able to recall the Scriptures which deal with particular situations. But every believer can have a renewed mind and have senses exercised to discern good and evil. A lack of peace regarding a particular action may well be the Holy Spirit working with that renewed mind to protect a believer from error.

We don't always have to know exactly why or exactly which Scriptural principles hold us back from an action to know we shouldn't do it.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello everyone,

I have some time later today and I'm going to answer all the comments in this post that I haven't answered then, Lord-willing.


Anonymous said...

"III John 2 provides another example of praying for health. Gaius was not known to be ill, but if it is good to pray for the health of our brothers and sisters, it is certainly good to pray for healing when they are ill."


- To believe that physical healing is the most important type of prayer is nonsense.
- To believe not to pray for physical healing if a brother is sick, is nonsense (whether God heals him directly or with a doctors help, or not at all).
- To believe in a "healing ministry" for the sick is scriptural heresy through private interpretation and is nonsense.
- To believe that God did not heal someone physically because he has sinned is nonsense (he might not have).
- To believe that God always heals physically is also nonsense.
"Not every believer has a good memory and is able to recall the Scriptures which deal with particular situations. But every believer can have a renewed mind and have senses exercised to discern good and evil. A lack of peace regarding a particular action may well be the Holy Spirit working with that renewed mind to protect a believer from error."


"We don't always have to know exactly why or exactly which Scriptural principles hold us back from an action to know we shouldn't do it."


Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Steve Rogers. I don't have anything to add to what you said. I think you are right.

Kent Brandenburg said...

steve rogers,

one more thing. I'll think about writing a critique to what you linked to -- haven't looked over there yet, but will, Lord-willing.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tom Balzamo and John Clark,


Kent Brandenburg said...


I couldn't tell if you were joking on the first comment, the small one. Writing something that shows how that Acts is not normative, and using scripture to do it -- that can be done, but it would be very long, much longer than a comment, which is why I thought you were joking. Plus the little smile face.

I think Jim Peet's only question as to normative was whether churches send out missionaries, is that normative from Acts. I said, "Yes," and thought that the passages he referenced indicated that. Missionaries should be sent by churches and then come back and give an account to their church. I see that in Acts, and there is complementary teaching in Rom 10:14-17 among other places.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't think that James 5 is enough to pray for someone with cancer to be healed of cancer. I have said that we should pray for sick people, but not that we pray that they be healed. I believe God has built in healing by His grace and as a gracious God, He will be as good as much as we need. There's not enough in James 5 to use a proof text for that. It doesn't fit into the context of James 5, which I talked about in my jackhammer article.

There is a difference between a head cold and the flu and pneumonia and a brain tumor than someone who is discouraged from being beaten up for his faith, and folks come over to encourage him spiritually and even by doing something for him physically. I do the same thing rather regularly. It just doesn't follow that we jump to a healing prayer that guarantees somebody gets over whatever it is that he's got. That point I believe comes from making Acts normative -- those healings were for a particular purpose. They don't follow for today.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Jon,

For your last long comment, I'm very open to consider your 3 John 1:2 reference. That actually gives me more confidence that what I'm saying is right, if that's a go-to verse for you on this subject. The word translated "prayer" is only 7 times in the NT and almost exclusively does not mean prayer like we're talking about. Paul uses it in Romans 9:3 to wish that he would be accursed in place of Israel. I don't believe he was praying that.

The English word prayer could mean "wish." I believe that is how it is being used here. As far as health is concerned -- look at Titus 2:2, where it is translated "sound" in faith, nothing physical. The Greek word is used 12 times in the NT. 8 of them are in the pastoral epistles and it is always "sound" as in "sound doctrine." Never physical. I don't think we can conclude that it is physical. Between the two words, it's a very weak argument, because I think it's a statement like "I wish you the very best," not to be seen as something of detail that would lead someone to think that if he prayed for someone with a degenerating eye disease that there is a prayer that would solve that issue.

I think the burden of proof is on your end Jon to give a theology of prayer for the sick to be healed, develop that from the Bible, show the prayer that should be prayed that will result in people in intensive care always coming out, since God answers, that is in this case, heals everyone who someone prays for healing. When you've got 100 cancer patients on your prayer list, why 5 of them lose the cancer and 95 don't when the same prayer is prayed. Show how that fits with 1 John 5:14-15.

Instead, why not tell people that God is a good God, that He can heal, but won't always, but we should rest in what He does? That's what I read in the Bible. Prayer on balance is not about physical healing.

Kent Brandenburg said...


One more thing. I believe that Paul's thorn in the flesh was the messenger from Satan, since that is what the verse says. God didn't take away the ringleader of the false teaching in Corinth. Instead, he gave Paul the grace to deal with it.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Which is very likely someone that has learned that his comments aren't published when he writes his name, so he's using this as a loophole. I'm about 80% sure I know who it is.

But anyway, saying something is nonsense doesn't prove anything. It is just name-calling. I guess if that's what you consider spiritual warfare, it says a lot about you.

Anonymous said...

The comment thread in the article Steve Rogers refers to above is even more disturbing than the article itself. It is a flat out denial of Biblical cessationism for a limited form of continuationism. This is terrible.

Anonymous said...


I agree with everything you said and what I wrote still stands as the nonsense it is, for the Lord Jesus Christ himself healed all matters of men.

Have you ever been in pain for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, weeks without end? I have and YOU WANT THE SAINTS TO PRAY FOR YOU!!!

Did I eventually get healed? Yes and it was not a miracle, but doing what I could do to get better and trusting the Lord God that it would get better, but if not, I have learned some valuable lessons in that suffering and pain! One great lesson is EMPATHY towards those saints who love God and to PRAY for their recovery.

Did he heal all? No, but he had a heart for those who had physical and physiological (possessed by devils) pains. To "strain at gnats' biblically as you do about praying for the sick is wrong. Your exegesis of James 5 is also wrong, for it says what is says and if anyone ASKS the elders to pray for them, YOU better do it! Does that mean God will heal? Of course not, but that man or women should know that God heard the cries of the righteous and therefore "rejoice in the Lord always" no matter if they are healed or not for it helps them to COPE while IN PAIN!

Jon Gleason said...

Hello, Kent. I wrote a long response, but it seems to have vanished into cyberspace.

Shorter this time, because I'm very short on time today.

1. I disagree with your response to Jim. Acts 13 and 18 are not normative. They record what the church / missionaries did, which is consistent with Biblical principles. We can't look at what was done rightly and say, "This is normative, other stuff isn't."

2. As to praying for healing, probably the most compelling passage is Philippians 4:6.

3. As to I John 5:14-15, this is if we pray according to His will. But we cannot always know our prayers are according to His will, and when we can't know this, we are not surprised if His answer is not yes. Romans 8:26 is instructive. We are neither all-wise nor all-loving, so we cannot possibly know what an all-wise God will do in any particular situation. I Cor. 10 is also instructive. Whatever the thorn in the flesh was, Paul asked it to be removed, but this was not according to God's will. But Paul did not know that before God told him.

So we ask the things we desire, trusting that He will do good. Our loving Father delights in our asking, because it shows our love for our brethren and our dependence on Him. But He does not always give what we ask, because we aren't always asking the best thing.

I don't see what is hard about this, really. If your son was struggling with something and your daughter came and said, "Daddy, please help him," wouldn't you approve? You might not help him, because you might know that he needs to figure out how to do it himself, but you would approve of your daughter's concern for him.